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To celebrate National Coming Out Day, five McKinsey colleagues talk identity and inclusion

“Out” employees at America’s largest companies report meaningfully higher levels of happiness and career satisfaction. For example, LGBTQ+ women who are open about their sexuality at work are half as likely to leave their current employer in the next year compared with their closeted peers. Yet, progress is still needed. In a recent survey, we found that one in four LGBTQ+ respondents are not broadly out at work.

In honor of National Coming Out Day this weekend, several McKinsey colleagues talk about their coming-out experiences—and their perspectives on how companies can make all employees feel safe to be their true selves at work.

Pip Kindersley on the lonely ‘B’

Pip Kindersley
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After having come out as a lesbian to friends and family at the age of 14, Pip did what she calls “a reverse come-out” in medical school when she started dating men. Today, she identifies as bisexual—and describes how alienating this identity often feels. “There’s typically an assumption that if you’re a woman and affiliated with an LGBTQ+ network or group, your partner is female,” Pip says. “It can often feel like you don’t belong because bisexuals are a minority, and there is still a lack of awareness and knowledge about what that means.”

She sees inclusion trainings as one way to overcome this misconception. “We need to give people the right words to understand and comfortably talk about different types of sexual orientations in conversations.” For Pip, being open about her sexuality has been a key way for her to spread knowledge. “I’ve found my openness has often resulted in others doing the same with me.”

David DeLallo on being among the first

David DeLallo
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When David joined McKinsey three years ago, he identified as a woman. Two years later, he began transitioning and turned to a few trusted colleagues, including his local HR contact, to discuss ideas about how he could come out to colleagues stationed all around the world. Shortly after making a few personal calls and sending rounds of emails to let colleagues know about his path, he recalls debating whether to attend a summer office party. “Even though I received a very positive response to my outreach, I was nervous about how colleagues would react,” David says. When he arrived at the event, there were name tags for attendees to wear. “I found my ‘David’ tag, put it on, and never felt I had to explain anything the rest of the evening.”

As one of the first people to ever transition publicly while at McKinsey, David says the outpouring of support and encouragement he received from colleagues across the firm helped carry him through some of the more difficult parts of the process. “There’s often a lot more you have to think about as a transgender person,” he says. “At times, you tend to do more thinking than just being, which can feel really burdensome.”

David sees having a network as a crucial part to coming out. “It doesn’t have to be the perfect fit—just two or three people to talk to is helpful. The more allies you can have to spread the message, the better.”

Jaqueline Carey on intersectionality

Jaqueline Carey
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When Jacqueline told her parents she was dating a woman in college, she first wondered if she had an obligation to tell other people she was queer. “As a Black woman who was adopted at a young age, I’ve had a lot of explaining to do most of my life,” she says, “and I decided when it came to my sexuality, I wanted to have that same level of openness.”

“Growing up, I didn’t have many—if any—role models who were queer and Black,” Jacqueline says. “I’ve felt a duty to share my story with people. I hope it gives others a sense of someone out there who looks like them whom they can relate to.”

Prior to joining the firm, Jacqueline began sharing that story as an openly queer R&B singer, who performed in Los Angeles and cast women as romantic leads in her music videos. By expressing her true self in such a public way, “it really boosted my confidence for when I entered the corporate world,” she says. “This is who I am, and I don’t want to hide it.”

David Baboolall on allyship

David Baboolall
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Two weeks into starting as a business analyst at McKinsey, David told a colleague and good friend that he was gay for the first time in his life. That colleague quickly brought over a member of GLAM, McKinsey’s global network of LGBTQ+ colleagues. Within 10 minutes, David was surrounded by 15 ‘GLAMmies’ who stayed with him the entire weekend offering support, advice, and celebration.

This pivotal experience changed everything for David and how he eventually came out to family, friends, and clients. He shares how being out has only elevated his client relationships and even led to some coming out to him.

“Had it not been for two allies, the rest of my story never would have happened,” says David. “Within organizations, we need to help educate colleagues on how to welcome and uplift others who might identify in ways that are novel to them. An inclusive culture is on the basis of ensuring colleagues can be appropriate allies.”

Carter Guensler on gender fluidity

Carter Guensler
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For Carter, coming out is a constant process. As someone who identifies as genderqueer, Carter says “the hardest part to navigate is the confusion over my pronouns,” which are They/Them/Theirs.

One way Carter manages this is by including these pronouns in their email signature. “I’m hoping this will make it easier to introduce my identity earlier without needing to have an occasional conversation about it,” they say.

While for some, spreading the word about their sexuality as widely as possible is their preference, others may choose for a less public coming out. Organizations play a critical role in fostering an environment of acceptance and comfort. Another factor that has emboldened Carter’s openness is recent acts of racial injustice throughout the U.S. In having conversations with Black friends and colleagues, “I’ve realized the importance of sharing my otherness,” they say. “The more exposure people have to different identities, the greater their understanding and acceptance.”

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