Citi Marks Pride Month 2015 – Part 3
June 18, 2015 10:30 AM
In recognition of Pride Month, a time to reflect upon the civil rights history and contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, we will be sharing personal reflections and stories of progress from individuals, both LGBT and straight allies, as they examine what it means to bring their full self to work.
Simon Feeke, Director of Membership Programmes, Stonewall – London, UK
When I am open and honest with clients, I bring my whole self to work.
Even though I work for Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBT equality charity, I, like many gay people, have to come out every day. I lead our Workplace Program which means I am out in a fairly high profile way with stakeholders and clients, whether I like it or not!
For many LGBT people, working in a client-facing role can involve huge anxiety that can interfere with their performance. A recent Stonewall survey of 11,000 LGBT people at work showed that 78% didn’t feel comfortable being out to their clients because they fear some prejudice or risk to their careers. Individuals who are not open at work to their colleagues and clients reported that they regularly avoid interactions with clients, and are more likely to find it difficult to build meaningful and productive relationships.
The irony is that when you stop worrying how other people perceive your sexual orientation and consequently stop censoring yourself, you become authentic, and demonstrate integrity and consequently find it easier to build trust with people. Individuals within the LGBT community have a unique insight into what it means to be authentic as they are likely to have spent portions of their lives being inauthentic. Organisations are increasingly recognising that enabling people to be out at work allows employees to focus on the job, and simply makes good business sense. The most progressive businesses recognise the value of different perspectives and that clients will find a deeper sense of commitment and satisfaction when working with people that they know and trust.
Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Community Development and Citi Inclusive Finance – New York, NY
When I engage with my colleagues and senior management on LGBT issues and opportunities at work, I bring my whole self to work.
I have long been “out” at Citi, which has benefited how I interact and perform at work. Being “out” also creates a degree of confidence I project with colleagues and clients – a sense that I am engaging with them honestly and authentically. Over the last 30 years, working in Bahrain, Greece, Kenya, England and the U.S, I have found that almost all of my colleagues have responded well and are interested that I have had a partner for more than 20 years, have nieces, nephews and godchildren with whom I am very close, and that I am active in the communities in which I live, promoting LGBT rights and equality. Honesty has almost always reduced ambiguity or tension, and, as it so often does in any other unguarded conversation, naturally led to a better and broader understanding of who I am.
I have had the opportunity to be the Business Sponsor and a member of both the Citi New York and London Citi Pride Networks. This year, a Global Diversity Network Advisory Council was established and I was honoured to have been asked to represent Citi’s Pride networks, which are expanding globally. These networks have provided valuable forums for LGBT and Allies to meet, organise internal and external events, work with Diversity and Human Resources on policies and benefits, and to represent Citi in other industry and community forums.
We have seen much progress for the LGBT community in a number of countries over the last few years, and Citi has taken very progressive positions on key issues, including marriage equality and employment rights. More recently, Citi signed on to the Human Rights Campaign’s “Equality is Our Business” Pledge, in which we joined other employers and investors in communicating our shared values for LGBT and other minority rights, and our concern regarding any new legislation that might curtail those rights. There is still much for us to challenge, but also to celebrate, as many Citi employees will do in Pride Parades around the world over the next few months.
Straight allies begin with those who know, care and often work with us. Such allies are family, friends and colleagues, and their support has been invaluable to me and to ensuring that the rights of the LGBT community are supported. There are many voices of good, balanced and fair-minded people that want to belong to a more just, inclusive, diverse and equitable society.