The article below has got to be one of the most naively optimistic ones I have ever read about the Big 4 firms and their diversity programs. E&Y has a habit of not really understanding the impact of their actions to enhance recruiting. I am sure this young woman really believes she has scrutinized the firms well and has chosen one where her colleagues won’t mind hearing her stories about her boyfriend this week and her girlfriend the next. I can just imagine the December holiday party when Melissa brings Tony the first year and Tanya the next and the Managing Partner’s wife chokes on her shrimp cocktail when she realizes Tanya looks a lot like Tony except for the dress, or maybe Tanya is wearing a tuxedo?
Of course, since the firms are still predominantly male and professionals in the past have been passed over for promotion because of gender stereotyping such as not being feminine enough, maybe this is one combination of diverse qualities that actually might work in the firms. After all, everyone knows, heterosexual men are uncomfortable for various reasons around openly homosexual men. But what straight guy doesn’t like bisexual women? They still pay big money to see that.
Anyway, I wish Melissa luck. She has a long way to go and many more barriers to break down before she becomes partner at E&Y. But at least she has Billie Williamson to tell her how to act and to tell the men around her how to react.
Out of the Corporate Closet
Companies becoming more inclusive of alternative lifestyles
When Melissa Theodore was looking for her first job out of college, she considered several accounting firms. When choosing which one to join, the New York University graduate was extremely cautious. She wanted to work for a firm that was considered one of the best. But as a bisexual, Theodore also wanted some assurance that her sexual orientation would not hinder her advancement.
As an African American woman pursuing a career in a white, male-dominated field, she felt she might experience some challenges. Theodore’s bisexuality now made her a triple minority. After a careful review of the policies and practices of the companies she was eyeing, Theodore accepted a position at Ernst & Young in 2006.
“I wanted to pick a firm where I knew I would be completely comfortable, because I have friends at other accounting firms who don’t feel like they can be themselves,” says Theodore, a staff accountant in the company’s International Tax Services division. “Ernst & Young talked about how inclusive they are of everything and everyone, and I was impressed by that.”
Still, Theodore, 27, admits she was a bit nervous about revealing her sexual orientation once on the job. If no one asked, she didn’t tell. “But then I found some friends who were a part of the company’s gay and lesbian group bEYond, and I started noticing people above me who were ‘out’ and doing well in the firm, so I became a bit more comfortable discussing with other employees that I am bisexual. So far everyone has been fine with it.”
Now a member of bEYond for almost a year, Theodore participates in a subgroup of the organization to address issues specific to bisexuals at Ernst & Young and participates on a committee to represent the firm at an AIDS Walk to be held this month…