Moss Adams Voices

Thomas Zambito: Out at Work

Thomas explores the meaning of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and the commitment to inclusion and diversity at Moss Adams.

Tom Zambito

Thomas Zambito, director of valuation services in San Francisco, has been sheltering in place with his partner, Yatin, and their two five-year-old daughters. He and Yatin have been together more than 20 years. They have the same challenges most parents have balancing remote work and household responsibilities while making sure their children are completing their online learning. Thomas discusses coming out while working in a conservative industry, the importance of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and how the Pride business resource group (BRG) is bringing a virtual celebration to Moss Adams.

We’ve officially made it to LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Can you tell me what Pride means to you?

Pride celebrations give people an opportunity to be their true selves instead of pretending to be someone they aren’t. Pride is a time to express who you really are, to be grateful for the progress that has happened, to be mindful that there’s a lot of work still to be done, and to appreciate as a community what has been done by others in our past. We want to celebrate where we’ve come from, but we don’t want to forget.

I don’t think we would be having a conversation about me being a gay man 30 years ago—I’m not even sure if we could’ve had this conversation 10 years ago. A lot has happened in that timeframe, but some of our community is being left behind, and it’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Can you elaborate on that?

The trans community—the T in the LGBTQ+ acronym—needs for us to step up and acknowledge our work is far from complete. You would think there would be a lot of support for the trans community among all LGBTQ+ people, but it hasn’t happened that way.

When you look at the homeless population within the LGBTQ+ community, you’ll see the trans community overwhelmingly has the highest percentage of homelessness. If you look at suicide, again you’ll find the trans community has the highest percentage of suicides. In some states, discrimination laws don’t protect the trans community. Trans people have now been told they can’t enlist or serve in the military. That’s a slap in the face to more than 100,000 trans veterans.

In our Pride BRG NorCal chapter, it has been our priority to find ways to support local groups to help the homeless trans community. One of our interns spurred this conversation a few years ago and we continue to look for ways to make a difference.

Thomas Zambito

What challenges have you navigated in your life as a gay man?

In the beginning of my career, I was closeted and I didn’t share anything about my lifestyle with my colleagues. Finance tends to be conservative, so I was afraid someone would find out. It became much more difficult to hide it once I was in a relationship with Yatin.

At one of my previous companies, I was invited out for drinks by some colleagues the same night I was meeting Yatin for dinner. I explained I could join them for a little while, but after I needed to meet a friend. We went, and when I was going to leave, they asked me to invite my girlfriend to join us. I said instinctively, “Actually, my girlfriend is my boyfriend.” They were OK with it, and from that point on there was no need for me to hide Yatin anymore. It was like a burden was lifted from my shoulders.

Over the years, I’ve gotten comfortable enough with friends to come out to them, and suddenly they rejected me. That isn’t a good feeling, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but I guess I’m better off. That doesn’t happen as much as it used to. While I am no longer afraid to discuss my sexual orientation, I know there are so many others who are still not comfortable discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Did attending Pride events help you feel more comfortable in yourself?

Definitely it’s a place for people to be themselves. A Pride parade is often where people decide to come out.

In the early 2000s, Yatin and I would be approached by people who wanted help coming out. I guess in some ways, we were seen as role models because we were two individuals from different parts of the world who weren’t afraid to be who we are and express our love. We invited everyone to join us at these events and see how comfortable they were. At Pride, people see they’re not the only person in the world who has these thoughts or questions. There are so many people just like them.

What impact did that have on your work to develop the Pride BRG at Moss Adams?

Kinman Tong and I knew there were some people struggling with their identity in the office and outside of it. The mission of the Pride BRG is to create a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies to further the firm’s commitment to attracting, developing, retaining, and advancing LGBTQ+ professionals.

We believed we needed a community for people to express themselves, even in a more conservative industry. Also, from a business perspective, we attract more LGBTQ+ people and allies who are interested in being at a diverse firm. When there is diversity in the workplace, people are happier, the firm will get a lot of new ideas, and it breaks down the walls that society has built. Kudos to our leaders for understanding that we’re in a relationship business and people want to hire firms that are like themselves.

How is the Pride BRG celebrating Pride Month during the COVID-19 pandemic?

One of the official taglines of Pride this year is Pride Is Never Cancelled. There will be virtual Pride events available worldwide, and at Moss Adams we’re hoping to coordinate some virtual happy hours and keynote speakers. Even from home, we want Pride to feel like a local event.

Outside of the Pride events, I wanted to give a shout-out to the leaders at Moss Adams who are committed to diversifying the firm and the partner group. We have some great allies at the firm. It may not be overnight, but progress is being made and hopefully in less than 10 years the Moss Adams composition will better mirror our community. It will be a lot of work, and the partners know that, but it’s great they acknowledge that they need our help. Part of that is going to come from the BRGs—people joining the BRGs will help us drive diversity.

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