Harvard Business Review Cites Out Leadership CEO’s Creation of First-Ever LGBTQ+ Portfolio in Wall Street History, a Major Milestone in the Business Case for Inclusion

Todd Sears, Founder and CEO of Out Leadership, Built a $2 Bill. LGBTQ+ Portfolio, Merrill Lynch, Pioneering Inclusion as a Powerful Economic Force

The January/February 2024 edition of the Harvard Business Review Magazine shines a spotlight on the instrumental leadership of Todd Sears, Founder & CEO of Out Leadership, whose work establishing the LGBTQ+ market made Wall Street history and continues to reshape corporate culture on issues of inclusion and diversity.

Sears’ work over the last 20 years has established LGBTQ+ inclusion as a value-add for businesses. “The New Rules of Executive Presence” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a feature on key changes in executive leadership, highlights Sears’ expertise as a critical, early example of establishing the LGBTQ+ community as a powerful economic market.

“Inclusion is no longer up for debate as a business strategy. Today, it is a leading force bolstering the bottom lines of companies worldwide,” said Todd Sears, Founder & CEO of Out Leadership. “The current edition of the Harvard Business Review is spot on: for businesses to realize the best returns on their investments, they must seek out inclusion-minded executives as their leaders.”

The article details shifts in executive leadership away from outdated ideas and toward newer, inclusive values. One of the six rules cited in the article cites Sears’ work as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, where Sears created the first team in Wall Street history solely focused on the LGBTQ+ community that brought in “more than $2 billion in assets invested by LGBTQ+ clients.”

The business strategy Sears developed for Merrill Lynch proved early on that LGBTQ+ inclusive policies could be good for business and helped establish the new LGBTQ+ market as a powerful economic force to be embraced by corporate leaders.

“Through research, studies, and corporate partnerships, we have spent the last 13 years proving both quantitatively and qualitatively that LGBTQ+ equality is good for business.  Today, smart, successful companies fully recognize the enormous potential of the LGBTQ+ market” concluded Sears.

After his pioneering work at Merrill Lynch, in 2010 Sears founded Out Leadership, the premier global LGBTQ+ organization harnessing the power of business to drive equality. The organization’s research, advocacy, and corporate partnerships have leveraged his pioneering vision of inclusion into proven business strategies to bolster businesses’ bottom lines. Despite the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced around the country last year, the global business community is moving in a pro-equality direction.

Over the past decade, Sears and Out Leadership have continued to advocate for LGBTQ+ access and equality in the boardroom and throughout employee ranks. As a result, more research and data demonstrate that many companies, governments, and individuals are making concrete commitments towards full LGBTQ+ inclusion, including:

  • The largest ever global talent survey, Out to Succeed 2.0, showing more LGBTQ+ employees feel comfortable being out at work.
  • Critical developments around CSR in the Return on Equality ESG report, as more companies are reporting LGBTQ+ diversity in  their reporting.
  • The groundbreaking board diversity report, 2023 OutOUORUM: Progress & Possibility, illustrating an overall increase in boardroom diversity, including LGBTQ+ diversity.
  • The best and worst states in the 2023 State LGBTQ+  Business Climate Index, illustrating a first-ever drop of -1.14 percent in overall national equality and access across the nation, where a pocket full of states placed more restrictions and limitations on LGBTQ+ living resulting in the drop.

Sears recently joined The Lean to the Left podcast to discuss the state of LGBTQ+ affairs in the United States and around the world.


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