LGBTQ employees at Philadelphia’s Federal Reserve Bank are gaining a higher profile because of a professional environment that welcomes diversity, in addition to the efforts of one leader who was inspired to use his voice.
The bank’s more-than 900 employees are encouraged to organize into what are called resource groups based on shared ethnicities and identities that are open to all, said Mary Ann Hood, senior vice president for human resources. The groups support members and their particular needs in the workplace, but it has to be organic, Hood said.
“What we don’t want is to force-fit any kind of group here just for the sake of doing that, so we actually wait for people to stand up for their own groups,” Hood said during a recent roundtable interview with PGN at the Philadelphia bank’s headquarters at Sixth and Arch streets.
Last February, Stephen Pipito, manager of administration and support for the bank’s Consumer Finance Institute (and a relative of a PGN employee), decided it was time to form an LGBTQ resource group, so he and a colleague approached Hood with the idea.
“There was a need for a voice here at the Fed, I believe,” Pipito said. “About six months before that, there was the [Pulse nightclub] shooting in Orlando and I felt really inspired to have a voice because I felt like so many people died in vain.”
Hood’s reaction to the resource-group proposal was, “Sure — why not?” The bank’s leadership hadn’t thought about it before, she said.
“It’s very important because you have a different perspective,” she said, addressing Pipito. “I might have a different perspective from a managerial and leadership perspective versus what you’re experiencing.”
The resulting group, FREEDOM Philadelphia has eight members, and aims to bring in more LGBTQ employees to expand the base of support, Pipito said. FP organizes guest speakers, such as Evan Wolfson, the attorney who is the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, and also works with the HRC on its annual Corporate Equality Index. The Fed’s Philadelphia branch scored a 90 on the most recent survey, which sets a national benchmark for corporate policies and standards towards LGBTQ employees.
The Philadelphia bank signed on to participate in the HRC survey after seeing the involvement of the New York and Richmond branches.
“We’re a competitive organization,” she said, adding that the Philadelphia branch is aiming for a perfect score. One way to do that is to develop policies to support transgender employees and those who are transitioning, Hood said, and so the bank is currently looking at options.
The bank’s commitment to inclusion makes good business sense, Hood said.
“We need to have the best thinkers around us; we need to have the best skillset around us. The only way you can do that is to create an environment where people feel comfortable and give us their best. We want top talent and you have to open it up to everybody.”