Bank of America: Advancing LGBT+ inclusion through out leaders, allies and courageous conversations
At OUTstanding we work with companies who are all at very different stages of their LGBT+ inclusion journey. Naturally, the way this challenge is tackled varies significantly between industries and firms, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Bank of America has successfully leveraged a combination of inclusive leadership structures and company-wide initiatives, resulting in workplaces across the US and in 35 countries globally, where employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.
Bank of America has recognised that having diverse teams makes business sense – it improves the ability to serve clients, fulfil business objectives and drive responsible growth.
Inclusive leadership structures
Bank of America actively encourages a diverse and inclusive workplace — in thought, style, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture and experience. It has a number of structures in place to ensure that inclusion efforts and initiatives are present at every level of the organisation. Their CEO-led Global Diversity and Inclusion Council provides strategic direction on how Bank of America approaches diversity and inclusion as a company overall. Feeding into this are Diverse Leadership Councils which are employee-led, and meet through the year. They’ve increased awareness of out LGBT+ leaders in the company, and inspired a greater willingness in senior leaders to engage and share their personal stories. They have also increased the number of allies, sending a message to LGBT+ employees that they’re working in a supportive environment. One such group is the Executive Leadership Council, which was founded in 2016 and comprises visible out-at-work LGBT+ executives, focused on providing LGBT+ employees with a voice within the company and local community.
Engaging LGBT+ and ally support
It’s not just the leadership councils who have the power to affect change; similar to many other large organisations, Bank of America has numerous Employee Networks – 11 in fact - with more than 240 chapters and 98,000 memberships worldwide. One such network is LGBT Pride. It is dedicated to promoting a safe, equitable, and inclusive environment for LGBT employees and fostering a workplace that recruits, develops, and retains top LGBT talent.
In 2013, LGBT Pride introduced the Ally Program to continue to drive positive change and engagement. Today, there are more than 21,000 visible allies and employees who are out-at-work in more than 1,000 cities in 30 countries across the globe. LGBT Pride actively encourages employees to sign up as allies throughout the year, and annually hosts ‘Ally Week’. Support for the Ally Program can be seen in Bank of America’s Ally Video on YouTube.
Courageous conversations on LGBT inclusion
In 2015, Bank of America launched the ‘Courageous Conversations’ initiative. Courageous conversations are group discussions that encourage employees to have open dialogue on topics that are important to them. Their goal is to promote inclusion, understanding and positive action by creating awareness of employees’ experiences and perspectives related to differences in background, experience or viewpoints, such as class, age, gender, gender identification and expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disabilities.
To date, over 60,000 employees have been reached with Courageous Conversations at the bank, including the Board of Directors, global senior leaders and local market presidents.
Bank of America have offered the following steps for success for others who are looking to promote LGBT+ inclusion within their organisation:
The combination of active allies and visible LGBT+ role models reinforces an inclusive environment where our colleagues feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work – and focus their energy of serving our customers and clients. – Gerry Stone, Chief Operating Officer for Global Banking & Markets Operations and regional Technology & Operations