Mickey Elliott, Zurich

Mickey Elliott headshot.JPG

What is your role?
Graphic Design and Creative Consultant

Mickey's Story
I started life at Zurich as an information analyst, but I’ve always held a candle for graphic design. Over the years I learned and trained and eventually started working as a freelancer. After having my son, I had a radical change in career and joined the internal communications team, finding my niche as a graphic design and creative specialist. Switching jobs to something I felt passionate about, it gave me the opportunity to examine what else I was passionate about, and that’s when I started working with our LGBT network, GLEE. Even in a fairly junior role I’ve been able to advocate for change and get my voice heard at the very top table, which goes to show that you don’t need power to make a change, just passion.

What factors allow you to bring your full self to work? 
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?

Zurich is very open and vocal about our Diversity and Inclusion commitments, and our employee networks are very well supported. Chairing the network allows me to have conversations with people that I wouldn’t otherwise meet, and I’ve been fortunate to be supported to develop those relationships. I’m able to travel to other locations to meet people within GLEE, and my managers have always been able to support me in allowing me the time to develop the network.

Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
I absolutely think we’re still on a journey, and I’d love to say that there is complete equality and acceptance but I don’t think we’re there just yet. When we truly start to see people as people, and no longer judge or pigeonhole by gender or sexual orientation, I think we’ll start to see massive change for everyone.

What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
I’m bisexual and married, in an opposite sex relationship. I also have a kid. This makes coming out an ‘event’ for me, as I can’t casually come out by referring to my partner as, to the outside world, I look totally straight. I wanted to challenge the assumptions we make bake based on a person’s current relationship status. When I started getting more involved in GLEE it was a great opportunity to come out more widely, and hopefully it makes people stop and think about the assumptions they make about others.

Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
When you can take the effort that you spend on hiding facts about yourself and channel it into your work, everyone benefits. I often challenge my straight colleagues to go a week without using their partner’s name or pronouns, just to show how stressful it is and how much energy it takes up.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Start having the conversation. The first time you come out it’s scary. If you can practice what you want to say with your friends, people you trust or someone from your network group, you’ll find it gets a little easier each time.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
You don’t have to fit in, and you don’t have to stand out. Doing either because you feel it’s ‘the right thing to do’ is stressful.

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
It was after filming a video about inclusion with our company CEO, which was shown to all employees. I realised that if I could find a way to get my voice into the boardroom, despite being an ordinary working mum – not a manager, not someone with power – just someone with passion, then surely I could inspire others to speak just a little louder about what they care about.

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I tell my story whenever I can. Whenever I have the opportunity to come out, or talk about my experience, whether it’s how I came to head up GLEE or times I’ve faced difficulties in the past. I love awkward questions and the chance to educate people.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
It’s such a cliché, but be yourself. We each have such a varied combination of skills, talents, experiences and struggles that come together to be more than a sum of parts. Your experience and passion to make a difference is what makes you a role model, so capitalise on that and be the best you that you can be.

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
As a mama, I’m trying to make sure that my son sees me making a positive change in the world. We support our local and national LGBT organisations by attending events and rallies, and I also offer my time and skills as a designer to help out local groups – most recently helping promote the Hampshire Pride parades in Winchester. I want my son to see that we all have a voice, and it’s important that we use it.

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
Captain Jon Luc Picard, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard is an excellent example of a leader in an inclusive future. He focusses on skills and outcomes, and leads by example. He nurtures the best from his crew and provides reward and recognition based on merit alone. His morals are strong, and he would never blindly follow orders if it would do harm to anyone. I know it’s a fictional character, but the idea of a society where age, race, ability, gender (or even species!) are irrelevant sounds like bliss.

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
The standard combination of nervous and excited. I don’t get to many events as I’m not based in London, but it’s always good to meet like-minded individuals – especially in the somewhat insular world of insurance.

How has the Link network helped you?
Link has helped to join the dots across companies and make me feel a little bit less alone. Pushing for change within a large organisation can feel very lonely, and it can sometimes feel like you’re trying to turn the tide single handed. Forming up at London Pride in 2017, with Link and the other insurer networks around us, it felt like we were part of something so much bigger.

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Variety is the spice of life. I think that ensuring that our members have diverse experiences and journeys, and making sure that we can interact across a range of media is going to be key to success.