Happy Pride! It's Time to Take the Frosting Off the LGBT Diversity Cake

Frank Summers |

A long, long time ago, my mother played a practical joke on my grandfather by taking a large piece of wood and decorating it to make it look like a cake. Yes, that’s my actual grandfather and the actual “cake.” 

I have a saying:  "we need to take the frosting off the diversity cake.” Have you ever gone to a bakery and seen a pretty cake or cupcake only to find that the cake itself was dry, grainy, bland, or flavorless? The thing is, anyone can take frosting and make something look pretty. They can use pretty words. They can make rainbows and flowers. If the cake underneath is awful, it was all for show.

This is LGBTQ+ Pride Month and many corporations are showing support of the community with Pride merchandise and advertising. Many will have floats in pride parades. Is that frosting? How’s the cake underneath? Is there even cake, or is it just wood that’s been decorated?

Financial services, especially the advisors who worked with clients, has long been the domain of straight, white, men. Speaking as both an insider (in my corporate days, I worked in marketing), and as an advisor. The marketing efforts generally extend only so far as to take the heteronormative materials that are their standard versions, then to swap out the pictures of the straight, white family with pictures of those from marginalized communities. This is really only done if they believe there is a market there, if they can make money. 

Yes, LGBT people, we are seen not as a community with specific needs, but as a marketing opportunity. There’s an idea that we have money (especially gay men). There’s been a solid effort by many companies to get straight advisors to market to us for that reason. Financial planning for us is different (read more about that here and here). Investing is the same, sort of, but financial planning is not.

How is investing different? Do we really want our dollars going to companies that are helping to fund any of the 300+ anti-LGBT bills that were filed in this country alone? Or the companies that support us but not at the expense of tax savings?

LGBT people: you deserve to work with someone who understands your lived experience, when working with a financial planner, or any other professional who knows intimate things about you. Some questions you can ask: Why do you work with this community? What professional training do you have to help this community? When suggesting products or services, what do you look for that’s related to this community? 

For the financial services companies (and any other company), here’s the thing: we need next-generation diversity efforts. No more cheap cake. You need to take the time to truly understand marginalized communities (this is absolutely an imperative), and to understand the barriers that have existed throughout our lives and the ones that are being built in legislatures all over this country, and then work to help them over them. Take your HRC Equality Index score seriously. If you’re not really willing to understand us and to do the hard work of helping us, and other marginalized communities, live our best lives, then please take down your rainbow flags and put them away. We are not a marketing opportunity. 

I am Frank Summers, Certified Financial Planner™, and this is the #SpillTheTeaonLGBTFinances series. I work with clients across the US, and am physically located in Charlotte, NC. You can reach me at 704-717-8900, Ext 115 or by email at frank.summers@ceterainvestors.com – Happy Pride!