GLBT professional networks do well almost everywhere in the world, except Sydney, the head of one network of investment bankers and traders said.

A year on from launching Merrill Lynch’s Pacific Rim LGBT Network encompassing Sydney, trader Jason Ryan said the emerald city’s reputation for embracing the gay lifestyle didn’t match up.

Sydney is the weakest place for the network -” they probably don’t see the need, Ryan said last week during a forum organised by the Diversity Council of Australia on GLBT inclusion in the workplace.

Despite succeeding in traditionally conservative Asian countries in raising awareness, hosting seminars and working with local gay and lesbian communities, he was unable to extend them to a few countries where homosexuality is still illegal.

We skipped India, where there was significant resistance from managers. India of course has legal and social conditions that would have made it very difficult, Ryan said.

But he hasn’t given up on the country just yet. In early 2009, we are looking into the possiblity of raising awareness on LGBT issues in India.
Part of the reason the networks work in conservative countries is because you don’t have to come out to join, he suggested, but you gain respect from all for showing support and care towards LGBT workmates.

At its heart the network exists to promote the corporation, in Ryan’s case Merrill Lynch, as an inclusive equal opportunity employer, he said, but they also provide opportunities to work with management on tapping into alternative business development and recruitment, and eliminate problems that sexuality could have on the career path.

These programs keep me here longer, Ryan said, despite having initial problems coming out in the world of traders.

Traders are 95 percent male, married, with 2.5 kids. It’s very macho. Coming out was quite difficult, he said.

Now that’s he’s in charge of running Merrill Lynch’s Pacific Rim GLBT network, he’s been able to organise more social activities as well, such as arranging 20 tickets to Margaret Cho’s Sydney performances for members.

Diversity Council of Australia CEO Nareen Young, also speaking at the forum on GLBT inclusion in the workplace, agreed that Sydney was hard to crack when it came to encouraging active diversity groups.

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