Lesbian and gay trends in the City

On the day the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) regulations come into force new research indicates how far the City has moved to overcome its traditional image as an inhospitable environment for gay and lesbian employees.

London is the unrivalled gay and lesbian capital of Europe and also the continent’s leading financial centre. The government estimates that 6% of the UK population is lesbian or gay. London’s population is nearer 10%, thanks to thriving gay scene.

Research carried out by financial services recruiter Joslin Rowe, surveyed 3,676 candidates for City roles and collated information on sexuality for diversity monitoring purposes over the last two years.

Two years ago, 5.9% of respondents anonymously identified themselves as gay or lesbian, but this had risen to 8.2% in the last twelve months as legislative changes and a diversity drive in the financial services industry encouraged more applicants.

These figures indicate that out of the 900,000 people working in banking, finance, and insurance in London, 73,800 are gay or lesbian.

Tara Ricks, Managing Director of Joslin Rowe Associates said: ‘Traditionally the City was perceived as white, heterosexual and male – which put off many gay and lesbian applicants.”

“As a result, the proportion of gay and lesbian workers was far below the national average ten years ago – but it was extremely rare for firms to monitor their own performance in this area so it is difficult to benchmark quite how bad the situation was. Times have changed and diversity is now at the centre of recruitment and human resources policy.”

“The City knows it must attract the best talent from all walks of life. Many firms now actively target gay undergraduates, for example, something that was not the case five or ten years ago. The trend has now seen City firms grow the proportion of their staff who are gay – up to 8.2% of the workforce and overtaking the current national average of 5.9%.”

‘All the major investment banks now have gay networking groups and large sponsorship deals at gay events across the City . Across the industry, organisations such as Out in the City, the Interbank Gay and Lesbian Network and City Pink (which targets women only) provide opportunities for gay and lesbian employees to meet and mix. None of this existed five years ago. What’s more, investment banks now come top of Stonewall’s Corporate Equality Index as the best place to work for homosexual employees. Indeed, nine of the Top 25 organisations in the country are City firms .’

Although the City has narrowed the gap in the last four years, it still has some way to go.

There are 16,000 fewer gay or lesbian employees in the industry compared to the mix in London’s general population.

Furthermore, the extent to which people are ‘out’ in their firms is far smaller than the number who privately acknowledge that they are homosexual.

Arguably, City workers are more likely to keep their own counsel than those in other industries like the media with a traditionally more open attitude. This is particularly so for women. In Joslin Rowe’s research, women in the City were far less likely to identify themselves (even anonymously) than men as homosexual.

Tara Ricks said: ‘The City has made huge strides in recent years, but is still a challenging and competitive place to work. The reluctance of women to come out as lesbians possibly reflects the fact that women already feel they have to fight hard to maintain equality with men.’

‘Of course there is no reason why people should disclose their sexuality at work – it is irrelevant to their ability to do the job. In an ideal world we wouldn’t be counting anyone. But these are not exercises designed to label people. They have been created as positive tools to measure and encourage progress – rather than relying on mere compliance to drive change.’

This story was first published by Gay.com