Living Your Authentic Self in Business
We have just kicked off the LGBTQ Task Force of Lawyers Club of San Diego. Our primary purpose is to work to identify, acknowledge, and address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ women in the legal community. In our introductory meeting, we shared standard networking meeting information—our names, businesses, and areas of specialty. What was unique to this meeting was an additional question, “Why are you interested in joining the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force?” Answers ranged from straight allies who had an LGBTQ family member they wanted to support, to members that identified as LGBTQ, to others that were just supportive of the LGBTQ community and wanted to lend their help. Some attorneys shared stories of being LGBTQ but not “out” at work at all, or not being out with clients. They shared their concern that being “out” may hurt their business or work promotion opportunities.
After leaving the meeting, I got to thinking about how much more productive and happy a person can be when they are able to bring their whole self to work and live an authentic life.
I have tried to live my life authentically inside and outside of the business world, and have always been open and transparent with my clients that I am gay. I don’t waive a rainbow flag as soon as they enter my office, but I proudly display pictures of my wife and kids around my office. I also state on the front page of my website that I work with LGBTQ couples and have an image of an LGBTQ family. Some people in business feel that if their clients find out they are LGBTQ, they may lose business or feel that it is none of the clients’ business. Both of these are very valid points and if you are a private person, you may be more comfortable not talking about your family whether you are LGBTQ or straight.
However, living more openly in the business world has allowed me to carve out a niche and a devoted clientele that is also either LGBTQ or progressive. This allows me to build stronger bonds and more trust than I might have otherwise. I am pleased to say that I am celebrating 25 years with my business and the majority of my clients are LGBTQ or referred from the LGBTQ community—showing that you can have a thriving business and be openly LGBTQ.
In San Diego, we are lucky to have so many LGBTQ-oriented professional organizations, such as the Tom Homann Law Association, Diversity Supplier Alliance, and Greater San Diego Business Association, in addition to open and inclusive organizations like Lawyers Club where LGBTQ or progressive business owners are welcomed and can thrive.
If you want to attract and retain LGBTQ clients, there are simple things you can do, like state on your website that you work with LGBTQ families, or use images of LGBTQ couples to let a prospective client know that your office is a safe place for them to come and feel comfortable. In addition, you can make sure that your intake forms or fact finders are LGBTQ-friendly by not just stating a place for husband and wife, but instead using the term spouse/partner. Also, when a client is single or does not come in with their spouse or partner, don’t assume that they are straight.
We all work with clients at sensitive points in their lives. The more we can make them feel comfortable, the better the relationship will be with them and the more enjoyable the experience.
The more you are able to live your authentic life in business, the happier you will be and the more business you will attract because you will be working with your whole self.
Marci Bair wrote this for the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force, and as the President of Bair Financial Planning, she has provided financial planning and impact investing for sustainable wealth for the past 25 years.