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To Commemorate Stonewall Rebellion Day, a Q&A with the FINRA Pride Alliance Co-Chair

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June 28 marks the 55-year anniversary of the six-day riot that took place at the Stonewall Inn, a coveted watering hole for the gay community in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. 

After the Stonewall Inn was raided countless times, the community resisted in the early hours of June 28, 1969, and sparked the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement.

Photo of Sandhya Murthy
Sandhya Murthy

Sandhya Murthy, Director of Technology for the Data Management and Governance Office (DMGO) and co-chair of FINRA’s Pride Alliance (FPA) Employee Resource Group (ERG), shares insights into what it means to be an ally of the queer community and how FINRA supports the community.

Tell us about yourself and the work you do at FINRA

Well, I do not want to define myself with work. I want to first define myself with family. I moved to this country over 30 years ago to join my husband, and I am a mom of two sons. The older is 27 and gay and my younger son is 21.

I have held several data related positions in my career prior to joining FINRA in 2006. I started in the FINRA Data Office as a technical requirements analyst working on building a data warehouse. During that time, I held several distinct roles, mostly in the data realm. I left FINRA in 2021 before re-joining in August 2023. By then, FINRA had already embarked on an advanced analytics data journey and was establishing a formal data management and governance program. I was extremely excited at the opportunity of working for the data management and governance program and returned to lead the data stewardship program.

How are you connected to the queer community?

My son came out during the pandemic. My husband and I are incredibly lucky to have him as our child. This is my first year consciously celebrating Pride Month. I went to Washington, D.C. earlier this month for the Pride Parade with my younger son. This was my first time experiencing that level of joy and to see the community celebrating. It was wonderful to see the diversity and enthusiasm. FINRA supported the first ever PRIDE virtual run. I was extremely excited to participate in that. In my personal life, I am an active participant in the South Asian LGBTQ+ Pride Group. It has really helped me reckon with being a parent of a queer child, while also providing support to other parents and allies in the South Asian diaspora in the U.S.

I learned about Stonewall Rebellion Day from my son. We visited the Stonewall Inn and the park outside of it in New York City. It overwhelmed me with joy to experience it. It's because of those who fought for their rights that my son can be comfortable in his skin. 

Tell us about FINRA’s Pride Alliance (FPA), being co-chair and how FINRA supports the queer community 

FINRA’s Pride Alliance supports the queer community by providing a safe and welcoming forum that increases awareness, education, and visibility; fosters recruitment, retention, and professional development; and promotes equitable policies and practices for FINRA's employees and their allies. FINRA was one of the early adopters to expand health benefits for the queer community. They have created a specialized benefits guide for the community to help navigate the complexities of health benefits. FINRA provides us with resources to bring in external speakers to speak about the history of the LGBTQ community and other topics like how to relate queer experiences for younger generations, thereby creating allies within FINRA.  FINRA also has a program to encourage donations selected by the Pride Alliance as a charity of choice for Pride month. 

I joined FPA as soon as I returned to FINRA last year. When the co-chair opportunity came up, I jumped on it. I really share FPA’s mission to contribute to FINRA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. We really need to understand the challenges the queer community face at work and outside of work and be supportive of them. It is also valuable for our work, as investors come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. We, as a regulator, protect all kinds of investors. Understanding the queer community’s challenges with respect to the financial industry will help us carry out our mission of investor protection and market integrity.

The technology community in FINRA has also provided training to understand terminologies and concepts surrounding the LGBTQ community and to be inclusive in our spoken and written word. It helps us understand how to be sensitive around certain terms that might hurt others or make them uncomfortable. It is helping us adapt. I am glad to see the intentional progress FINRA and FINRA Technology made.

How can people be a better ally to the queer community?

I would encourage the public to educate themselves about the community’s history, the struggles they have had to endure and the challenges they still face. Even though there has been a lot of progress to make sure they are treated equitably, we still have a long way to go. Instead of having the queer community educating others, I would love for people to take time to educate themselves. The onus should not be on the community to explain queerness and its diversity. The least we can do is learn about their struggles, their history and be their allies.