Moving Forward on Inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ Journey

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Sarah Mears, Managing Director, Chief Human Resources & Legal Officer

Many of us are familiar with the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi’s proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” These journeys—with steps large and small—can be about many things and I often think about the strides we’ve made and those we still need to take.

That is particularly true as our firm celebrates LGBTQ+ events, first during Pride Month and now through the summer. In the five years since we structured our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB)  initiative around three pillars—Gender, LGBTQ+, and Mental Health and Wellness, we have made great progress to ensure all our colleagues feel safe in our workplaces, are comfortable sharing their experiences and, perhaps most important, believe they can bring their whole selves to work every day.

Our DEIB platform is just one way we celebrate being “Brilliantly Different” at MUFG Investor Services. Acknowledging our LGBTQ+ colleagues, and actively supporting them, is one of the most important parts of our work, because often it means physically showing up for each other.

Beginning in early June, Cayman employees joined in an “opening ceremony,” and then dozens of colleagues joined Pride walks packed with revelers in Cyprus, Dublin, and Toronto. Our New York team members gathered in our offices to test their knowledge of LGBTQ+ history.

This month, we’ll continue to celebrate with virtual events on July 9 and 10 for colleagues in North America, EMEA, and APAC. Hosted by drag queen, Peaches LePoz, the virtual LGBTQ+ Pride quiz will enable colleagues in our 17 locations worldwide to learn more about the community. After that, we’ll host an in-office event in London, join a parade in Halifax, and finish in Vancouver with an August office event.

We host and participate in these events because we believe it is the right thing to do, and because inclusivity makes us a stronger firm. At the same time, as a global company, we recognize reality—debates about LGBTQ+ rights have resulted in a wide range of views and some laws that may be different than ours.
In those instances, we balance our commitment to support our colleagues, which remains steadfast, while acknowledging challenges as we tailor our approach to support our colleagues while honoring local customs.

For example, our June event in traditionally conservative Singapore saw our colleagues participate in a private walking tour of the city that visited historically significant sites for the LGBTQ+ community there. Our July event will be an hour-long workshop with Pelangi Pride, a Singapore resource center, to promote a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ issues and identify ways to foster a more inclusive environment.

These events complement our efforts throughout the year to empower our colleagues and ensure they are an integral part of our firm. Our quarterly LGBTQ+ Media Club, which next meets in July, relies on books and films to discuss and learn more about issues facing the community. We’re hosting inclusion sessions in August to demonstrate how all our colleagues can enhance inclusivity and connect effectively across cultures. And our year-round “employee spotlight” feature gives our colleagues the ability to share their stories and say, “I am here.” These programs and events provide an opportunity to see how far we’ve come in the pursuit of equal rights for all—acknowledging the history and achievements—but also to recognize that victories can be fleeting or even reversed, significant challenges remain, and much more still needs to be done.

We’ve found it’s important to consistently reexamine our own programs and initiatives, and ask hard questions: “What do our LGBTQ+ colleagues want and need from our firm? Are we giving them all the tools they need to be successful? When are we helping and when do employees want to keep their professional and private lives separate?”

There is never one definitive answer to any of these questions. Sometimes the answers change over time, depending on circumstances.

The most important thing is to keep taking steps forward on the journey for progress.