“Hey, everyone. Welcome to a podcast from PineBridge’s LGBTQ+ & allies network. My name is Hari Chitnavis. I'm a member of our LGBTQ+ community and a private funds group associated in our London office. I'll be joined today by my colleagues Tracie Ahern, Loïc Rentier and Karina Graf.
To mark Pride month we wish to share perspectives from our LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies, our activity as a network and discuss how we can all be effective allies. Pride Month began after the Stonewall riots, a series of LGBTQ+ liberation protests in New York in 1969. In contrast, modern day Pride Month honors the movement for LGBTQ+ rights, celebrates our culture, and aims to raise awareness of challenges facing our community.
PineBridge’s network was formed in 2020 to improve the visibility and awareness of our community via social, educational and charitable initiatives. More than that, it's a place for everyone to come together regardless of our sexual orientation and gender identity. The key point for us is that almost all of us are connected to the community in some way, whether through friends, family or colleagues. I'll now turn over to Tracie, Loïc and Karina, who will introduce themselves in turn.
Hello, I'm Tracie Ahearn. I'm the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Risk Officer here at PineBridge. I've had the pleasure of being here for over four and a half years now. And thrilled to be part of the group and pulling things together for our community and representation here within Pinebridge.
On a personal note, I have been married to my wife for the last 17 years, we've been together for close to 20. We have a 13 year old son. I'm a former board member of the Human Rights Campaign, which is one of the largest LGBTQ+ activist groups in the United States and currently quite active in Florida Equality, where we are trying to heighten awareness for all of the needs of our community quite broadly throughout the state of Florida.
Thank you Tracie. My name is Loïc Rentier. I am a managing director in the private client group here in London. I've been with PineBridge since 2006. And on a personal note, I've been with my husband for 20 years.
I am very active across various charities, most recently with one focusing on LGBTQ homelessness. In terms of my role here. I'm a member of the LGBTQ network. And I look forward to sharing my experience and thank you, Karina.
Hi, my name is Karina and I have been with PineBridge since January 2018. Hari and I started on the same day. I work in the EMEA client services team, and I'm based in our Munich office. And I am proud to say that I'm our LGBTQ+ network’s number one ally.
Great, thank you all. So let's turn to our first topic of LGBTQ+ experiences and perspectives. So I'll start with Loïc, first. As a member of our LGBTQ+ community, how would you describe your experience of the asset management industry? And how do you feel perceptions of our community have changed over time?
Well, thank you Hari. To put things in perspective, I started working back in May of 1990 and things were very different from what they are today. I didn't know or did not have any openly out LGBTQ mentor, no one to be successful in the financial service industry. And certainly at the time, it was very common to hear that you do not share anything about your private life, you do not share about your sexual identity.
That lack of mentorship led me to stay deeply in the closet. This being said, since that time, things have changed quite considerably. And I will say, for me, the first change, which was important in my being comfortable with who I was, and who I am today was when I joined AIG, and I believe it was either in 2006-2007,
AIG launched what would be an equivalent of an employee affinity group for LGBTQ employees. And while that initiative didn't really last long as a result of what happened in 2008, it was an opportunity for me to see and realize I was not alone, there were people like me, from our community, at different levels of seniority, across the organization. And that really helped me feel a bit more comfortable about being who I was.
The second step that led me to be more comfortable about my identity was around the Marriage Equality Act in the US, when it became feasible to get married across all of the states in the US. That really gave me confidence, to be fully transparent, to introduce my husband, and not to be ashamed of not fitting a certain mold, a certain idea. And I think that was the most important step for me to come out at work.
The thing about my private life is not about providing the nitty gritty about what I do at the weekend, it is just being able to share your personal story, your identity without the fear of repercussions.
Certainly since then I feel then PineBridge has given me all of the tools and opportunity to feel comfortable. I didn't feel any repercussion on my ability to grow within the organization. And certainly, I've seen that ultimately, it was mostly my fear that prevented me from feeling comfortable, more than anybody else outside, to cause me to feel uncomfortable. So, it was very much a self-induced fear, that led me to not want to share my personal identity. And so far, I have to say, PineBridge is certainly a great place for me to work, to feel comfortable, to feel welcome, without any repercussions.
