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lgbtStrategic consultancies may not exactly shine when it comes to gender diversity, but if there’s one thing they have excelled in, it’s their support of their LGBT (GLBT in the US) community.

Sometimes, strategic consultancies really do hit all the right notes. When, in 2010, Bain & Company became one of the first companies to compensate all US employees for the additional tax they pay for covering same-sex partners on their medical plan, it was a big deal. But, even though the firm had already gained an enviable reputation in this field (a perfect score for the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Corporate Equality Index’ and being rated first for GLBT diversity in Europe), this was a clear message to say it still wanted to do more. Indeed, it wasn’t until 2015 that the US Supreme Court even recognised same-sex marriages.

And, ‘more’ really has been the order of the day. In the years that have followed, all the top consultancies have made significant inroads to promote sexual diversity. In 2015, Bain partner João Soares was ranked 24th in The Telegraph’s Top 50 list of LGTB executives , having been praised for his work promoting the EMEA network, and the Bain GLBT Association for Diversity (BGLAD), a group that recruits, retains and supports GLBT employees.

Meanwhile, Oliver Wyman’s ‘Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Allies of Oliver Wyman’ (GLOW) has become a top-ten-ranked LGBT employee network by Global Diversity List. GLOW global co-chair Andrew Jakubowski was last year named one of top LGBT Future Leaders by the Financial Times, while in 2014, Boston Consulting (along with Bain and McKinsey & Company) was also ranked amongst one of the top 25 best companies for LGBT employees by Business Insider. In fact these three consultancies were all in the top five best LGBT employer spots (with AT Kearney also there, in 21st place too).

Diversity of talent leads to diversity of ideas

It’s not difficult to see why this might be the case. All the consultancies (correctly, according to academics), believe diversity of talent also creates diversity of ideas and innovation – which, in a sector that’s all about providing progressive thinking and new solutions to problems, means business advantage too.

It’s also arguably easier to see why strides have been much more successful in this area than in, say, gender diversity, where they still lag behind. LGBT issues directly align with most young people’s outlooks – meaning outward support is a recruitment boon. Currently, 70% of millennials in America now favour same-sex marriage (according to data from the Pew Research Centre ), compared to just 45% of the earlier Baby Boomer generation. Whereas it might have been a taboo subject in past, being gay is not anymore. Because LGBT also includes both men and women, it features a community that cuts across gender divides too. It’s not surprising now has its own league table for the best LGBT employers (topped by Bain).

The verve with which most of the consultancies promote LGBT issues wider than just their own four walls is also admirable. GLOW recently teamed with Shell to discuss the importance of straight ally role models and also joined forces with Deutsche Bank to address challenges for the global careers of LGBT employees. AlixPartners similarly takes part in LGBT awareness events (including PRIDE events).

Not a panacea – but progress is fast

Of course, there have still been some consultancies that have been slower off the mark to really promote LGBT diversity issues. Roland Berger didn’t launch its LGBT network (called ‘Just Be’), until May 2016 (perhaps because Germany’s Equal Treatment Act, or Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz is part of every employee's contract). That said, being a few steps behind to start with hasn’t held it back, and it hasn’t wasted any time promoting it where it can. For instance, last year it took part in ‘Sticks and Stones’ – Germany’s first ever career fair directed at the LGBT community.

One last hurdle?

But, despite all this credible effort, could be still be the odd fly or two in the ointment? The answer is yes, very possibly.

One fact that cannot be ignored is the direction of growth many consultancies are moving toward. Most are trying to substantially grow their Middle-East and Far East presence – a part of the world where growth potential is highest. Yet in many of these regions of the world, homosexuality and lesbianism is not only a taboo subject it is outright illegal. Consensual sexual activity between same-sex couples is punished by death in Iran and Afghanistan and it is illegal in much of Africa and the Middle East. In India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Malaysia it is also illegal. Go to Bain’s .com (global) website address for instance, and while its lesbian and gay network is visibly promoted here, it’s another question entirely when you go to its Bain Middle East site. Here it is very conspicuous by its absence.

It’s also noticeable that while most consultancies publish their women and black and ethnic minority representation statistics (at Roland Berger, for example, 11% of consultants are female, a number it wants to be 15% this year, and 25% by 2020), Consultor could not any numbers for LGBT representation or goals.

So, while it’s an A+ overall for the importance LGBT issues have been afforded by the main strategic consultancies, let’s not forget, it’s still not a united world out there, and in some regions, it’s an area they’ll have to tread very carefully around for some time yet.

Peter Crush for
Freelance business journalist
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