Interview with Mike Mascarenhas - Boston Consulting Group
He is a visible and active member of the LGBT+ community and he works towards improving this community's inclusion in the workplace.
1.Could you tell me about yourself and how you became a visible LGBT+ person at work?
“My name is Mike. I'm originally from the US. I started my career in consulting. I worked at PWC in strategy for about 4.5 years before I decided to move to Spain, where I did my MBA at IESE business school. I worked there as a career counselor for about four years and really fell in love with people development. For the last year and a half, I've been working at BCG as the International Campus recruiting manager for Spanish MBAs and Masters.
I'm openly gay and I have been out in the workplace my entire time at BCG. But I would say during my time as a consultant, I was more closeted, I was definitely not fully out to everyone.
At BCG, I made that choice to be very out all the time. I think the biggest difference between telling people you're gay when it comes up in a conversation and telling people you're gay when it doesn't, is more a sense of psychological security. It really is more about the individual. And when you make the choice to be out at the workplace, I think it allows you to feel better about the job that you do and feel more comfortable with the people that you work with. And quite frankly, it ultimately yields better productivity. I don't want this to be about that, but I feel that I'm able to bring my whole self to work here at BCG, which really helps me do a good job in the role that I have.”
2. What made you feel more comfortable at BCG when you started working there?
“I wouldn't say that I chose to be partially or entirely in the closet at work previously because of any bad policies. I think it's just part of my journey that I've become more comfortable with myself as I've gotten a little bit older, I feel that I don't need to hide any part of myself when I come to work. If I’m looking back, I wish I'd done it much sooner.
I think BCG as an establishment is an incredibly inclusive place. We have a lot of initiatives, we have the “Iberia Proud” recruiting event, we do a lot of events around Allyship or affiliation with pride. It's been fun to be involved in my capacity of recruiter. One thing I've done is I have extended our diversity fellowships to include LGBT+ individuals and helped launch the first Pride Fellowships at BCG. The objective is to spot students that we identify as high potential and we work with them to try to help them succeed in the interview process.
We've also really focused on allyship. One thing that I've noticed being an American living in Spain is the way that people talk about LGBT+ community is a little bit different. The US is kind of this dramatically polarized society where you have some of the most progressive and some of the most conservative people. Whereas here in Spain, there are not very many very progressive people, but also not very many super ultra conservative. The idea of gay marriage feels like it's relatively decided, I’ve never heard people debating if that should exist or not.
At the same time, I haven't seen a lot of support for say transgender rights or I've heard some kind of strange comments (from outside BCG) around gay adoption or about drag queen shows with children. These things that in the progressive circles in the US are relatively typical, maybe that's not as typical here even within the more liberal minded communities in Spain. So trying to find a good way to approach allyship and explain LGBT+ issues within the Spanish context is interesting. It's been very fun to try to bridge that gap a little bit. I think everybody wants to learn. At least at BCG, I haven't run into anyone that just has no interest in this. But one thing that I always try to do with Allyship and in my life is to be as open as possible with people and also encourage them to ask questions even if they think it's stupid.
As a member of the LGBT+ community, I think it’s necessary having people that are activists, but also having people that are advocates, that can sit down and push the agenda less aggressively. Just hearing what people’s concerns are and softly trying to change minds and influence them is also really important. You need both types of people. I think it's great to be an activist. I'm not one but I do try to influence where I can.
I encourage people to ask me anything and similarly when someone says something inappropriate, I'll also be very direct with them. I'll say, “hey, I don't think that that's that inclusive and let me tell you why”. Sometimes I've ruined dinners that way. But hey, that’s okay!“
3.Tell me more about the article BCG posted called “Why The First Year Matters For LGBT+ employees”
“The article essentially discusses why it’s important to come out in the first year of your employment for LGBT+ individuals. The findings are broken down by region, gender identity, age group etc. One of the key findings is that inclusivity is very different across countries.
One of the questions was: “do you feel that being a member of the LGBT+ community is an advantage in your country, in your profession or a disadvantage? You found that, in the US, only 10 or 9% of respondents thought it was a disadvantage. Whereas here in Spain, 33% of people felt that it was a disadvantage. These types of gaps are important to understand when you're working cross culturally because everybody is at a different stage in the journey of LGBT+ acceptance.
