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Investing & Finance

Financial Inclusion in the LGBTQ+ Community

Alex Lofton | 16 Apr 2019

When I was asked to join a panel titled “Money Talks: Unlocking Financial Inclusion with FinTech,” hosted by the LGBTQ+ focused not-for-profit Out in Tech, I was a combination of honored, excited, and perplexed.

On the one hand, I always love sharing what we’re doing at Landed with new audiences, recounting the stories of the educators who are putting down roots as a result of our team’s hard work. On the other hand, even as someone who identifies as gay, I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time reflecting on the key cross sections of a more inclusive financial system, scalable solutions to people’s financial needs, and the LGBTQ+ community. I’m a fan of personal growth, so a few weeks ago, I took this opportunity to expand my own horizons and happily joined an incredible group of leaders from money management platform EarnUp, childcare financing startup BridgeCare Finance, and Bank of America, to explore this very cross section at the finance technology company Plaid.

From the conversation, three takeaways have stuck with me:

  1. Helping people manage income is the start, but focusing on broad-based wealth-building is key to a more inclusive economy in the long run.
  2. “Fintech” is about a) scalability of solutions, b) sustainable business models that fairly balance the amount of money generated and real value being added to customers, and c) deploying digital technology to solve extremely complex data challenges and maximize the efficiency of resources that are needed to create these solutions.
  3. When it comes to what individuals need to build wealth, the LGBTQ+ community is not a monolith – the immense diversity of the LGBTQ+ community goes beyond gender identity and sexual orientation to include racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographical dimensions too.

Opportunities to build wealth are often the result of who is in your family and your community, how supportive they are of you as you grow up, and whether or not opportunities to earn a good living are afforded to you by employers seeking talent. In places like San Francisco (where I live and Landed is based), thanks to the LGBTQ+ giants and their allies who came before us, great strides have been made to increase equality of access to job opportunities in the tech sector for many gay people. In particular, those identifying as white, gay, cisgender, and male, and who come from supportive families with enough resources to encourage and support attainment of higher education degrees, have seen significant strides in gaining the opportunity to build wealth. These achievements should be recognized and celebrated.

But they should not be considered enough. Today, there are significant strides to be made for gay women, folks considered underrepresented minorities, those who lack significant emotional (and often financial) community support, our gender nonconforming siblings, LGBTQ+ immigrants separated by far more than the physical distance from the families they’ve had to move away from… all of these identities and more, many of which intersect, play a significant role in determining which individuals within the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to have the support they need to become economically upwardly mobile.

The financial technology entrepreneurs, companies, and leaders who are looking to support the LGBTQ+ community should take note. So too should those gay industry leaders who are starting to believe things for the wider LGBTQ+ community are now more or less equal. Too often outsiders (even those who are well-intentioned), tend to lump us all together and assume more equality for some confirms there’s been significant advancement for all who are considered lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, etc. This is denying the richness and complexity of the LGBTQ+ community, and it denies that many who find ourselves at these intersections of gender, sexuality, and various other identities face considerable social and cultural barriers to realizing equal opportunity to financial empowerment.

I’m truly thrilled to be scratching the surface of this topic – thank you to Out in Tech, Plaid, and all the folks who came out to engage with us that evening. I invite and look forward to many more rich discussions with all of you who are out there reflecting and ponding on these topics.

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About the Author

Alex Lofton

Alex Lofton is a co-founder of Landed. Origin: the Pacific Northwest. Proud product of Bellevue Public Schools. Believes that valuing Black lives isn't zero-sum. Decompression methods: time outdoors, playing the ‘funcle’ (fun-uncle) role, and the dance floor.

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