City figures say homophobia is still a problem at London firms

 
City A.M. Reporter
GAY employees at City firms still have to deal with homophobia in the workplace, according to leading executives.

A new advocacy group named Out On The Street has been launched to combat the problem, with a range of successful gay businesspeople saying prejudice is still a problem.

Lord Browne, who was forced to resign as boss of BP after lying in court to hide his sexuality, said executives must take the lead on the issue.

“I wish I had been brave enough to come out right at the beginning of my tenure as CEO of BP,” he said at the launch.

“I regret it to this day. The tone from the top is the number one thing.”

Ashley Steel, vice chair of professional services firm KPMG, told the BBC that in her early years at the firm she did not feel able to tell colleagues about her sexuality: “You weren’t certain what it meant. There was a lot of homophobic conversations going on and you just didn’t want to out yourself in that kind of environment.”

“You didn’t know whether that would harm your career. Why should who you sleep with have any impact whatsoever on your career or your career prospects?” she explained.

Out On The Street is based on a similar group in New York that sought to shake-up the traditional world of Wall Street by campaigning against old prejudices.

One survey presented at the launch showed that just one third of KPMG workers were willing to discuss their sexuality on an internal survey, even though the results were confidential and anonymous.

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