William Blair hosted the first gathering of diversity group Out in Finance, a network of LGBTQ+ professionals working in the Chicago financial services industry, on June 13. The group was formed to drive inclusion and equality in the industry and workplace.
More than 125 people attended the event at WB global headquarters, which featured speakers and networking for financial professionals from across the city. They were welcomed by CEO John Ettelson and Head of Investment Management Stephanie Braming, who both spoke of inclusivity for the firm.
Ettelson told the group that the firm had recently renewed it mission, vision, and values statements through an employee-led initiative and inclusivity remained a core value.
"When people live their authentic lives both at home and at work we have found they perform much better," he said. "When I started in finance 35 years ago the likelihood of an event like this was about zero, which shows where we've come in that time period. Clearly the size of the crowd tonight shows the need for this."
Out in Finance was founded by leaders in the Chicago financial services industry—Daniel Higgins Clegg, Dru Holmquist, Jovan Marconi, and Dustin Rigsby—to unite individuals to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality, advance workplace policies, collaborate with firms on educational projects, and provide a network for LGBTQ+ professionals.
"Lift others up"
Braming stressed the value of being authentic as a person and a worker and pointed to the 50th anniversary of the landmark Stonewall uprising in New York City in June 1969, widely seen as the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ movement.
"Whether it's people marching to have the right to vote or advocate for equal pay for equal work, or whether it's individuals who were so brave 50 years ago at the Stonewall Inn who stood up and said enough, we all stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us," Braming said.
"So my challenge to all of us here tonight is to reach out and lift others up."
Higgins Clegg, co-founder of Out in Finance and member of William Blair's Investment Management team, also welcomed the crowd to the group's first event, co-sponsored by Legal & General Investment Management America. More events are planned so LGBTQ+ professionals feel less isolated, develop skills to better advocate for inclusivity and diversity within their organizations, and explore teaching financial literacy more broadly with the LGBTQ+ community.
"We formed Out in Finance to work together to address some of these issues and build a community together," Higgins Clegg told the group.