What it means to be an active ally to your LGBTQ+ co-workers

The act of ‘coming out’ is often done in steps and, for many, can be an ongoing process. For myself, I came out in stages, first to a small group of select friends in 1991, then to family in 1993. Over the following years, I came out to more and more of my friends. However, it wasn’t until many years later — in 1998 — that I came out at work.

When I did, the CFO in our Corporate & Investment Bank — someone I’d worked with for years — said to me: “What could I have done better over these years to have made it easier for you?”

This is what we need now more than ever: people proactively asking these types of questions to the colleagues around them. Unfortunately, so many are unsure where to begin or how to advance their allyship. And, while many may think of themselves as allies, few realize that allyship is not a label, it requires action. We all have the power to create positive change when it comes to our colleagues feeling like they belong — no matter how they identify or what differences they bring to the table — by fueling inclusion and promoting safe and accepting environments.

A 2023 survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that 84 percent of LGBTQ+ workers are out to at least one person in their current job — substantially higher than in 2018, when only 54 percent of LGBTQ+ workers were out to at least one person at work. However, LGBTQ+ workers, on average, are half as likely to be out to their Human Resources department than to coworkers on their team, suggesting a potential lack of trust, or lack of opportunity to report. While we recognize the advancements that have been made to protect LGBTQ+ employees in the United States — in June 2020, the United States Supreme Court affirmed that LGBTQ+ workers are protected from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — recent rulings against the transgender and nonbinary community, as an example, have shown that we still have a long way to go.

It’s also critically important for us to recognize that allyship is not just an action for cisgender, straight people. While allies must come from outside, they must also come from within the community. The LGBTQ+ community is not a monolith, it’s a vast community of diverse identities and orientations, all of which are not equal. LGBTQ+ community members from other marginalized groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, face more barriers. And as LGBTQ+ people around the world are fighting for basic rights and safety in courtrooms and on the streets, members of our transgender and gender expansive community are the most marginalized and at risk. When we look at our workplaces, these groups have even fewer opportunities to grow and thrive.

The allyship we called upon in the past remains essential, but it’s insufficient for today’s needs. We can no longer make meaningful progress with “allies on the sidelines.” It is no longer sufficient for allies to just “stand” with us, we need them to stand up for — and stand in front of — the LGBTQ+ community. The more visible and engaged allies there are, the easier it will be for all people to bring their full authentic selves to work every day.

To help inform our employees of what this might look like in practice, this year, we completed the global roll out of our LGBTQ+ Ally Journey program. Underpinning this program is the idea that allyship is not a label, it’s a series of intentional actions. The actions people can take range from small acts to larger displays of support, including displaying pronouns in email signatures, attending LGBTQ+ trainings, vocalizing support for LGBTQ+ issues, speaking up against harmful or offensive language, and even just talking openly and honestly with LGBTQ+ colleagues or loved ones about their lives.

At JPMorgan Chase, we are leading programming to engage, educate and empower our more than 300,000 global employees to make the pathway to active allyship more accessible. Our digitized Ally Journeys provide this type of direction and support, as well as tangible tools and resources for allies to chart their own path to be able to advocate for LGBTQ+ people around the globe.

Since JPMorgan Chase established the Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs, in 2021, we’ve seen our impact amplified and our progress accelerate. For example, the number of employees self-identifying as LGBTQ+ has grown by 35% year-over-year in 2022, following 50% year-over-year growth in 2021. I can confidently say this progress would not be possible without a commitment from our global allies to making JPMorgan Chase an environment where all employees feel welcomed, equal and included.

Right now, we need everyone, from inside and outside our community, to use their privilege, influence, and/or positions of power to support all members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those most marginalized — our transgender and nonbinary colleagues, friends and family. So, think about your allyship and potential allies in your organizations, consider how you could be helping employees at every level, and identify specific ways you can take action and have meaningful impact. Together, we can all thrive and ensure that we’re leaving no one behind.

Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase is dedicated to advancing equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community here.

Brad Baumoel is head of JPMorgan Chase’s Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs.