November 15, 2017, will be remembered as a historic day.

It’s the day the people of Australia voted in favour of love and equality; in favour of correcting an archaic tradition that fosters social division and places the nation well behind its global counterparts.

As you will know by now, the ‘Yes’ vote to marriage equality was victorious.

As vocal advocates for the ‘Yes’ campaign, we, at Conexus Financial, are delighted.

When Professional Planner, and its publisher Conexus Financial, first decided to use its website and social media platforms to back the marriage equality campaign, the result was far from universally positive. Letters to the editor queried why a publication primarily read for insights about planning was taking a position on a social and political matter.

The reason is simple. We know there’s a correlation between restrictions on marital freedom and mental health consequences and believe it’s our duty in a position of power and influence to effect change, however we can. Most of the time, that relates to improving the professional standards of the planning industry. But in 2017, the reach of a professional organisation cannot be limited to that.

On Wednesday, I spoke to a planner who was able to articulate the importance of the vote much better than I could.

When Scott Malcolm set up his business nine years ago, he made the choice that he was going to share his “whole self” with his clients, including the fact he’s gay and has a male partner.

“At the end of the day, as a planner, we are in such a trusted and custodial position that the way we behave sets an example for others about openness and acceptance,” he said. “Economically, my view is that if people are able to bring their whole selves to work, they’re able to perform better and improve their output because they don’t feel like they’re on guard.”

Malcolm said it’s important for companies and individuals to get behind equality.

“The thing that I think is important about companies being vocal about this is it shows the LGBTQI community that people do support them and it’s OK to be the way you are,” he said.

Part of being a professional is having the courage and conviction to participate in conversations (and action) that will further societal progress and fight for those who don’t have a voice or platform. That may be by casting a ‘Yes’ vote or by standing up for a client’s rights who would otherwise have a difficult retirement.

While the marriage equality survey gave all Australian citizens an opportunity to vote, part of the victory must be credited to those across the country who had the conviction to stand up on social media, at dinner parties, at rallies and at work to say ‘I’m voting yes’. The impact of social influence cannot be underestimated.

There’s a lesson in this for professionals. As we continue to grow and evolve, people will develop further confidence to speak out against actions that subjugate those who are trying to foster important change. We’ve seen it in Hollywood with the recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein and subsequent claims of sexual harassment across the TV and film industry, and we will see more of it in financial services.

We need to continue to fight for better outcomes and to stand by those who do.                         

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