Point Foundation Scholar, Jonathan Metrick On The Next Generation of LGBT Employees
Posted: 08/02/2008 - 19:47
• Do your job to the best of your ability by bringing your `full self` to work
Fortune 500 companies have been increasingly seeking to expand the diversity of their workforce by vying for candidates from the LGBT community. Whether their efforts are based upon competition or actually acknowledging the benefits of productive Gay/Lesbian employees, these companies act as social change agents to broaden the acceptance of our community in the workplace.
Recruiting LGBT talent is relatively new in diversity department circles with the interest escalating over the past 10 years or so. Many baby boomers never had the notion in their minds that their sexual orientation could actually be welcomed in the workplace.
Now that we are living in a more diverse world, it is worthy to start listening to the up and coming LGBT talent who we find are far more diligent in their research of a future employer. Potential candidates are now looking at employer’s HRC score in their annual Corporate Equality Index, seeing what LGBT events they sponsor and scrutinizing their employee benefits package. Understanding our youth and their needs will only lead towards a more inclusive corporate culture, an increase in viable LGBT candidates and a better work environment overall.
Echelon Magazine spoke with Jonathan Metrick, a current Point Foundation scholar who is now attending Harvard Business School. After graduating from Queens University in Ontario, Canada, Metrick took a position at Procter & Gamble where he quickly became involved in their LGBT employee group and became the youngest member participating on the Diversity Leadership Team. Metrick’s tenure led to an increase in corporate sponsorship of Gay events and launched the company’s first LGBT recruiting efforts in Canada.
After two years with P&G, Jonathan is now back in school with the help of Point Foundation, a non-profit organization who is now funding over 90 LGBT scholars, their largest yet.
Why is being Out at work so important to you?
METRICK – I think being out at work is critical because your job encompasses such a large portion of your life. This fact is more pronounced for senior executives in mulitnational companies who additionally have to juggle international travel and changing time zones. I personally couldn’t see myself thriving in an environment where I was not comfortable being out and openly expressing myself. I am a firm believer that you are the most productive when you are able to bring your ‘full-self’ to work and that includes being forthright about your sexuality (if you are comfortable doing so).
Speaking to that, I think those individuals who are fortunate enough to have a supportive family and friends and can become examples for others, demonstrating that professional success and being out at work are not mutually exclusive.
Are many of your LGBT student contacts interested in working for a diverse employer? Where do they go to research employers?
METRICK - Yes. Every LGBT student that I know of is concerned about the diversity practices of their future employer. Primary sources of information students use as indications of workplace diversity include the HRC rating, looking to see if companies have LGBT employee networks who recruit on campus, examining which firms participate in the annual Reaching Out LGBT MBA Conference and companies who are public supporters of the LGBT community (through sponsorship, advertising etc).
What do employers have to have in place in order to attract LGBT talent?
METRICK - Employee groups are a great place to start. Providing LGBT employees with a means of getting together to socialize and create a sense of community is really important. It also gives employees exposure to individuals throughout the organization who who they can relate to surrounding LGBT concerns. Finally, employee groups provide an excellent opportunity for junior members to meet openly gay senior leaders who can act as mentors or role models to individuals questioning if coming out at work is a good idea.
What would you advise employers to do to attract LGBT talent?
METRICK - To attract LGBT talent it is important for organizations to publicly support the community. “Diversity” is a great buzz word that’s thrown around by many but I think the companies who are the most attractive to top talent are those willing to put their money where their mouth is. Ways to do this include sponsoring LGBT student groups, having an active recruiting presence on campus (info sessions, presentations) and sponsoring public events like Gay Pride. These are all great ways for organizations to prove that they are publicly making strides in the field of diversity.
Are you more productive at work as an Out employee? If so, why?
METRICK - Absolutely. I think it is incredibly important to be able to come to work and focus only on the things at hand. It can be incredibly distracting coming in on a Monday morning and worrying about answering the inevitable ‘what did you do this weekend?’. Additionally, I think an important part of being productive is working well with people around you. Not being out at work, in my opinion, can limit your ability to bond with your colleagues. Openly discussing your personal life creates stronger bonds with those around you and can help make your office environment a much more enjoyable and productive workplace.
What kind of challenges did you face with your former employer?
METRICK - One of the challenges working with large corporations is navigating the fact that organizations are driven by numbers. With other affinity groups, it’s easier to accurately gauge your constituency but with the LGBT community, individuals can choose to ‘opt out’. This creates a situation where numerically, you might have only 2% of employees self identifying as gay in the workplace but in reality there are more like 10%. This creates challenges attracting required attention to LGBT concerns because senior leaders are looking to deploy resources to areas where they can have maximum impact and ‘2%’ is not as compelling as 10%.
Have you faced any kind of discrimination in your life/work for being gay?
METRICK - I have been very lucky to not experience any direct discrimination in the workplace thus far in my career. Procter & Gamble Canada truly did embrace diversity and senior management were instrumental in securing many of the great achievements we were able to accomplish (LGBT targeted recruiting events, gay pride sponsorship etc). I do however acknowledge that few companies are as open and accepting of LGBT related issues and this is one off the main reasons I continue to focus my attention in this area.
How was the process of getting dollars for Gay sponsorship? Was there a gay-friendly ally in the company to get things going?
METRICK - Yes. Gay friendly allies throughout the organization were vitally important getting many of our network initiatives off the ground. Enrolling LGBT friendly allies to assist in your efforts broadens the scope of the project and makes it an organizational initiative rather than an LGBT one.
METRICK - I think one of the primary factors motivating me to continue supporting LGBT efforts in the workplace is to prove to nay-sayers that workplace equality can be a source of competitive advantage. Creating an environment where people are comfortable being themselves (gay or not) will reap rewards through reduced absenteeism, lower turnover and greater internal collaboration. As well, I believe too few talented LGBT youth are seriously considering careers in business. I think it’s important to have examples of prominent gay leaders demonstrating to today’s youth that being openly gay in business is a viable and rewarding career choice.
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