Emma Freeman, Swiss Re

What is your role?
Claims Specialist & Chair of Swiss Re's Mental Health Network

Emma's Story
I've worked in customer facing roles for 17 years in the insurance sector - customer service, sales and now claims. I have a passion for encouraging people to be their true selves in the workplace so created the mental health network for Swiss Re which has launched in the UK and Zurich.

What factors allow you to bring your full self to work? 
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
I feel included, listened to and respected. Three things which are hugely important in really being your true self at work.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
There is always room for improvement. Education, knowledge sharing, more engagement from Ally's – even starting off a conversation with someone about why you believe in something can go a long way.

What was your first motivation to be involved with the LGBT+ community? How has this most positively influenced your experience?
I didn't need much motivation to be involved – I believe that everyone should be able to come to work and be themselves – LGBT or I – it doesn't matter. Everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, should be accepted and included within the workplace so anything I can do as an Ally to help, I will.

How has the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
There seems to be more creativity and innovation within the business. When people are truly themselves at work and they're not worrying or trying to conceal parts of themselves they can truly engage with the task in hand.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Find someone to confide in. Even telling one person can help… Most great companies have the right support in place to help someone who hasn't come out yet.  Witnessing someone coming out in the workplace and seeing them flourish is wonderful.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand. This is where a lot of stigma, prejudice and bias comes from – not understanding.

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
Someone who had, in the past, not taken any interest in the LGBTI network asked to meet me for a coffee and chat a few things over.  He said he didn't understand a few things and as I seemed to 'get it' could I help him out.  Seeing that change in mind-set in someone so unexpected was pretty great.

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
Encourage people to be as open and honest and encourage conversations to take place. The more open and inclusive we are as a company the more people will feel truly able to bring their whole selves to work.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Be open, be curious and ask questions. If you don't understand something – ask. Don't just ignore or shy away. Education around LGBTI topics is so important for people to understand and accept.

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I am a registered volunteer for a local children's hospice and am always trying to bring different people together. I attend Pride every year and try and educate people about why it exists and why it still needs to exist!

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
My Nan. She always taught me to treat others how I want to be treated and not to judge. I like to think I would make her proud.

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
A little nervous! Not knowing what to expect, but it was a great event with a welcoming feel.

How has the Link network helped you?
The Link network has helped me hugely. It inspires me to continue to work on ensuring Swiss Re is an inclusive employer. The network has given me the opportunity to meet some fantastic and motivating people that make me want to improve further what we do here. 

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Keep up the good work! As I've said, I think education is key in reducing prejudice.