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Out and proud at McKinsey

The appearance of a poster in an office dining hall in Poznan, Poland, might not seem like the bellwether of progress.

But for Lukasz Kozanowski and Maciej Moder, team assistants at our Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) service center, the posters represented a monumental step in their personal and professional lives: they were publicly coming out and starting the office's first chapter of GLAM, McKinsey's affinity group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. The posters Lukasz and Maciej hung in their office cafeterias in January 2013 invited colleagues to the kickoff event.

"We were nervous because we basically came out to the whole company with the posters," said Maciej. "We weren't sure how we would be received," said Lukasz. "But given the office demographics, we were hopeful."

Taking such a step required courage. "We sometimes struggle with attitudes toward gay people in our lives outside of McKinsey. We see outdated views on television, on the Internet, and even on the streets," Lukasz said.

Maciej noticed an immediate change at the office after the first GLAM event. "It's really good when you feel safe and you can be whoever you want to be and know that people will support you."

The start of a new chapter in Poland exemplifies the empowering, grassroots nature of GLAM, which is celebrating an important anniversary: the organization turns 20 in May. Its network of GLBT members and allies around McKinsey spans the globe.

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GLAM members David Henderson, Sean Johnson, Craig Murphy, and Natalie Whatley celebrate GLAM’s 20th anniversary at our New York office.

As of May 2015, there are more than 350 GLAM members worldwide, a membership that nearly doubled over the past two years. There are also over 1,000 GLAM Allies, straight firm members committed to supporting their GLBT peers, in 20 offices around the world. These numbers are growing every day. Founded in 1995 by John DeVicentis and 13 others (including Brian Rolfes, the last remaining founder in the firm, who is now our partner leading Global Recruiting), GLAM began as a response to requests from GLBT recruits to speak with "out" firm members.

"It all started with one candidate who asked the right question at the right time," Brian remembers. It was quickly understood that for the firm to continually attract top talent, targeted GLBT outreach was critical.

Dennis Layton, a principal based in London, remembers attending one of the earliest GLAM recruiting dinners: "It definitely made me feel like I landed in the right spot." Dennis was recently named one of the top GLBT businesspeople in the United Kingdom by the Financial Times.

GLAM quickly influenced firm policy as well. In 1997, McKinsey became the first consulting firm to extend medical and other benefits to same-sex couples in North America—and by 2007 we recognized same-sex relationships around the world. More recently, the firm introduced a tax-equalization policy, the first company at the time to do so on a global scale. As of 2014, McKinsey instituted broad transgender health benefits, ensuring any and all medically necessary health care. Thanks to these policies, Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index has awarded a perfect 100 score to McKinsey since 2006.

Beyond shaping firm policies, GLAM has also created a strong network that offers personal support. Its unique membership structure continues to allow for those considering coming out to have the privacy and care they need as they make that decision. Its global conferences, convened every 18 months, strengthen a growing global community. And local chapters' events and programs offer members meaningful mentoring, recruiting, and professional-development opportunities.

"I think that GLAM has an incredible impact on people by helping them be authentic at work," said senior manager for Diversity Lori Dobeus. "The fact that we're a strong, global community, where members can reach out to each other for support, creates unsung moments of accomplishment all the time."

GLAM has also had an impact outside of McKinsey. GLAM members have undertaken major pro-bono work for the Trevor Project, the Point Foundation, and GLAAD. McKinsey, along with other companies, recently signed an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court in support of marriage equality. And GLAM has convened a wider network of GLBT executives for leadership seminars in New York, London, and Amsterdam. The network is a step toward addressing one of the questions GLAM hopes to answer in the coming years, according to Brian Rolfes: "How can we bring together the GLBT leaders across different sectors so that they can grow in their leadership potential, as well as support them to continue making progress?"

At its core, GLAM's story, much like that of Lukasz and Maciej, shows the power of motivated McKinsey members who want to change the firm and its culture for the better.

Learn more about GLAM