Nearly two hundred LGBT+ women in business gathered at Bloomberg’s Global Headquarters in New York City for the OutWOMEN Breakfast held as the second session of the Out Leadership: U.S. 2018 LBGT+ Senior Summit, sponsored by Ropes & Gray.
OutWOMEN, a talent accelerator dedicated to convening and celebrating LGBT+ women in business, is sponsored in the United States by Bloomberg, Hogan Lovells, IBM, and Mastercard.
Cathy Bolz, Global Head of Benefits, Bloomberg L.P., welcomed the audience and kicked off the morning by noting that the conversations were taking place against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement: “[It] took me by surprise, because I realized I had conformed. On the one hand I felt so good about being out and visible as an LGBT+ woman, but when it came to this other issue within corporate America, I too had conformed, I didn’t speak up, I didn’t stand up, and it really troubled me. Perhaps I was distracted by my own challenges, being a gay woman in a man’s world, but surely there’s something I could’ve done. I’m still bothered. I’ve asked myself: when I was eighteen years old, would I have conformed? I don’t think so, but something in the corporate world conditioned me to conform, and I think we need to break that cycle.”
“It’s really important to me that I am now visible as a supporter of #MeToo,” Cathy Bolz continued. “When I think about the #MeToo movement, I’m not thinking about victims, and I think sometimes that’s how it comes across. I don’t look at it like that at all. I look at the MeToo movement as a group of survivors, people looking to find their voice. People looking for support. People looking for people like them who have paved the path to make change. And so I say: be who you are, challenge yourself, stand up, speak out, be strong, be visible, use your voice. Remember, you don’t have to wave a flag, just be present. Support others, be who you are so that you can help others be who they want to be.”
Stacey Friedman, General Counsel, JPMorgan Chase and Shamina Singh, Executive Vice President, Sustainability, Mastercard, then participated in a discussion moderated by Stephanie Sandberg, Director, OutWOMEN (pictured left-right).
“As out women, we’ve had to overcome a lot of challenges that our colleagues haven’t had to overcome,” said Shamina Singh. “We have a level of fearlessness and grit as a result. It takes a little bit more to take us down. And that’s a value we can bring to our workplaces. And that means when you’re an EVP for Sustainability and you’re sitting in a meeting and you’re seeing bad behavior, you call it out. When you see somebody walking down the hall and they just got chewed out about something, you stop them for a second and say “Keep going. Keep going.” You send somebody a note. We can bring strength and courage and fearlessness to the overt and covert moments, because we’re already out. Once you get free, once you’re out, you go. And for me, that’s been the biggest gift of being a lesbian. I don’t have the time for B.S.”
“I think there are absolutely situations around the world where a senior manager says, ‘I don’t want to take a woman on this business trip because of how it’s going to look,'” said Stacey Friedman. “Or ‘I don’t want to promote that diverse candidate because I don’t know if I can give candid feedback. I might be criticized.’ And it’s important for all of us to say out loud, yes you can promote that gay woman. Yes, you can promote that diverse candidate and you want to know how you treat them on a business trip? You respect them for the substantive work they do. It’s not that hard.”
Abby Fiorella, General Auditor, Mastercard (pictured) and Marcy Wilder, Partner, Hogan Lovells, then discussed some management insights they’ve leveraged through their identities as OutWOMEN.
“As important as it is to bring people in, it’s just as important to give people what they need to feel welcome and stay,” said Abby Fiorella. “And to recognize that we all have our subconscious biases, but unless you’re open, unless you’re authentic, unless you’re humble and vulnerable, people are not going to be honest with you, you’re not going to have the discussions to remove the obstacles to success in the workplace. And it’s so important to help people develop the EQ necessary to work across difference. There’s a lot of smart people, and we all get trained in school and get the skills that we need. What you miss is what are those qualities that make us human, that connect us, that make us more powerful together than we are individually.”
Marcy Wilder discussed the challenges and opportunities of diverse teams: “Someone was asking me, what do we do to retain diverse associates? It’s not that hard. Give them good work, mostly, that’s how you succeed, give people good work, let them do it, teach them how to do it. That’s how we grow and retain the best talent.”
“I was having a conversation with a young associate who was having some difficulty, but who I thought was very good,” Marcy Wilder continued. “And I knew there was some connection that wasn’t being made. She’s from China, she came here when she was very young. And one of the things that she said to me in giving me feedback was “When I’m succeeding, sometimes what you say to me is ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ To me and my family, if you say ‘Keep doing what you’re doing,’ what that says to me is you don’t care. Because things can always be better, there can always be improvement, and you don’t care to think about how I might improve.” That was an enormously helpful piece of feedback for me. I didn’t mean for her to hear ‘I don’t care’ from me, but I wasn’t doing the work to figure out how I could help her in the places where she was succeeding, much less the places that she wasn’t.”
Beth Feeney, Vice President and Senior Project Executive, Financial Services Sector, IBM, concluded the morning: “We talk a lot about storytelling at IBM, because it really helps things resonate. All of us in this room have stories to tell, and I really hope you’ll take your opportunities. We do a thing called Pride Profiles, which allows IBM employees to share their stories in front of the 300,000 or so employees of the company. I did it, and the feedback was fascinating. 95% of the feedback was absolutely positive. I heard from people I’ve known for 30 years, and I wish I had told them about my wife and our life together. I wish I had been more authentic with them, because what I have observed is some of those relationships, where you go out for a drink after work, and share stories about your kids or your godchildren – those relationships create bonds that are really powerful as your career advances, because you can draw on them or they draw on you. And I realized I’d really lost an opportunity, because I hadn’t shared that part of myself with my colleagues for so much of my career. No one should have to do that anymore. We don’t need to do that anymore.”