In honor of pride month, Synpulse Management Consulting held a virtual panel discussing LGBTQ+ topics and how they translate to the workplace. The event was a success with over 50 employees from all over the world dialing-in for the hour-long session on June 30th, 2020.
The panel hosted four leaders representing the finance, insurance, and management consulting industries. Amy Lai, currently the Co-Founder and Co-President of ERG Asset Management, has worked in the finance industry in New York for over 25 years. Representing the insurance industry was London-based Jessica Burns, an Assistant Underwriter at AXA XL. Darius Cartier, a former Synpulse employee who most recently served as a consultant with Accenture in Singapore, and Synpulse’s own Senior Consultant, Matthew Kirke, served as representatives of the management consulting industry.
These panelists were asked questions about pride and LGBTQ+ topics. The questions were designed to give the panelists the opportunity to share their personal experiences andnd provide insight on how we can move beyond awareness and acceptance to better serve the LGBTQ+ community. Synpulse’s team of 500 global consultants and future readers on social media will hopefully take these learnings and implement new behaviors and programming moving forward. We summarised the highlights for you below.
Amy Lai responded first and said that her main motivation in joining the panel is for visibility for the LGBTQ+ community. When she first started working in in the early 90’s on Wall Street, there were no affinity groups. She was fearful to come out at work because she did not want her sexuality to be a factor affecting her discretionary bonus.
Matthew Kirke said his reason for joining the panel is a bit more sinister. He mentioned that he is fortunate to live in a city like London, but it leads to him feeling society has become complacent in its progress. After recently experiencing verbal and physical harassment he realised, as a community, LGBTQ+ individuals still have a long road ahead to equality. He wants to raise visibility and encourage action to challenge the mindset of those simply accepting or tolerating members of his community.
Jessica Burns described a friend whom was very casual about his past in which he participated in the Stonewall Riots. He later started his own insurance company catering to the LGBTQ+ community to address discriminatory insurance policies.
Matthew listed his father as his role model. His father did not grow up in an era of LGBTQ awareness, but he did not need an education or training to accept his son and daughter’s sexuality. Acceptance simply means being a decent, kind and nice human being.
Darius Cartier’s response was a memorable one. He described two friends who gave him the confidence to carry himself with pride, own who he is and stop focusing on how others perceive him. He described a certain kind of ‘energy’ which he strives to carry with him every day.
Amy’s role model coincidentally came from a previous panel that she organised for women on Wall Street. Her friend was an MD at Goldman and was openly ‘out at work’ and had 2 kids. She told Amy that she’d regret not coming out, and to think about what she wanted her daughter to see her as – closeted or brave and proud. Amy came out at work the next day.
Amy Lai advised us to be aware of our language and microaggressions – they aren’t funny. This includes those in the LGBT community; just because someone is part of the community, it doesn’t mean that they can make the jokes. She said, “we aren’t thin-skinned, but it sets a tone” that can make people feel uncomfortable.
Jessica echoed Matt’s call for allies to stand up and speak out. She shared a compelling story of speaking out against an individual who was making her feel uncomfortable at work. She did it in a ‘joking manner,’ but absolutely got her point across!
Darius said that it’s up to LGBTQ+ people in the workplace to normalise things. He advised that when you describe your weekend plans or activities, speak openly and honestly and let people deal with their feelings or thoughts on what you may have said on their own terms.
The panel was organised by Synpulse’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team called, “Free to Be Me” and moderated by Tariq Khan, Associate Partner at Synpulse London. The groups mission is to build a safe and trusting, diverse and inclusive environment that improves employee engagement and supports high-performance growth across the Synpulse community. To find out more, please see the Free to Be Me page on the Synpulse website.