McKinsey speaks with global GLAM co-head to mark Pride Week

16 June 2021 3 min. read
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Pride Month is once again underway. To mark the occasion, McKinsey has spoken with senior partner Guangyu Li, the Hong Kong-based co-head of it’s global LGBTQ+ network GLAM.

The annual ‘rainbowing’ of corporate logos on LinkedIn means we’re right in the middle of Pride Month, but more than just lip service, many of the world’s leading consulting firms have well-established diversity & inclusion programs and networks for LTGBQ+ staff and allies. Among those consultancies is leading strategic consultancy: McKinsey & Company, which last year celebrated the 25th anniversary of its LGBTQ+ network, GLAM.

Founded by around a dozen McKinsey staff back in 1995, today GLAM is a global community pushing beyond 1,000 members of all orientations and gender identities and spread across almost 100 offices. Established more recently in 2011, GLAM Allies, for straight and cisgender colleagues who wish to be LGBTQ+ advocates, has a further 5000+ members. Scores of ‘Glammies’ and allies gather every 18-24 months for the global GLAM conference.

Guangyu Li and Ali Poita - GLAM

In addition to providing peer support, the network advises McKinsey on LGBTQ+ policies and benefits (such as being an early adopter of global tax-equalisation domestic partner benefits), with the firm claiming to be one of the first to actively recruit LGBTQ+ MBA students, nearly 20 years ago. Indeed, one of GLAM’s co-founders, Brian Rolfes, now leads global talent acquisition for McKinsey and remains highly active in promoting diversity & inclusion.

Meanwhile, GLAM currently has three global co-leaders, with two of them based in Asia: Southeast Asia Consumer Packaged Goods and Retail Practices leader Ali Potia in Singapore, and Hong Kong-based Asia Capital Projects & Infrastructure Practice head Guangyu Li (the third US-based diversity & inclusion leader Diana Ellsworth). To mark this year’s Pride Week, McKinsey spoke to Li about his personal journey and experiences at the firm.

Growing up in conservative China, Li was first able to openly explore his sexuality when a student at McGill University in Canada from 1989, later coming out to his concerned family in 1995, coincidentally the year of GLAM’s formation. His offer from McKinsey was used as a mechanism to help assuage the fears of his family and friends; “Hey, you know it’s really not what you think. You don’t have to worry that I might not be able to get a good job,” Li said.

Yet, Li still hadn’t come out to his new colleagues. “I went through a few stages,” he says. “When I first decided to bring my significant other to a retreat as a second-year associate, many close friends outside the firm were saying, ‘Are you ready to ruin your career?’ But I thought, this could go one of two ways. On the one hand, it could ruin my career. And if it had, I would have been happy to leave. But on the other hand, I might find a place that embraced me.”

Turning out to be the latter, the opportunity later arose to co-lead GLAM. “After I came out, I heard from colleagues who were scared to do the same or sceptical of the response. It underscored how important it is to have allies. I’ve especially been excited to get involved with local GLAM chapters around our different office locations. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to help people feel more comfortable at work and it’s crucial for attracting talent.”

On the topic of allies, Li points to former global managing partner Kevin Sneader as one of GLAM’s earliest supporters. “If we want to do this right, we better do it in a very big, bold way, rather than small incremental changes,” Li reports of a conversation he had with Sneader long before his elevation to the top job. “We’ve made a lot of big strides as a result of Kevin’s leadership, and we’re so excited knowing this is one of Bob Sternfels’s priorities as well,” he concludes.