To say the least, investment banking is not known as the most liberal and open-minded profession on the block. It's still largely dominated by straight, white males, and a don't ask, don't tell mentality still predominates when it comes to sexual orientation. However, in recent years, Wall Street has increasingly attempted to open its doors to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender professionals -- and it's had some success at making them feel welcome.
According to Vault's latest Banking Survey, which is being administered now to the 75 leading investment banks in North America, of those surveyed thus far, 3 percent identify themselves as being an openly GLBT employee. This compares to just 1 percent who identified themselves as such in our survey last year. Which is certainly quite a leap, and seems to point to one of two things (or, perhaps, both):
(1) Wall Street's targeted recruiting efforts aimed at hiring more GLBT candidates is working; and/or (2) GLBT bankers (either new to the profession or previously closeted) feel more comfortable about coming out in the workplace.
As for which answer(s) is the correct one, if we look at the qualitative responses we've received thus far in our annual Banking Survey, it seems to vary from bank to bank.
While numerous survey respondents at numerous banks tell us their firms focus a great deal of energy on hiring GLBT individuals, many other respondents at other firms say the exact opposite.
For example, here's one banker speaking about his bank's diversity hiring practices with respect to GLBT employees: "It's a very receptive environment for homosexuals. I haven't worked at a firm before where I knew of any people that were gay. But here, I know of a fairly large number, at various levels of seniority." Another banker from a different firm says, "We have two openly gay partners, so it's obviously something that's accepted and respected." And a third notes, "I don't see any bias here. In fact, we recently hired a GLBT individual."
But at other firms the reception, or lack thereof, is much different. "I think we really need a strong focus on recruiting from the GLBT community," says one banker. "That's a talent pool we're losing out on by not being more proactive in developing relationships with them." According to a banker at another firm, "There's zero corporate effort on GLBT hiring here, and I don't see that changing." And yet another banker, at a third firm, goes even further, saying, "I feel as though ours is an anti-GLBT environment."
Perhaps the most popular comments with respect to GLBT bankers are these two: "I don't know a single 'out' GLBT person who works here, but I wouldn't suggest that this is due to discrimination or preferential hiring"; and "We don't have any open GLBT individuals in the office, but I think our firm's practices with respect to GLBTs are perfectly fine."
What these comments seem to point to is at least a few, if not many, closeted bankers working on Wall Street who, for whatever reason, don't feel comfortable coming out to their co-workers.
Perhaps underling this point, as noted earlier this week by Vault's Cathy Vandewater, a new study conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy, which surveyed professionals in a variety of industries, found that 48 percent of college-educated GLBT Americans hide their sexual orientation at their jobs. And that 33 percent pretend they're straight at work but are open about their orientation outside the workplace.
Which points to the fact that, with respect to welcoming GLBT employees, it's not just Wall Street that still has a long way to go, but Main Street as well.
(Vault: 48% of Gay Workers are a "Silent Minority")
(Related: On Wall Street, It Pays to Come Out of the Closet; The 20 Most Gay-Friendly Firms on Wall Street; Wall Street Hearts Gay Marriage)