Equal at McKinsey: “We have to pay it forward.”

One spring evening in 1995, thirteen colleagues gathered in Washington DC to create McKinsey’s first gay network with the goal of helping the firm become more LGBTQ-inclusive.

“We weren’t sure who was going to show up so we met at a partner’s home rather than in an office conference room. AIDS was still a huge question at the time and the corporate world was also absorbing the challenge of equal benefits and, eventually, equal marriage,” recalls Brian Rolfes, a former partner at McKinsey who recently retired after nearly 30 years of serving clients and leading talent and diversity initiatives. “The silver lining was that we had this great community, including our families and allies, step up and say, ‘No, no, this has to change…' We were seeing that desire for change and activism surface in corporate life. And we learned we could broaden this to other regions around the world.”

The network was first called the Gay and Lesbian Interest Group or GLIG. “Someone in the group sent out a note saying, “This is ridiculous. We should be a little bit more fabulous than GLIG… so we became GLAM,” laughs Brian. “We obviously needed to be more inclusive of all of our LGBQ and trans colleagues, which is why we have adopted Equal at McKinsey.”

Over the next 25 years, Equal at McKinsey's early mission of support expanded to include recruiting, mentorship, global conferences, learning programs, pro bono work, and research initiatives. The community welcomes people of all orientations, gender expressions, and gender identities.

In the video above with Senior Partner and Global Leader of Equal Jorge Amar, Brian reflects on the value of allies, and the challenges facing the next generation of leaders.

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