I have been in the accounting industry as a self-identified queer, cisgender male for well over 20 years — while I was not out at work to the extent I am now for all of those years, the emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility
(DEIA) across the board for most major accounting firms has made being out a significantly better experience.
IMPORTANCE OF INCLUSION
One of the larger challenges for those in the accounting industry is the lack of representation or role models within the industry. Many current accounting leaders started their careers when the overarching feeling was that personal lives should be kept personal, so there are rarely out-and-proud members of executive or leadership committees. This lack of LGBTQIA+ leaders in firms tends to mean there are limited diversity initiatives specifically addressing the LGBTQIA+ community.
A lack of visibility may also create a feeling of “onlyness,” a term McKinsey and Company has used to describe a person who feels pressured to represent their entire community when they are the only person with their given gender identity, sexual orientation or race in a meeting. This is one of the reasons I live as out as I can, as I want our staff and clients to see that diversity exists within the firm on a broad scale.
EFFECTS ON MENTAL HEALTH
Another challenge is dealing with mental health issues. Being a member of a marginalized community often comes with significant mental health challenges, and being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is no exception. Beyond the challenge of whether or not to come out in the workplace, there is also the slew of negative legislation issues now coming out of the U.S.
GHJ has thankfully prioritized mental health support as a pillar of its overall employee well-being program, which has given me the support I need to navigate through this challenging time as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
BRINGING MY WHOLE SELF TO WORK
It is not all challenges, however, as I bring my experience as a queer male into my work with GHJ’s High Net Worth Practice. Oftentimes, queer couples have different needs in terms of planning and documenting their status as well as different goals in terms of savings and long-term planning. I can bring my own experience into that and serve those clients with a nod to understanding their differing needs.
Being a self-identified member of the LGBTQIA+ community has not always been the easiest in the accounting community. But when your firm is supportive and promotes mental health as a pillar of its well-being program, it gets a lot better. I strive to be an out-and-proud role model for those who come after me while representing those who came before me with pride and dignity.