I always enjoy reading your blogs and appreciate your unique perspectives. I am writing today as I was hoping to have your quick advice for my unique situation.
I am from an Asian country, but I moved to the US a few years ago for a job transfer. I have been working for a major investment bank in institutional sales since graduating from university. I am gay and have been closeted throughout my life, and I try to be as careful as I can to stay that way.
As you know, the financial community is still very conservative and I do not know anyone who is openly gay or who even looks gay in my work environment. Therefore, I am very nervous about the impacts from both my employer (investment bank) and clients (asset managers) if I ever come out or become outed.
Career wise, I have been somewhat successful so far, and my future is looking OK. However, I am getting more and more nervous as people around me are increasingly more curious as to why I am not married or do not seem to date girls too much.
I am worried not only because my managers and co-workers are very homophobic, but my clients also tend to comment negatively about gays. While I work for an American investment bank, my report line is to Asia where things are still a lot more traditional and conservative. And, my client base also involves both Westerners and Asians. Therefore, I think my situation is more complicated than those who only work with the Westerners.
As I am tired of being worried about someone finding out about my sexuality, I often feel that career change might be a good way to get out of my current situation. But, I am not sure if I have any transferable skills outside of this industry since I only have equity sales experiences without an MBA.
Going onto MBA and getting into a new industry, where sexuality is less of a problem, would be an option. However, people tell me that I am too old for top MBA schools because I would not only waste tuition ($150,000) + 2 years of income, but I would also end up in less attractive job position, and making a lot less money. So, I am not sure if that would be a wise option.
I have also thought of just getting married to a girl and try to suppress my feelings like many other gay/bi guys do. However, my conscience would not let me do so.
In the past few years, I have thought of all sorts of possibilities, but I always got confused and ended up keep doing what I have been doing. However, I am increasingly frustrated and often get depressed.
Since you seem to have great knowledge about (a) how things work in investment banking industry, (b) Asian culture and (c) coming out issues, I was hoping to hear your opinion.
My apologies for the long email, but I would very much appreciate it if you could give me a quick advice. Thank you so much.
I was on holiday in Paris with boyfriend T when I received this email. Nonetheless, I immediately sent him a quick reply suggesting that he tries to think about how he can build confidence as a gay man, and asking him whether he has a boyfriend. For a guy in that kind of situation, a good boyfriend would be a real asset, because he would be able to give the reader a lot of emotional support. His reply was as follows:
Gaining confidence as a gay man is definitely something I would like to work on. I have tried this before but my fear of losing career, friends, and reputation has been too big. No, I have never had a boyfriend. Because it is difficult to go to gay bars as I am so afraid I could get outed by someone, the only place I can search guys has been online. I have tried multiple dating sites, but it is not too easy to meet guys for friendship or long term relationships. It is already difficult to be a minority without native level English skills, to be working in a Caucasian male dominant investment banking industry with high level of homophobia. So, I would need a great level of courage and confidence to come out here. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much again for your attention to my email.
Reading his email again, I'm glad that he hasn't forced himself into marriage with a woman. That path isn't likely to lead to long term happiness for either of them, and is particularly unfair on the woman if she doesn't know in advance that her fiance is gay.
More importantly, it's time to point out that the fundamental premise that investment banking is intrinsically homophobic is completely wrong. The key word that all banks are talking about these days is diversity. Googling for the names of a few top banks in conjunction with the word 'diversity' I found the following web sites:
Deutsche Bank diversity
Our commitment to diversity At Deutsche Bank ... goes beyond age, gender, disability, religion, ethnic origin or sexual identity. For us, a diverse culture is not just desirable: it’s an essential part of the way we do business ...
Bank of America (Merrill Lynch) diversity
Has affinity groups for "Asian, Black, people with disabilities, Hispanic/Latino, women, military veterans, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, ..."
Goldman Sachs diversity
We strive for excellence. To be the best firm ... we hire ... across the full spectrum of gender, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, culture and level of physical ability.
Morgan Stanley diversityI'm sure that further googling would find equivalent information from the investment banking divisions of all the other global banks, but that would make for a boring post! So as a first step, perhaps the reader should make contact with the people at the bank that he works for who're involved with his bank's diversity programs. Similarly, given that he said that he works for a major investment bank, I'm sure that there'll be a network of gay employees that he could join if he wants to.
Member of both the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce NY.
It's worth pointing out that this culture of valuing diversity also extends to some bank clients these days. I've heard of a straight salesman being asked by a client about the diversity policy of the bank that he works for, and luckily for this salesman, he was able to give a good answer because he knew about some of the work that his boss did in connection with his bank's diversity programs.
Regarding the networks of gay employees inside investment banks, it's true that relatively few of the people who're involved with those networks work in front office roles like institutional sales, which is where this reader works. With that kind of job, the reader will be working on the trading floor, and there's no doubt it can be a tough environment. But even on a bank's trading floor, I've known gay guys have successful careers provided that they have sufficient confidence. A couple of years ago I wrote a post about something that happened to one gay guy I know. That story proves that it is just a question of confidence.
Another point that I haven't mentioned before is that the people who matter in investment banking really don't mind if someone is gay, with one caveat that I'll mention below. There may be homophobic guys working in less important roles, but in terms of the top guys, I've met enough of them to know how they think. They focus on making money for their banks for hence for themselves, they focus on getting deals done, and they frequently dedicate themselves to their careers. There's no room in their mindset to worry about someone's sexual orientation, but the caveat is that I mentioned above is that if someone is gay, then the fact they're gay mustn't matter to that person either.
Unfortunately the reader isn't yet in that category, because from the way he wrote the email to me, he's clearly very uncomfortable being gay. The fact that he worries about it is his weakness, and because it matters to him, it could be seen as a serious flaw. This is very much what I call the confidence mirror. Being gay doesn't matter, but being worried about being gay means that you must be under-performing as a banker because there's a portion of your energy that is devoted to something that's irrelevant. Having said that, it's difficult to be a successful institutional salesperson, so given that the reader is capable of that I'm sure he's capable of succeeding in his gay life too.
So it really is as I said in my original email response to him. He simply needs to work on building his confidence as a gay man. He doesn't ever need to come out to his clients or colleagues, because his private life is only a matter for him and as I said above, being gay IS irrelevant to his job. However, he needs to be confident enough so that if someone mentions to him that they saw him going into a gay bar, he'll be able to admit it without feeling that he's losing face. He needs to be confident enough that if someone asks him why he's not married, then he'll be able to say that he's been "... looking for a partner for while but hasn't found anyone suitable yet", and then follow up by saying something like "I'm never been that interested in women" if someone offers to set him up on a blind date with a woman.
If he has trouble in taking any steps to develop his gay confidence, then I would suggest that he finds a good psychotherapist for some private counselling sessions. The first steps are always the hardest, but my guess is that once he's on the right path, he'll gradually find it easier and easier to be a happy gay man :-).
Does anyone else have any thoughts for this reader?