Bank of America: Advancing LGBT+ inclusion through out leaders, allies and courageous conversations

 

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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. 

  • It boasts diverse teams: more than 50% of the global workforce is female and more than 40% of the U.S.-based workforce is racially or ethnically diverse. To recruit top LGBT talent, Bank of America partners with several organisations including Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Out on the Street, Reaching Out MBA, Lesbians Who Tech and the Out for Undergrad Business Conference.
  • It was the first financial services company to offer comprehensive domestic partner benefits and the first financial institution to incorporate sexual orientation into non-discrimination policies. 
  • It offers some of the top healthcare benefits for transgender employees in the U.S., UK and APAC, including dedicated support for individuals who are transitioning. 
  • Training modules and events are offered for employees to become better informed about the issues facing the LGBT community. Nearly 15,000 employees have attended one or more training sessions in 46 states across the U.S. 
  • In 2015, Bank of America signed the amicus brief in support of nationwide marriage equality. In 2016, it was the first North Carolina-based company to publicly oppose and call for full repeal of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 and consistently and publicly called for repeal, engaging partners to join in expressing concern for its impact.

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: 

  1. Leverage ideas from employees – grassroots initiatives with senior management support are extremely effective.
  2. Leverage executive sponsors – both allies and LGBT+.  
  3. Encourage LGBT+ senior leaders to be visible LGBT+ role models – encourage them to share their stories and be visible in their respective teams and locations.
  4. Actively engage allies – allies are willing to help – create a program to provide some structure and articulate what steps allies can take to actively advocate for LGBT colleagues.
  5. Provide opportunities for employees to learn – Bank of America host regular training events and panel discussions on various aspects of being LGBT+ in the workplace.
  6. Be authentic – to truly drive engagement, Bank of America found that personal and authentic stories were well received and warmly welcomed.
  7. Share your commitment internally & externally – Bank of America recently updated its ally video, featuring the CEO and senior colleagues demonstrating the organisation’s commitment to LGBT+ inclusion and is also available on YouTube 

GerryStone

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

 

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