There can be no doubt that the buyside is behind on LGBT+ inclusion in comparison to other sectors.
There is no representation in Stonewall's Top 100 Workplace Index, banter is the number one concern for LGBT+ individuals and many simply choose not to be 'out' at work.
A handful of firms have tried to improve LGBT+ inclusion by setting up an employee network and this is regarded by the industry as a litmus test.
But while networks provide a safe place for colleagues to come together, they often act as a barrier to inclusion because they are insular and fail to connect with others. The impact is ironically more isolation than effectiveness.
Another key challenge has been that the industry has been fixated on gender and diversity efforts have been focussed on improving conditions for talented women.
The result is that the buyside has fallen behind in other areas of diversity and failed to position itself as a sector of choice for LGBT+ talent or investors. It is fair to say that things need to improve.
Allies need to step up
The future progress of the LGBT+ agenda lies in energising the support of influential allies who have the power and privilege to lead.
LGBT Great has grown into a global effort of more than 50 buyside firms which exists to engage senior executive allies and steer towards greater LGBT+ inclusion.
The programme works by providing actionable insights, visibility and outreach initiatives and by advocating for the positives that a culture of LGBT+ equality can yield.
There is good reason to believe that the buyside is more LGBT+ embracing than previously thought. Progress has been recently accelerated by fresh conversation and in asking key questions during the 'new dawn' of the coronavirus crisis.
When we launched in November 2017, the starting point was bleak. A study completed by The Diversity Project and Mercer revealed that 3% of the industry's workforce identified as LGBT+ despite global estimates being roughly 1 in 10.
Our own study revealed that only half of the workforce knew if their firm provided LGBT+ supportive policies. In addition, 92% said that visible allies at executive level were important to them, but only 10% of buyside firms provided this.
Despite this backdrop, LGBT Great has worked to turn this adversity into future opportunity through constructive conversation.
Our flagship initiative Project 1000 is a five-year drive to find and shine a light on one thousand LGBT+ and supportive ally role models.
This has now attracted the support of more than 2,000 industry employees and over 500 industry role models from a wide range of investment houses, asset owners, consultancies, pension funds and trade bodies.
Representation of role models spans the UK, USA, Europe and Asia and has resulted in a domino effect of support. This has shown that allyship for the LGBT+ community really does exist.
However, a key challenge until recently has been effective engagement with the C-suite.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the executive has been engaged in a passionate conversation on our Top 100 Executive Allies initiative.
This seeks to engage senior leaders and spotlight those who demonstrate excellent leadership on the LGBT+ agenda within their firms and/or society.
Engagement has been made easier by the normalisation of the video call and by leaders giving their time and attention to the task in hand through a more efficient means.
These conversations should give us every reason to be optimistic. Executives are more aware of the importance of LGBT+ equality, society and sustainability - these themes are moving ever more centre stage.
Executives have pledged support for LGBT+ inclusion by taking the time to put themselves in the shoes of others.
They are also finding time to mentor colleagues and participate in new awareness training. It does not stop here.
Executives are seeking online guidance and metrics and technology is also being used more consciously to connect with a broader employee demographic in different locations.
They are empowering others to follow their lead and we have also seen a surge in the completion of our investment benchmark tracker tool called the iiBT.
The LGBT+ agenda that was silent is becoming louder and more relevant as leaders are invited to ask the questions.
The coronavirus crisis is de-busting the myth that the buyside is ruled by uninclusive, white, straight men with little thought for the LGBT+ community.
Instead, it is showing that our executives are leading with a sense of renewed pride and allyship towards others. This is promising and acts as a reminder that we should not judge a book by its cover.
LGBT Great's Top 100 Executive Allies will be published online the day before traditional Pride events were due to take place in London and New York, on Friday 26 June. The innovations in the way we work have encouraged more visible and accessible pride than there was before.
Matt Cameron is founder and global managing director of LGBT Great