From the pen of Mark McNulty.
When LGBT Great told me that I had been included in their 2022 Top 100 Gamechangers list, which recognises LGBTQ+ people in financial services, I was honoured to be named among such a dynamic and passionate group of people. To be honest, I don’t feel like a game-changer – not like Jake Daniels, the first football player in the UK to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990, or Yasmin Finney, the second-ever transgender actor to be cast on Doctor Who, or our very own Claire Skinner at Mercer, who has been an outstanding LGBTQ+ role model and driver of positive change for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) in the world of investments.
Not withstanding the fantastic progress made in the past 25 years, we still have too many LGBTQ+ colleagues in the financial services industry who don’t feel comfortable to be themselves at work. Early in my own career, I experienced and witnessed workplace homophobia on a regular basis and, looking back, I realise now that it led to a period where I was depressed and lacking in confidence. Thankfully, I had the strength to get out of that situation and have never experienced anything like it since.
In my mid-twenties, one of my close friends in the industry, out of care and consideration, strongly advised me not to tell people I was gay as he believed it would gravely damage my career prospects. He is still a very good friend to this day and a wise counsel, but on this occasion, I’m glad he was wrong and that I didn’t take his advice, and today I am very fortunate to be the International Head of Clients for Mercer Investment Solutions. A few years after that conversation, I met my partner Kyle, and when Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage by popular vote, we married exactly 14 years to the day after we first met.
Although there is still more to be done, financial services organisations have made significant progress in increasing inclusivity for LGBTQ+ colleagues. Research linking the outperformance of companies with greater diversity has established the business case for DE&I and escalated LGBTQ+ policy to the C-suite, gaining the attention of shareholders and clients alike. Many of Mercer’s Investment Solutions clients tell us they want to work with advisors and managers whose DE&I values align with their own and I am delighted that Mercer is leading the charge.
Our clients see the value of diversity of thought, diversity of ideas and diversity of decision-making in setting investment strategies and managing portfolios. We want everyone to feel like they belong and I am honoured to be playing a part in making that a reality for our Investment Solutions colleagues. Mercer aims to provide a great environment for everyone, from the junior analyst to the board director, to feel comfortable and enjoy a sense of belonging, where they can explore their best ideas and do their best work. In 2022, for the fourteenth year, Mercer’s parent, Marsh McLennan, achieved a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, earning the title of Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.
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We are not, however, resting on our laurels, and are always looking for new ways to cultivate and expand upon our rich culture, breaking down the barriers that prevent colleagues from bringing their full selves to the office, including mentoring, reverse-mentoring, resource networks, championing role models and allies, staff surveys, executive sponsorship and industry-wide initiatives like those run by LGBT Great. We have exceptional senior leadership role models and allies at Mercer like Tony Wood, Mick Dempsey and Rich Nuzum, who set a fantastic example on LGBTQ+ inclusion for everyone in the organisation. And there is an ongoing hunger across our Investment Solutions team for more education and deeper understanding. For example, our DE&I Advisory Committee recently ran a workshop specifically on micro-aggressions which was one of the most popular events we have ever run.
While for many in financial services, the LGBTQ+ work environment has become much more inclusive, that is not the case for all communities, sectors and geographies. Acceptance and awareness of transgender issues in the workplace is improving, but this group is still encountering big challenges that restrict their sense of security and support, forcing them to expend much more energy to succeed at work. Multinational companies who want all of their employees, globally, to enjoy the same sense of belonging continue to have to negotiate very challenging local practices and regulations in some countries. And, importantly, we need to ensure we do not lose the progress made in those countries where conservative governments may seek to reverse the progressive legislation of the past decade.
Financial services organisations around the world need to be persistently seeking out every potential marginal gain to nurture a workplace that provides LGBTQ+ colleagues with a sense of true belonging and the confidence to bring their A-game.
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