Growing up in the closet was not easy. It caused me to over-analyze every word that came out of my mouth, in fear that someone might figure out my identity. This constant worrying took a lot of time and energy, which could have been put towards more productive tasks.

A person is at their best when they are comfortable being who they truly are. For me, this was nearly impossible when I was hyper-aware of every single thing that I did and how others might perceive me. I later came out and hesitantly decided on a university and career path: business. I knew I could do well in this field but was concerned about how my personal life would mesh into what I thought would be an ‘old boys’ club.’

Fortunately, attending my first corporate event back in high school made me realize I had made the right choice. I listened to representatives from the industry speak about the importance their respective firms placed upon diversity and inclusion in the workplace, specifically in regards to LGBTQ+ employees. It gave me the confidence to be proud of who I am and feel comfortable about my university and future career choices.

Today, massive firms go out of their way to make sure they have as diverse of a workforce as possible and that inclusion practices are in place to support their employees.

Corporations are often painted in a very negative light, which unfortunately diminishes all the philanthropic work they do. Yes, banks used to be an old boys’ club, but that is not the case anymore; over time, things have changed for the better. Today, massive firms go out of their way to make sure they have as diverse of a workforce as possible and that inclusion practices are in place to support their employees.

Attending the Canadian Board Diversity Council’s Annual Report Card Launch, I was able to see the manner in which some of the largest corporations have dedicated themselves to diversity. Over the past 10 years, we can observe a clear trend in favour of diversity with respect to these boards of directors. There has been almost 10 per cent more women on these boards and even more in specific industries. Additionally, the per cent of self-identifying minorities on boards has tripled. This is pretty clear evidence that leadership is changing for the better.

Fortunately, along the same lines, support for the LGBTQ+ community has also been flourishing within the corporate world. While there has been a lot of work done over the past 16 years, corporations like Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) have been allies to the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Back in 1994, before same-sex marriage was even legal in Canada, TD extended its employee benefits to same-sex couples. Today, they are one of the leading sponsors of Pride Weeks around the world and one of the community’s most active allies.

On a broader institutional level, support is also growing. With organizations like the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Pride at Work Canada, Canadian Board Diversity Council, and Out On Bay Street, careers in finance, accounting, consulting, human resources, law, energy, engineering, plus more are becoming more accessible for LGBTQ+ people. These organizations provide opportunities for individuals in the community to network with industry professionals, get career advice, and find jobs.

These organizations also provide support to their corporate partners. They oversee training, improve working conditions, and help senior leaders implement more diverse practices that can help all employees feel more comfortable being their authentic selves at work.

The Williams Institute, a group of scholars dedicated to researching the social and economic implications of sexual orientation and gender identity, released a poignant study on this very topic in 2013. They claim that pro-diversity and the implementation of supportive LGBTQ+ policies have had a positive effect on job satisfaction, work relationships, and productivity. As part of its recommendations, the study emphasized the importance of hiring more bisexual and transgender employees. It will be interesting to take a look at the studies in a few years and see the changes in demographics.

While the future of my career remains uncertain, one thing rings true: I will be in the employee resource group of my workplace, fighting to make sure all that has been done over the past few decades is taken further and further.

I will be comfortable bearing my Pride flag at whatever company I want. In comparison to three years ago when I was too terrified to speak, I am astounded by how much I have personally — and professionally — grown.

Troy Peschke is a third-year student at Innis College studying Finance and Economics. He is the Director of Corporate Relations for the Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance.

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