Thanks for sharing that, Loïc. Yeah, I think it all comes down to for me as an ally, to creating an environment for others so they can be comfortable to share their true selves and just be themselves. I also have had colleagues come out to me. Hari, you and I talked about this before and I'm okay to share this? And I don't even remember if I had a reaction or not, but I know it was day two of us meeting, January 3rd, 2018.
And we got into pretty deep conversation about ourselves, like I shared a lot, and you shared a lot, and we just became friends. And I think it's all about just mutual respect, and not assuming anything about someone being kind and being tolerant. I think it's important and fine to ask questions, and ask for feedback too - like hey, does this bother you when I do or say this? Or how do you want me to address something?
I mean, no one is perfect, we're all going to make mistakes, but we have to educate each other about different identities and experiences, it just needs to be an open conversation. I also think it's healthy to challenge one's own prejudices and also discomfort around certain topics. And that only works when you speak about them. And especially when you listen to what others have to say, and other opinions. And I think an ally is somebody who stands up for equal and fair treatment of people, similar or different than them, and offers some of the powerful and effective voices for those who are underrepresented and promote their inclusion.
You hit the nail on the head, what is the importance of what we are doing today at PineBridge with the network, is to show who we are, to demystify what the community is and to help people understand we are no different than any other people across the organization and, frankly, across our community.
What is important is the communication, education aspect, and the reaching out, making the effort to communicate and share and an ally is also someone who will help us, but always also to help you to spread, communicate and share. So thank you very much for doing what you're doing.
Thank you. So turning to Tracie next. Tracie, what would you say are the main challenges that remain and what do you see as the most urgent priorities?
Thanks, Karina, clearly right now it feels like the ground is shifting a bit. The advent of social media has allowed a very vocal minority to begin to express very negative views towards our community. This is also coupled with some underlying political events, particularly here in the US where we're now seeing our community being used somewhat as a pawn. Things like school choice, and others are funding groups that are really expressing, absolute hate and disregard for our community.
So I think what it's done is it's taken a period as Loïc talked about when marriage became legal, a lot of us became somewhat more complacent. living our lives and just going on normally. I think now we're facing a challenge where we have to go through a period of re-education, building activist networks, like we did a number of years ago, to really put ourselves back out there, and remind people to Loïc’s point, that our families are the same as everyone else. And that we are a big part of the community.
I can tell you, having just made the move from the northeast to Florida, where it's now becoming increasingly challenged. Our family has had the experience almost of coming out again, which is a little unique, because it's you’re introducing your family, whether it's through our son's school, soccer, and so forth, we're meeting a lot of new people for the first time. And obviously, our family dynamics are a bit different.
Fortunately, it's been actually a wonderful experience, we've had no issues. And people have been very welcoming. He's made friends, we've made friends. And it's worked out well, which gives you the confidence that what we're hearing in the ecosystems are really a vocal minority. However, I think, like anything else, if you don't take it seriously, and don't really focus on countering that vocal minority fairly quickly, things can begin to shift in a way that would be even more detrimental than they've already become, in some instances.
The backlash on the trans community is really unprecedented. To actually be able to go out and publicly say some of the things that are being said, hasn't happened in quite some time. I would say the majority of the things that we fought for have remained and are there, we just need to utilize this time to be very aware, very focused and really making sure we communicate how positive the advances that have come over the last 15 to 20 years and not just for our community, but for the community as a whole. Businesses thrive when there's an open diverse environment, families thrive when everyone participates fully. But it is a time of concern. And we do have to be careful.
I think also, it's been a reality check, at least for my generation, who on my side had perhaps assumed at least some aspects of LGBTQ+ equality was settled, whether in law or otherwise, in terms of acceptance, and whilst it's disheartening to see some of the setbacks we're experiencing, it's encouraging to see so much motivation among some of the younger generations as well and perhaps a greater understanding of what previously happened over the course of the last few decades as well.
Nothing is ever set in stone and unless you continue to support and remind, you are at risk of losing memories and therefore potentially endangering your right. And I think that goes across multiple segments of our society, not just our community. People need to remember where we came from, why we fought for it, and why it is important to continue fighting for it.
