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During the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City, one of the only establishments in the city at the time that openly welcomed gay people. Protests immediately ensued, and the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights began.

On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, we celebrate the progress that’s been made, and we’re hopeful for the future and what remains to be done, especially when it comes to building diverse, inclusive spaces in the workplace.

In that spirit, we spoke to leaders across McKinsey and attendees from our annual conference The Alliance to hear what advice they’d give to future LGBTQ+ leaders. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Find a job that embraces your authenticity

Keisha Bell, managing director at The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC)

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"You don’t have to navigate your career according to some map that someone else has written." - Keisha Bell (center)

You spend a lot of time at work and with colleagues, so it’s in your best interest to do your due diligence on a company before you get there. You want to have a good sense of the organizational values to ensure they line up with your own. When searching for a job, talk with past and current employees and read online reviews.

If things become difficult, and your corporate environment doesn’t feel right, find something else. You don’t have to navigate your career according to some map that someone else has written. Let your passion be your compass.

2. You are not alone; allies are everywhere

Kevin Sneader, McKinsey global managing partner

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Kevin Sneader celebrating Pride with one of his favorite colleagues.

I recall arriving at a firm three decades ago that felt very alien. I lacked the same university experiences, educational qualifications, and heritage as my fellow business analysts. But what I had not bargained for was the support I found and the willingness that those around displayed to help me gain confidence and be myself. As I found my feet, I have always drawn on the belief that being yourself is essential to being able to be happy and high-performing at the same time. I strongly believe that this sense is shared by many. And I for one am committed to being the best ally possible.

3. Be out from the start

Patrick McLaughlin, senior vice president and chief human-resources officer at Frito-Lay North America

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"People take you at your own self-worth." - Patrick McLaughlin

Don’t be afraid to be honest about who you are. That’s something you should establish from the beginning in your work environment, even in an interview. People take you at your own self-worth. If you present confidence and comfort in who you are, you’ll be a better leader, better at your job, and free from the anxiety that comes from concealing your identity.

Pride in who you are has a significant impact on work culture, especially for more junior colleagues. When organizations have senior leaders who are out, it sends an important message that it’s possible to be LGBTQ+ at the top. Only by seeing this can people imagine it for themselves.

4. Find or build a community

Diana Ellsworth, McKinsey partner

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Since joining McKinsey, Diana has focused on organizational-development work, with an emphasis on talent and culture.

Whether it’s inside or outside your company, there’s tremendous value in creating a network of friends who have shared experiences and allies who understand those experiences. It’s not only an excellent way to connect with other LGBTQ+ colleagues who can play an important role in supporting and energizing you but also a powerful means for generating awareness for colleagues, recruits, and the general public.

GLAM is our firm’s network for that. It connects more than 600 McKinsey LGBTQ+ colleagues from across the world, and its mission mirrors McKinsey’s: to attract, develop, and retain exceptional people, as well as have distinctive, lasting impact on the world. GLAM carries that out by fostering a culture of inclusivity through mentorship, leadership development, and innovative external engagement like The Alliance, and it has been an important part of my professional life for the past ten years.

5. Be a force for change

Masa Yanagisawa, co-head of APAC Capital at Deutsche Bank

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"Find a trusted superior who can guide you on how best to handle an uncomfortable situation." - Masa Yanagisawa

Make your voice heard. If something doesn’t feel right, then it’s not. Find a trusted superior who can guide you on how best to handle an uncomfortable situation. I remember when I first joined the trading floor of a Wall Street bank 20 years ago, there were things happening in the office that made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to make of it and felt so out of place.

Today, it would never happen—and that’s progress. When you speak out and increasingly make people aware of differences that exist, diversity can be established quicker than you might think.

6. Create a home for yourself

Guangyu Li, McKinsey senior partner

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Guangyu leads the Capital Projects & Infrastructure Practice in Asia and the Greater China Public Sector Practice.

Once you’re working in an LGBTQ+-friendly environment, make it your home. Find your friends, get organized, and nurture this place to be a safe haven that fully embraces diversity and inclusion for you, for your colleagues, and for the many future generations to come.

7. Show tolerance

Ali Potia, McKinsey partner

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Ali leads the Consumer Packaged Goods and Retail Practices in Southeast Asia.

You will encounter a lack of understanding far more often than overt homophobia. Remember that your colleagues, bosses, sponsors or even customers have not had as much time with this subject as you have. You’ve been figuring this out your whole life. Give them the space they need to catch up. Include them in conversations and be patient when answering their questions. They’re learning.

8. Don’t make assumptions

Ana Mendy, McKinsey partner

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Ana helps organizations proactively prepare for adverse events, respond to crises, and transform their culture.

We all have unconscious bias, and sometimes that prevents us from reaching out and being true to who we are. It’s easy to assume that someone from a certain region or background may be less open, delaying or preventing us from coming out from the start. I’ve found that some of the strongest allies I’ve encountered are actually people I’d originally discounted or dismissed because of my own biases. Being willing and able to reach out to colleagues of all backgrounds creates a more inclusive environment for everyone.

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