LGBT Rights on Wall Street Essay

LGBT Rights on Wall Street Essay

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Two important trends facing Wall Street are its expansion of LGBT employee rights over the past decade and its entrance into non-traditional banking centers. These trends are interrelated and deeply affect the LGBT community. As Wall Street has greatly improved its treatment of LGBT employees, it has an opportunity to share this accepting attitude as it expands into new markets.

The 1980s were notorious for rampant homophobia on Wall Street, where traders routinely screamed “faggot” on the trading floor and a closeted culture prevailed throughout firms. In 1983, a small group of gay bankers formed an anonymous support group entitled the New York Bankers Trust. Bankers Trust meetings were held in private homes and mailings were addressed to “Mr.” and “Mrs.” because many closeted male bankers pretended to be married to women.

This homophobic macho-driven culture continued throughout the 80s and 90s, even as society became more accepting of gays and lesbians. In 1999, there was one openly gay member of the 1,365-member New York Stock Exchange. And although many banks had, on paper, banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, a 1999 article in the New York Magazine reported widespread discrimination, lawsuits, fear of harassment and underrepresentation of openly gay men and women.

After the turn of the millennium, things began to change. Quickly. In 2002, J.P. Morgan led the way and was the first bank to receive a perfect score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. In 2003, Lehman Brothers joined. In 2004, Deutsche Bank, Citi, UBS, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs joined. The dam had been broken. A 2006 Bloomberg article noted this change and suggested a few important catalysts: societal changes, such as same-sex marriage,...

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...s in these areas. I believe that if banks offer LGBT benefits, citizens will see these policies and respond positively through the political process to promote gay rights. Beyond offering equal benefits, banks can take the next step and speak out where they see injustice, as they have done in the United States.

Gay rights do not exist in a vacuum. Many articles I read linked the decline in sexual harassment toward women with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the workplace. Similarly, in many countries where gays and lesbians are imprisoned or executed, women are treated as second-class citizens, subject to female genital mutilation and high illiteracy rates. As banks have promoted gay rights in their local regions, such as New York State, they can work to expand gay rights in new markets. This is an important mission for banks and I want to be part of it.

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