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Economic and Market Commentary

Power of Representation: the ‘Us’es’

To celebrate Pride Month, four PIMCO executives share their perspectives on inclusion and diversity in the workplace and the importance of visible representation.

June is recognized by many countries as Pride Month. To celebrate the occasion, four members of PIMCO’s employee resource groups (ERG) from around the world share their perspectives on the importance of inclusivity in the workplace and visible representation. These employee-led groups strive to foster a diverse and inclusive culture.

Ivan Anderson
SVP, Corporate Strategy Manager
PIMCO PRIDE and PIMCO Black Member, Newport Beach

What is visible representation? And why is it important?

Visible representation is the conscious choice to live out my authentic identity as a gay black man. It is the constant striving to be seen, heard, and understood.

Author Armistead Maupin once wrote, “The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.” To me, this quote summarizes the importance of visible representation in two ways. First, it allows people who are similar to find community and reduces the feeling of being an “outsider” or an “other” (I can’t understate the ways in which seeing openly LGBT people walking down the streets of New York City in my early twenties helped me with my coming out process). Second, it creates opportunities for allyship and collective action. Allies can’t advocate for issues they don’t know exist, and visible representation shines a light on needs that would otherwise go unseen and unchanged.

What responsibility comes with being a visible role model for an underrepresented group?

Being a visible role model requires three R’s: realness, risk-taking, and relationship-building.

Realness comes with acknowledging that my existence across the diasporas of “man,” “black man,” “gay man,” and “gay black man” is nuanced and complex. Risk-taking comes with the decision to share those experiences and perspectives with others, even if it means the occasional uncomfortable conversation with someone who had preconceived notions about you, or who may now make different assumptions about you based on what you share. Relationship-building is the critical final step. Human beings often look for similarities when building relationships, so it is important to me to find common ground in my interactions without compromising my identity. Doing this not only allows for personal and professional impact, but creates opportunities to identify and partner with allies who will help pave the road for the next generation of leaders.

Nicole Thompson
VP, Channel Marketing Manager
Ally of PIMCO PRIDE, Sydney

Why have you chosen to become a visible role model?

Being a visible role model, both at and outside of work, helps cultivate an environment where everyone is supported to be their authentic self. While attitudes toward the LGBTIQ+ community have come a long way, there is still so much to do.

We all have a role to play in standing up to discrimination and creating a safe space that is free of negative language, embraces and celebrates diversity, and builds a culture of trust and acceptance of differences. I believe that if we all lead by example and act as true allies, we can help foster real change.

How has being a visible champion of PRIDE impacted PIMCO/your team?

Since becoming involved in PRIDE as an ally, I have aimed to bring my colleagues on a journey of understanding and educate ourselves on the discrimination faced by the LGBTIQ+ community. I hope that with every email, poster, or PRIDE event, we will build our understanding of the issues the community faces and incorporate this knowledge into our own lives and behaviors so we can act as role models to others.

Heather Wallace
SVP, Senior Counsel
PIMCO PRIDE Member, London

What responsibility comes with being a visible role model for an underrepresented group?

The power of visibility for marginalized groups and the importance of diverse role models cannot be underestimated. Visibility matters not only because it helps break down barriers and allows us all to stand against discrimination and prejudice, but also because it is vital for those who may feel like they do not have a voice or indeed a choice. 

On a personal level, while “coming out” as a gay woman was undoubtedly both challenging and daunting at times, being in the closet took a much greater toll. I want to play a part in continuing to ignite and advance this conversation, to help others from underrepresented groups to share their experiences, to build meaningful professional relationships, and ultimately, to thrive rather than hide in the workplace. By doing so, we shape and foster a collaborative and safe space for all PIMCO employees to advance and succeed.

Kristofer Kraus
EVP, Portfolio Manager
PIMCO PRIDE Member, New York

Why has PIMCO PRIDE decided to take on this conversation?

There is too much at stake. Being gay is not a choice: No one chooses a life too often filled with discrimination, bullying or acts of violence, thoughts of self-doubt or even self-harm. The trail we walk down now has been blazed by leaders of our past. But the trail needs to be maintained and expanded, and visible representation is an opportunity to ensure that. Where would we be today – and where will we be tomorrow – without visible representatives?

Each year during Pride Month, I play the recordings of Harvey Milk’s campaign speeches from the late 1970s to remind myself of the struggles of the past and the unfinished work we have before us. There is a certain reassurance hearing Milk speak – once again – about hope. In 1977, Milk won election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay elected politician in the state of California. Newspapers around the world picked up the story – and somewhere, whether in Des Moines or San Antonio, “Some young person living in fear of being tossed out of their house for being gay will read this story of an elected gay politician and have hope. We got to give people hope. There’s hope for a better world, there’s hope for a better tomorrow,” Milk said. He used his election as a platform to advocate for gay rights as well as the rights of women, Blacks, Asians, seniors, and the disabled – the “us’es,” as he used to say.

In his “The Hope Speech (1978),” he spoke of the need for visible gay leaders: “Like every other group, we must be judged by our leaders and by those who are themselves gay, those who are visible. For invisible, we remain in limbo – a myth, a person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, and no important positions of employment.”

More recently, we have seen business leaders speak of their role in setting an example in the gay community. As visible leaders of the community, they give hope to those who may be questioning their place in society or doubting whether they can advance in their career or get the top job if they are their authentic selves in the workplace. When Tim Cook came out, he spoke of being gay as an asset. “Being gay gave me perspective as a minority. It gives you a level of empathy for other people who are not in the majority. You begin to look at life a little differently.”

We have come a long way in the last 45 years, but there is still much to do to advance our living and working environments to allow each person – whether a friend or colleague – to achieve their best. Whether we are politicians, CEOs, or someone in the dawn of their career, being a visible representative in the workplace can have a profound impact on the environments we seek to create.

Learn more about PIMCO’s Inclusion and Diversity initiatives.

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