Mark Leftly: Sexuality attitudes in the City are due for a change


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The Independent Online

Outlook Hats off to the KPMG senior partner Simon Collins. He is addressing an issue that the straight, married boss of an accountancy empire struggling with falling UK profit really doesn't have to: the problems that gay and bisexual Square Milers have in coming out at work.

In our sister newspaper, the London Evening Standard, today, Mr Collins points out that much of the problem is that homosexuals aren't working in environments where they feel comfortable talking about their personal lives. A gay colleague told Mr Collins that when a client asks what he is doing that weekend, he says "nothing much", rather than "just chillin'" with his male partner.

Mr Collins, correctly, argues that his staff would be far more productive at work if they could answer such an innocuous question without having to choose their words carefully or be worried that the client might look at him or her in a dim light. He is particularly perplexed that even in a confidential demographic survey, two-thirds of his 12,000 workforce refused to state their sexuality.

The journalist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris was surely right when he wrote that just a few years from now the battle over gay marriage rights in the Commons this week will be looked at "as a curiosity rather than a victory" for those who voted for the same-sex marriage Bill. Hopefully, people like Mr Collins can make sure that future generations will be similarly bemused that being open about sexuality was ever an issue in the City. There's no doubt that sex and relationships of any orientation have great potential for laughs and embarrassment when talked about at work. Beyond that, though, I can't but believe that we're only a few years away from no one really caring whether a colleague or client small-talks about their relationships with men, women or both.