Lesbians work it out on the job

By |2012-04-05T09:00:00-04:00April 5th, 2012|News|

Many women, despite being out to everyone in their workplace, are still uncomfortable in their immediate environment and would like their company to provide more education around LGBT issues. This is according to the recent “Being Out at Work” survey
http://www.evolvedemployer.com/media/2012/02/LGBTResearch_PRINTCOPY.pdf conducted by Evolved Employer, the think tank arm of The Glass Hammer, a career management website for women in financial and professional services.
The survey zeroes in on the L in LGBT and investigates how professional lesbian women perceive their workplace experience, which varies from person to person even within the same company. More than 100 individuals were surveyed for the first in a series of reports on managing identities at work to find out how LGBT women network, how supported they feel and what companies can do better regarding cultural aspects of their workplace.
“Reassuringly, several companies were recognized as going above and beyond in their efforts to ensure organizational and managerial support, reinforced with strong networks and programmatic solutions,” said Nicki Gilmour, Founder and CEO of Evolved Employer.
One of those companies is Bank of America in Troy where Senior Vice President, Market Manager Tiffany Douglas said “we embrace the power of our people and value our differences – in thought, style, sexual orientation, gender, identity, culture, ethnicity and experience – recognizing that our diversity makes us a stronger company.”
“We are proud to actively promote an inclusive environment where all employees have the opportunity to achieve personal success and contribute to the growth of our business, because without significant contributions from our employees we could not be the world’s finest financial services institution. Our investment in diversity and inclusiveness truly pays real dividends for our communities, our customers and ultimately our employees,” said Douglas.
“It should be mentioned that some of our respondents were very positive about their company. In fact, 15.7 percent of responses said they wouldn’t want to change anything about their workplace regarding LGBT issues,” said Gilmour.
According to the 2011 Out and Equal Workplace Survey, while lesbians were about as likely as gay men to be out to their coworkers (62 percent versus 60 percent), lesbians were significantly less likely than gay men to be out to their boss or manager (44 percent versus 56 percent).
“Past research students have concluded women don’t ask. They don’t always feel comfortable asking for the raise, the promotion, the opportunity. It’s a byproduct, at least for generations to date, of how girls are raised and their role models versus boys and their role models. So, it makes sense to me that lesbians are less comfortable being out. Again, leading by example, communicating the safe environment, developing women to become integral members of an organization’s success combined with corporate leaders who publicly state their acceptance of the lesbian population will raise these numbers over the time,” said Stacey Cassis, assistant vice-president, senior financial advisor, The Spickler Group, Merrill Lynch in Bloomfield Hills.
She has spent 30 years in the financial industry and is proudly out, but that was not always the case given the culture of previous employers. “Our firm has a strong culture of acceptance and my decision was to embrace that opportunity to be my authentic self personally and professionally at work,” said Cassis, who leads the employee resource group for LGBT employees.
“What’s missing in the survey is that the number of women in financial services, lesbian or straight, is not yet fully developed. Historically, this industry has been male dominated and for many years I was among the one or two women in the room. The question was bigger than lesbian or straight. Instead, how do we encourage more women to enter the industry and stay? Bank of America Merrill Lynch has specific recruiting programs, mentoring programs and employee resource groups to attract, develop and grow women and LGBT associates. Again, by choice, I am active in both worlds as the two are inseparable for me. It will be a matter of time before there is ample networking and mentoring opportunities for women and lesbians in this industry.” said Cassis.
The survey also addresses the issue of living as a double-minority being female and lesbian. Those who come out have concerns and questions about others’ perceptions of them, where they fit into a heteronormative, male-dominated corporate culture, who their role models are, and how they can advance in their careers.
“My personal life is very intertwined with my professional life. The growth I was seeking professionally involved integrating my life as a lesbian and a member of my community I wished to serve with my philanthropic and volunteer goals. Coming out was natural for me as I was ready and being at a new firm meant no old baggage. My good fortune is role models here are plentiful. My lead business partner, Melissa Spickler, who founded our financial advisory team, The Spickler Group, is straight and a tremendous advocate for women in our industry. To her, my identity was a nonevent. She has given me constant support and courage to build a life and profession that reflects me,” said Cassis. “Of course, my inspiration will always come from my partner, Arianna.”

About the Author:

Kate Opalewski
Kate Opalewski is BTL's features editor and has been since 2015. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from art, politics and community outreach. Recently, she was honored by the Detroit Police Department LGBT Advisory Board for her work for the local LGBTQIA community.