Yasir Fattah is associate vice president at Nasdaq IR Intelligence. He’s also one of the founding members of The OPEN, an employee resource group (ERG) for LGBTQ+ Nasdaq employees and allies. In this interview, he talks about the work The OPEN does, as well as the overlap between The OPEN and his IR advisory work.
How long have you been with Nasdaq?
I’ve been in the investor relations world for 21 years and joined Nasdaq back in 2013, through the acquisition of Thomson Reuters Corporate Services. I currently run our advisory services business in EMEA and Asia-Pacific.
What is The OPEN and how did you get involved?
I got involved with The OPEN in 2018, when this ERG was first started. OPEN is an acronym for Out Proud Employees of Nasdaq. A handful of us joined the group as soon as it started.
The OPEN exists:
- To champion LGBTQ+ equality at Nasdaq
- To promote career development and mentorship opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees
- To host social events for employees and allies
- To engage in volunteerism efforts that help support the needs of our LGBTQ+ community.
Is membership of The OPEN exclusive to people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community?
All employees are welcomed. Right now, we have about 250 members and more than 50 percent of them are allies or don’t identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Allies are incredibly important to a group like OPEN and have been incredibly important in the LGBTQ+ rights initiatives that started years ago in this country.
How do you make sure Nasdaq is being authentic in how it discusses LGBTQ+ representation and inclusion?
It was incredibly important for me that our ERG was supported by senior management. Our executive sponsor is Nelson Griggs, who serves as president of the Nasdaq Stock Market, and our ERGs across all of Nasdaq are supported at the board level and by our executive leadership team. There’s always an executive sponsor.
To what extent should LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation be a concern for the IR community?
It’s definitely something for the IR community to think about. First, we’re starting to see LGBTQ+-specific funds being launched, and those investors are not just looking for monetary return on their investments; they’re also looking to make a positive impact on society and the world at large. As we see more of those funds, companies will be asked questions about what they’re doing in terms of inclusion and they’re going to have to be ready to speak to that.
Even more than that, however, LGBTQ+ rights are human rights, and they’re very much part of the S in ESG. Having worked with IROs for many years now, I’m always amazed by how much they have to cover and how fluent they have to be on so many topics. A clear way for companies to communicate their commitment to LGBTQ+ equality and demonstrate they are a good place for LGBTQ+ people to work is to participate in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index survey and work to achieve a top score.
You’ve talked to several listed companies, including Henry Schein, about forming employee resource groups. How do those conversations get started?
It happens organically. For example, The OPEN hosts events where we invite listed companies to participate, and some don’t have an LGBTQ+ ERG. This sparks a natural discussion. We end up getting people who work in diversity and inclusion at other publicly listed companies and they come to us in an organic way and say they’d like to start an ERG for LGBTQ+ employees.
How do you explain the benefits of ERGs?
When we’re approached by clients for advice, we tell them it’s important to have an ERG for LGBTQ+ employees because many people can feel like they’re on the margins. ERGs offer employees a sense of belonging and a networking avenue with people who have similar experiences. That allows employees to bring more dimensions of themselves to work. I know that being part of The OPEN and having that space available makes me feel significantly more comfortable about being fully authentic at work.
Many employees have said it really improves their overall employee engagement when they’re part of an ERG. It creates an inclusive environment and helps to recruit talent. Our talent acquisition team at Nasdaq has noted that the presence of our ERGs helps bring in more LGBTQ+ recruits to the company.
Finally, ERGs can help connect an organization to societal realities and give a greater purpose and reach. We can raise issues the LGBTQ+ community is facing within Nasdaq, and Nasdaq can get behind it. I know I can give those issues a voice at Nasdaq, and that those issues matter to Nasdaq and support will be amplified. We see that across all of our ERGs, not just on LGBTQ+ issues, and it really connects the organization to meaningful societal issues.
Editor’s note: This Q&A was edited for clarity and length.