This week’s little Wall Street pow-wow, where six Wall Street banks hosted the event “Out on the Street” for gay finance types, probably activated the highest net worth congregation of Grindr users in history. Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and (Regent Entertainment’s alleged fraud victim) Bank of America Merrill Lynch all got together Wednesday to tell gay bankers they can be here, queer, and making a handsome annual bonus. It’s also where we learned half of gay Wall Streeters are out — and a majority of these folks are enjoying their careers.
A survey of 2,800 LGBT Wall Street workers, conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy, reveals that while one-third of closeted workers are happy with their job path, two-thirds of out workers are. Maybe because it’s easier to spend all that wealth so flippantly on Ferragamo shoes and Hermes scarves when everyone knows you’re a gay?
A panel about LGBT culture on Wall Street concluded that the finance industry is making strides on LGBT inclusion, but there’s still a long way to go. One panel member, Mark Stephanz, a vice chairman in the global financial sponsors group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said he chose to come out because “the amount of energy on expends on just hiding is incredible.”
Sonelius Kendrick-Smith, a director in asset management at Deutsche Bank, said he was nervous about moving to the trading floor from his analyst position, but he got support from the head of fixed income who would stop by his desk from time to time. That “sent a message that I was a well-regarded employee,” Kendrick-Smith said.
The panel generally agreed that employees in client-facing and front office positions have a tougher time coming out than their back-office counterparts, because there’s more pressure generated from having to deal with more people everyday. Once they come out, gay employees find that not all problems of workplace culture are solved. Innocent tasks become magnified — going to the bathroom, for instance. Kendrick-Smith, and several members of the audience who raised their hands, said other men avoid them in the men’s room. “There’s the assumption that every guy wants to check out another man,” said Brian McNaught, the panel moderator.
And just when you thought the good old boy clubs of Wall Street were on death’s door, we learn the gays still have to deal with getting branded as office perverts. Hope the paycheck is worth it.