Yeah, I agree. And I think that, as an ally, it's also just so important to get involved in the community and to show your support. So, thank you. So let's turn to our network’s activity and how we can all help as allies. Hari, can you talk about how our group was formed and what initiatives we have undertaken?
Sure, so we began as a community in summer 2020, with the aim of creating a group for LGBTQ+ employees and allies to come together, to help support each other, improve awareness through shared experience. And for me personally, the network offered a change of perspective, because I had previously thought that matters like this is not something to be broadly shared in a workplace environment. However, the network helped me to realize the importance of being able to share aspects of your life, however mundane or otherwise, with a wide array of colleagues. I think the point is that your personal life is as relevant, not more, not less as anyone else’s.
Everyone should be able to share how their weekend or holiday was, build relationships naturally, without having to redact their partner, or any aspects of themselves. I think since the network’s launch, it's been great to see our network evolve into a community that has organized fundraisers, panel events, social events.
We have heard from a panelist from the Human Rights Campaign, as well as our own PineBridge employees about how we can be better allies to transgender and non-binary individuals, how we can explore the use of inclusive language and also recently our network marked Pride Night in New York with a night of Charity baseball with the Mets, where we raised money for some anti-bullying programs in New York schools.
So it has just been really encouraging to see our sessions start from certainly quite formal to really nice and supportive base of individuals - some allies, like yourself Karina and some allies identifying as LGBTQ who are just looking to help raise awareness of these issues and have some fun at the same time.
I would say just, again, thank you to this group, like all of the community groups that we have, this is employee-led volunteers. This team has worked exceptionally hard to put together a great program over the years. And as part of executive management, I want to thank them, as part of the community want to thank them. I think this has really been a success for the firm in the last several years.
But I personally have seen this group work so hard and just want to thank them. They all have day jobs, so this is really an act of love. And it's truly impactful. And I think just looking at it, for a firm this global, the consistency and messaging that they've been able to put together is tremendous. So, thank you for really a terrific effort.
Great. Thanks, Tracie. Karina, it would be great to hear from you, in terms of participating in our network and especially as an ally, as well as how people listening can be the most effective allies?
Sure, so I think the most important thing that I have learned is to listen, to ask questions and speak up when you feel someone is not being treated fairly or as you would treat anybody. Familiarize yourself with the language and be respectful. I mean, it doesn't have to mean that you understand everything, but representation matters especially when somebody isn’t in the room.
I think it's easy to imagine that when you witness hateful language, you will take action and right the wrongs and effortlessly challenge the behavior and views of people but the reality can be very different and truthfully, sometimes, standing up against discrimination can be quite intimidating.
So I think it's important to let your voice be heard, although it's not always easy. There are situations where being an ally really, really counts.
My best friend is getting married to her girlfriend next week, and they've been together for 13 years. So I grew up with them as a couple. And talking to them, the most important thing is - just treat me like a normal human being like, I'm not special, because I'm straight or gay or bi, I'm special, because I'm special. And because I'm a good person, and I mean, that's why I love you. And that's part of you. So don't make a big deal out of it, but just be there.
You know Karina, one thing I like is speaking up, don't be passive. The way of being supportive is when you observe someone being mistreated or discriminated, is say something. If you don't understand something, ask, and that's really what I hope this network will do is we are able, we are present, we are available to answer questions. If people have questions, there is no bad question. One of the many roles I see the network doing is answering those questions that people may have. I love what you said around your friends, asking you not to treat them any differently than you would treat anybody else. At the end of the day, what I see the most important thing is people to realize we are no different.
It's just love.
It is. Thank you, Karina, I appreciate you doing, you know, being an ally and again, you are going above and beyond, to reach out and to connect with us. And I think that is wonderful.
I think what this network has shown is that it's totally okay to be yourself at work and reach out to your LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies and friends in the exact same way as you would anyone else. See if there are organizations or come to us, with which you can volunteer and donate your time as well as any resources too and ask questions, because even for us as members of the community, we've been on a learning experience. And I feel like we are always continually improving our own understanding of others within the community, perhaps in different segments, as well as our own. So to me, it's been really great to kind of learn from everyone on the network.
And thank you Hari for your leadership.
Great, thank you all. With that we would like to thank everyone for listening in today and stay tuned for further communication from our network. Please do reach out to us in the meantime at: firstname.lastname@example.org”