Similarly, a lot of people will ask “why do you have to be out at work? Why do you have to say you're gay?” And the answer is that you assume that people fall into a majority unless you hear otherwise. So as the research suggests, when it's assumed that you're something you're not, you don't necessarily feel included.
When you're not bringing your full self to the workplace, you might be less comfortable to speak up, you might not feel that you can be yourself and certainly you probably won't be building relationships, even friendships at work the way that many other people do. And when you think about young people in the workplace, when you're 22 right out of university, your coworkers often become some of your best friends. So if you see a group of people that are becoming really close to each other and you don't feel that you're included in that community, it's not only going to harm you (your social life) but it's also going to be harmful for you at work.
Being who you are in the workplace isn't just for the individual that we're talking about. It helps create a more inclusive and more productive work environment.”
4.Do you think it is possible to align D&I policies across countries?
“Since there are countries where being gay is still criminalized and laws vary greatly between regions, I think it would be complicated. You won't achieve strong policies unless people feel that culture specific needs have been taken care of. A lot of companies create a policy for the US and roll it out to every other country everywhere and they're surprised when that doesn't work. Of course, it doesn't work.
At BCG, you can be out publicly to everyone, you can be out, only to other pride members or you can be out in private. Now, why would someone want to be out in private? Well, maybe you're in a country where being out publicly is not seen as the right thing to do or maybe it's even illegal. But if you're ever in a situation where you want to raise your hand, the pride network is supportive.
We support our LGBT+ employees no matter what country they're in. And there are LGBT+ employees in many countries where maybe it's not seen as fondly as it is here in Spain or in the US. So I think the way to do it is to make sure first and foremost that your company, your employees are protected.
If your employees don't feel that they have a level of protection, that's not good for you, your brand and your company. Secondly, we do some affiliation events that bring people together across different countries. So even if you can't do local pride events and post them on linkedin, you can still of course, attend the broader BCG, global pride events to ensure that you feel that you have a home in a community.”
5.Could you tell me more about your Bliss Index?
“The Bliss index establishes that being your authentic self at work is really correlated with the feeling of inclusion and then ultimately retention. Employees that feel that they can be their authentic self in the workplace are nearly 2.4 times less likely to quit.
So inclusion isn't just about being nice to your employees, it's also important to retain the talent that you attract.“
6.Are you in favor of LGBT+ quotas in companies?
“I think that it's not necessarily a quota, it's an aspiration. At the end of the day, the hope is to try to attract as many people as possible. The way that will happen is by attracting more people to the top of the funnel of the recruiting process. Now, if we attract a lot of people and they're not prepared, we're not just going to give them offers because they're LGBT+.
What I am in favor of, is firms working to try to attract more diverse talent and then allowing them to perform and show that they're as capable in interviews as other people that naturally would have applied.
If BCG attracts 100 applicants and 50 of them are gay and 50 of them are straight and the 50 that are straight are the better ones. The 50 straight people will get office and that's okay. What we want to do is make sure that the people that are represented by making more marginalized communities have the opportunity to get these prestigious jobs.”
7.What would be for you the next steps that BCG is going to take in terms of LGBT+ inclusion?
“We want to recruit and diversify our workplace. The Germany and Austria market actually has very publicly set that they want to recruit 5% of its workforce as members of the LGBT+ community by 2025.
Now, the first thing to do is to make sure that the LGBT+ community understands that a company like BCG is inclusive, which I think we've done a very good job. So now that perhaps we've established ourselves as a more favorable employer of this community, hopefully, now we can ensure that people are prepared enough to tackle our interview process, which is very complicated. It's a very fair system once you're in the process. Making sure that the community is really well informed about what their options are here is something that BCG has focused a lot on.
I also think that really making sure that people are feeling that they're part of the teams that they're in. We run a lot of surveys to ensure that our people feel that they are included. We have a lot of different support structures to ensure that that is happening. So it's not just about attraction of talent, it's also about retention of talent. I think both of those things to diversify our workforce are incredibly important.”
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