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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

This Company Knows What It Means to Be LGBTQ-Friendly

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Tom Merton/ Getty Images

We spend so much of our time at work that it's important to feel comfortable. Maybe not home-away-from-home or kick-your-feet-up comfortable, but a place where you feel free to be yourself.

So when you're searching for a job, you want to interview the company just as much as it's interviewing you. Making sure the team has similar values and views on topics important to you can go a long way in feeling like you belong.

Joe Crowley, Head of Human Resources at BlackRock Japan and co-head of Talent Management for Asia Pacific, had a lot of questions for his future employer before he started in 2007.

Was it a place where he could be successful as an openly gay man? Did the organization mindfully take care of its LGBTQ employees? Were there other LGBTQ leaders?

And most importantly, he asked, "Can I be myself at work?"

Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

In an inclusive workplace, it can be easy to take for granted just how significant it is to answer honestly when a co-worker asks you what you did over your weekend.

"Oh, sure," you might say, "my partner and I finally checked out the place that serves ramen filled donuts! It was disgusting!"

But even something as simple as taking your loved one to an office holiday party or having a picture of them at your desk becomes awfully meaningful.

“I had been in consulting for years and years, and no one cared about your personal life," Joe says. He would be on a job for anywhere from six months to a year before he was on to the next gig. That's the nature of consulting, but he was looking for something more permanent. In speaking to his future colleagues about making the leap to BlackRock, he was told it was an accepting place.

Clay Hagland, Managing Director and Head of iShares Marketing at BlackRock in London, agrees. “I had a very supportive family and friends," he says of his coming out at age 18. "My being gay was never an issue."

“I think what that instilled in my mind," he says, “was that I will not allow my being gay to ever be an issue. So my working at a company where that doesn't feel right, then that's not the right company for me."

Open to Change

When Joe started in December 2007, he was introduced to the OUT Network. OUT had created the community not just for LGBTQ employees, but for their heterosexual allies.

Early on, the OUT Network recognized that the company's LGBTQ employees weren't able to receive the same healthcare benefits as their heterosexual counterparts because of the legal status of their marriages. BlackRock then made sure that employees in same-sex marriages—and even couples that were in long-term relationships—would be covered by their insurance. "I was proud seeing my company proactively approach this from a thoughtful and fiscal perspective," Joe says, "but also from a perspective of what's right and wrong."

When both Joe and Clay wanted to explore adoption and surrogacy, respectively, with their husbands, BlackRock gave them the necessary time off from work. In Clay's case, the company even rewrote its parental leave policy to reflect that there are different ways for a couple to bring a baby into this world.

Clay believes that these anecdotes present an important takeaway for all employers: the younger generations in the workplace expect that the company they work for will make diversity and inclusion a priority.

“They will leave if it's not right," he elaborates. “There is a cost to not getting this right."

Creating a Community

The OUT Network now has over a thousand members globally. There's been no shortage of interest in participation, particularly from those in senior management roles, and plenty of folks from outside of the network take part, too.

"There are a lot of straight people in the OUT Network and the allies component is critical to its success," Clay says. "You could argue that there's a lot of inclusion and diversity theory that says having a network is counterintuitive. If you're trying to have true inclusion, having a place for gay people to simply be with other gay people, is that really inclusive?"

BlackRock is also focusing on external recruiting efforts and talent development with the intention of creating a more diverse workplace, not just with the LGBTQ community, but also with women and people of Hispanic and African American descent. "A more diverse group of people will be better at solving complex problems," Joe says.

"Ten years ago it was a different time and place," Joe says. He's happy that he has an opportunity to provide leadership and support to a younger generation of LGBTQ folks. "The world changed, thankfully, much faster than I thought it ever would."