Johnny Lam

"I’ve been in banking for over twenty years, but before coming to CIBC, I wasn’t out at work. When my family moved to Canada, kids at school made fun of my weight, my accent and what they saw as my femininity.

For a long time, these voices lived in the back of my head, telling me that I couldn’t be successful if I showed people who I really am. Although I slowly came out in my personal circles, I hesitated to be open at work because I worried about the professional cost.

Hiding the truth was exhausting. I had to constantly watch what I said so I wouldn’t accidentally reveal my partner’s gender. We didn’t hold hands in public because I worried someone from work might see us. I wanted to be myself, but when you’ve always been told that your sexual orientation is something to conceal, it’s hard to unlearn; especially when you don’t have role models to challenge that belief.

When I joined our bank three years ago, the Pride Network completely changed my perspective. I saw all these posts on their Workplace group, where people not only shared their own identities, but also showed allyship for others. Identities weren’t just accepted, but celebrated. During my first Pride event, I realized I wanted to be a part of this group. I was ready to come out.

I told my manager first and it was so freeing to hear him say he supported me. Even if you think someone might react positively, the relief in having it confirmed makes such a difference. I got better at my job because I was no longer distracted by my fears.

When I joined the Pride Network, I found the community I’d hoped for and grew into my new role as co-lead. I want to help the next generation of LGBTQ+ CIBCers start their careers with the same confidence I feel now in being myself."

Johnny (he/him) is a Director of Business Banking on the Ontario West and Northern Canada Market team.

CIBC was the first Canadian bank to form an employee network for LGBTQ+ team members more than 12 years ago and today, the Pride Network connects over 1,700 team members and allies from across the bank.