Out Leadership and Ropes & Gray release new white paper at U.S. Summit 2019

Out Leadership and global law firm Ropes & Gray launched their new white paper Visibility Counts: Corporate Guidelines for LGBT+ Self-ID, at the Out Leadership U.S. Summit 2019, which the law firm also sponsored. Download the report: www.outleadership.com/visibilitycounts

The groundbreaking paper examines how companies have created global processes for inviting employees to voluntarily provide their sexual orientation and gender identity information. As it is more popularly known, LGBT+ self-identification is an important, fast-growing, but insufficiently understood practice that enables LGBT+ employees, as members of an invisible minority within the workforce, to raise their hands to be counted.

The paper is based on original research Out Leadership and Ropes & Gray conducted this year with executives representing 38 global businesses, including six financial services companies, seven law firms, and nine professional services firms. Visibility Counts outlines why an increasing number of global companies are taking steps to systematically count their LGBT+ employees, articulates best practices for doing so, and enumerates several of the most common challenges organizations encounter in building such processes.

“Self-ID is a key step in the LGBT+ employee engagement process,” said Todd Sears, Founder and Principal, Out Leadership. “However, because it touches on topics that have traditionally been treated with great sensitivity in the business context, many global companies think it’s too complicated to pursue. Many misperceptions exist about where companies can collect SOGI data and how it can be shared, and they’re hampering companies’ ability to fully support their LGBT+ employees. While it’s true that cultural attitudes and legal frameworks affecting individuals’ ability to openly identify as LGBT+ vary by country, as do companies’ ability to collect and use demographic information, it’s nevertheless also true that sophisticated global companies have determined that the benefits outweigh the risks in many markets. Visibility Counts outlines why LGBT+ self-ID is currently implemented in more than 40 countries. We wanted to combat the mistaken impression that it’s impossible to do globally, and we hope this paper will be a resource for companies considering building this capability.”

“Self-ID doesn’t just create a new way to recognize and celebrate diversity – it also captures valuable data that guides talent development, increases operational efficiency and productivity, and shows clients that they’re being served by inclusive teams,” said Brad Malt, Chair, Ropes & Gray.  “We are proud to have co-authored a report that will help other businesses experience the benefits derived from LGBT+ self-ID, as our firm did after implementing it.”

Visibility Counts incorporates a detailed Q&A with Rohan Massey, head of Ropes & Gray’s global privacy and cybersecurity practice, about how the General Data Protection Regulation (the 2018 European data privacy law) affects global LGBT+ self-ID efforts.  The Q&A covers how companies can responsibly collect, store and use this data.

The white paper also includes a letter from Bob Annibale, Global Director, Community Development and Inclusive Finance, Citi, discussing his company’s progress towards collecting SOGI information in many of the places where it operates. “Through this due diligence process, we have made two key insights: Be Bold – although every country presents its own specific challenges, collecting sexual orientation and gender identity information is both possible and welcome in many places around the world. And Build Trust – perhaps the greatest obstacle to implementing and effectively leveraging self-ID is employee participation. Efforts to implement it must communicate effectively about why sharing this information will be beneficial to employees, and how the data will be safeguarded.”



Out Leadership is the global LGBT+ business network CEOs and multinational companies trust to generate Return on Equality®.

We create global executive events and insights that help leaders realize the economic growth and talent dividend derived from inclusive business, and convene groundbreaking talent accelerators: OutNEXT, the first global leadership development program for the next generation of LGBT+ talent; Quorum, which seeks to advance LGBT+ diversity in corporate governance; and OutWOMEN, which convenes and celebrates LGBT+ women in business.

Out Leadership is a certified B Corp. For more information, please visit www.outleadership.com.


More than 200 senior executives will gather for the 9th Annual Out Leadership’s U.S. LGBT+ Senior Leader Summit in New York, sponsored by EY, Ogilvy, and Ropes & Gray. The summit will include conversations with many of the top LGBT+ business leaders in the world, and Out Leadership and its partners will launch an array of new insights.


Ropes & Gray is a preeminent global law firm with approximately 1,400 lawyers and legal professionals serving clients in major centers of business, finance, technology and government. The firm has offices in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul, and has consistently been recognized for its leading practices in many areas, including private equity, M&A, finance, asset management, real estate, tax, antitrust, life sciences, health care, intellectual property, litigation & enforcement, privacy & cybersecurity, and business restructuring.

Diversity has long been an essential part of Ropes & Gray’s culture, and the firm has a long history of pro bono work on behalf of LGBT+ organizations and causes. In 2015, Ropes & Gray successfully argued the landmark marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges before the U.S. Supreme Court. The firm has also partnered with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition to launch the Transgender ID Project, and is a longtime supporter of Immigration Equality.

Ropes & Gray’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has been widely recognized. In the 2019 Vault survey, Ropes & Gray was ranked number eight for overall diversity, marking the 10th consecutive year that the firm has been ranked in the top 10. Additionally, for the past 10 years the firm has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, earning designation as a “Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality.”

For more information, please visit www.ropesgray.com.


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