Panelists discuss being gay in business world

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009

Representatives from three top business firms spoke Thursday to a small crowd in Smith-Buonanno 106 about being openly gay in the workplace, as part of a month-long collaboration between the Career Development Center and the Queer Alliance.

At the forum, representatives spoke of positive — and challenging — experiences working in the business world.

“Being gay is a hardship, but in many ways it’s a privilege,” said Brayden McCarthy, an associate at Barclays Capital, a major investment bank. “You are a minority, and you get to understand how other minorities are being treated.”

The event was designed to fit with the theme of Pride Month, during which the QA has attempted to advance dialogue beyond same-sex marriage and address queer issues “in the 21st century.”

“It’s easy to be out at Brown,” Kyle Poyar ’10, the organizer of the event told The Herald. “But in the workplace, you worry to what extent that is professional.”

Much of one’s workplace experience “has to do with the climate, the specific people that you work around,” said Richard Clark, senior managing director for investor relations at Accenture, Ltd., a consulting firm.

Studies have shown, Clark said, that when an employee does not bring his or her “whole self” to work, productivity goes down.

Jens Audenaert, a consultant at Bain and Company, said individuals can choose the extent to which they bring their personal lives into the office. “It’s about what kind of image you set,” he said.

All three firms — Bain, Accenture and Barclays — received perfect scores on the Corporate Equality Index, a ranking compiled by the Human Rights Campaign. All three give medical coverage benefits to domestic partners — a program even Brown does not currently implement, Poyar said.

Poyar worked closely with Laura Joshi, an employer relations manager at the CDC, to organize the event, he said. Firms expressed high interest in the forum, Joshi said, but many were unable to send a representative due to scheduling conflicts. The event fell on both Holy Thursday and Passover.

Poyar said he was disappointed with the turnout, which was fewer than 20 students. He said it is difficult to reach out to LGBTQ students at Brown because there is no single network. The QA acts as an umbrella organization, but there is “no direct outreach mechanism,” he said.

The event represents current efforts by the CDC to work closely with students on campus, said Barbara Peoples, the center’s interim director.

“We really want to increase our engagement with student groups,” she said. “We want to look for what the students are looking for.”

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