Morgan Stanley Rolls Out LGBT Ally Program As Richmond Federal Reserve Bank Flies the Flag

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While a Virginia lawmaker was protesting a Federal Reserve Bank's bid to support Gay Pride early this month, Morgan Stanley was continuing to reach out toward its gay and transgender workforce with a new program for supporters of the company's Gay and Transgender communities.

In recognition of Gay Pride Month, Virginia's Richmond Federal Reserve Bank recently hoisted a rainbow flag outside its building along with the stars and stripes at the request of a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bank employees. President Barrack Obama and former President Bill Clinton have each called on Americans to help fight discrimination by dedicating the month of June to celebrating and supporting Gay rights.

The rainbow flag display so displeased Virginia state Delegate Robert Marshall that he wrote to the Richmond Federal Reserve President stating homosexual conduct is a felony in Virginia according to the state's penal code, and asked, "what does flying the homosexual flag, or any other similar display, have to do with your central banking mission under the Federal Reserve Act passed by Congress?"

Bank spokesman Jim Strader said there were no plans to lower the flag, since the Federal Reserve Bank operates independently from the federal government.

In another pitch to support gay and transgender bank employees earlier this month, Morgan Stanley's leadership chose June as the month to roll out an "Ally Program" during an event at its New York headquarters. All members of the company's Pride networking group were invited, and were also encouraged to forward the invitation to colleagues.

"The Ally Program is designed to advance the firm's commitment to an open environment in which all employees can bring their full selves to work," the company told employees as part of the launch, adding that "An open and inclusive corporate culture is fundamental to our role as a global leader."

Generally, "ally" is a term used to characterize straight people who are supportive of the LGBT community and protective of its rights.

"My focus is to make our employees feel welcome and to take away any biases, but also to award based on merit," Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said during the event, adding that the new program is organized to provide employees with additional support from senior executives- "somebody who is a sponsor, a senior person, a mentor, a boss or manager."

The major banks have clearly begun to embrace the notion that a more confident and less closeted LGBT employee will be a more productive one. Morgan Stanley was among a group of bulge-bracket banks participating in the event held at Deutsche Bank's Wall Street headquarters in March.

Among other things, the banks have been influenced by research from the Center for Work-Life Policy finding that only 21% of closeted LGBTs trust their employer, compared to 47% who are out. More than half of LGBT employees who are not out at work also say they feel stalled in their career, versus 36% who are out, and only 48% are satisfied with their current rate of promotion, versus 64% of LGBT workers who have disclosed their sexual orientation.

One of the best things about the new initiatives at Morgan, according to one employee, was the new introduction of a small desktop card with the company logo, containing the word "Ally" in large letters with LGBT written underneath.

"I love the desk tents--great idea! It takes inclusion to the next level," said one employee, responding to a company survey following the launch.

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