For a video and description of the panel event, click here.
For an infographic of the event, click here

Even in the second decade of the 21st century, we have yet to create a culture where LGBTQ employees consistently feel safe being out at work. Although advances have been made for LGBTQ rights over time, the public sphere of work remains a gray area for being out and being visible. To talk about these challenges and opportunities of being out at work, four leaders of top organizations gathered in a panel hosted by The Letters, a student group home to the LGBTQ community and allies at the Rotman School of Management.

In an engaging panel discussion moderated by Professor Sarah Kaplan, Director of Rotman’s Institute for Gender + the Economy, the panelists discussed the various challenges of being out and a leader at work, and also the opportunities and benefits that come as a result of being out. The panelists included Christopher Walker, Chief Compliance Officer at Manulife Asset Management and Executive Advisor to Proud, which is Manulife’s LGBTQ network; Pia Schmidt-Hansen, Manager of Fraud Risk Oversight at BMO Financial Group and Chair of BMO Pride, their LGBTQ Employee Resource Group; Tim Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of TD Asset Management and Chair of TD’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies Diversity Committee; and, Connie Bonello, Associate Partner at IBM Canada and chair of the Advisory Board at the Bonham Center for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. As a whole, the panelists agreed that, although being out and being visible can be difficult at times, ultimately, it is worth it for the abundance of personal and organizational benefits. The points below summarize the main themes and takeaways from the discussion.

1. Where to come out?

One major theme that surfaced again and again in the discussion was the importance of the workplace environment. Whether or not the environment at work or in a work group feels safe and comfortable plays a large role in whether an LGBTQ employee will decide to come out or not. For example, many panelists shared the same experience of choosing to remain in the closet when they perceived the culture to be less safe or less welcoming.
Many panelists shared the same experience of choosing to remain in the closet when they perceived the culture to be less safe

Once they sensed the workplace was more inclusive and open to discussions around LGBTQ issues, they became more open to considering coming out at work.
An important implication for organizations who advocate for LGBTQ rights is to create an environment where employees feel safe and comfortable expressing their identity. As leaders of organizations, one way to create safety is to have employee resource groups where workers can feel comfortable discussing being their authentic selves. The benefits of employee resource gro