Prashant Mahendran, QBE

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What is your role?
Catastrophe Risk Analyst

Prashant's Story
I’ve been working at QBE since November 2016, and I came in as a Graduate. I studied Earth Science at university – safe to say I didn’t anticipate joining the Insurance Industry.

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

I don’t feel like there have been many discussions at work I couldn’t be a part of as a result of my sexuality.  There is always the fear of ‘locker room talk’ which fortunately I’ve rarely come across here.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
There will always be room for improvement and I think there shouldn’t ever be a point where you could say that everything is perfect. I feel that a lot of people working in the industry who aren’t LGBT+ are under the impression that because there has been a lot of positive change, there’s nothing left to do. My solution to everything would be to talk more about these topics. Not only would that help educate a wider audience, but it would make people who aren’t LGBT+ feel less awkward about having that sort of discussion

What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
I talk to my colleagues far too much to be able to keep up a lie, so I pretty much automatically came out. I don’t feel like I would’ve been able to make natural connections speaking to people in the workplace if I was holding back a part of myself.

How has the business has been improved by LGBT people bringing the best of themselves to work?
I don’t see how someone could perform at their best unless they’re happy and comfortable at work.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
I’m sure people are worried about the negative aspects/reactions of their colleagues. The way I see it, it’s equally important to be aware of any negativity so you can deal with it, rather than not knowing what you’re dealing with. Of course the response is always far more positive than people expect, but the worst case scenario is still just being more aware.  

What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’m not sure if under 2 years in the industry warrants a look back at my younger self, but if I looked further back to being a child I’d tell myself to worry less about the word ‘gay’. It seemed like a lot of drama over a word. 

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
I was probably a little concerned that it would come across as smug to refer to myself as a role model but that was just me worrying over semantics. I spoke to Theresa (Co-Chair of Link) about why I wasn’t sure if I could call myself a role model. She then responded with a few examples of how helping out with LINK, the QBE Pride network or speaking at an event would warrant being a role model as I’ve at least taken some action to try and better the work environment for others. 

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
Just being open to discussions – these range from the importance of being an ally, why LGBT+ networks are important, or how it is important to understand the different struggles people face. I try to be aware of the issues other people face – while I may find it easy to be out in the workplace, others may not.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
I’d advise them that it’s not exactly a strenuous task! Wishing to be a role model already gets you halfway there…Come along to events and ask questions, call people out when they’re being inappropriate. Act on anything you notice in the workplace that isn’t inclusive (even if it means just bringing it up in conversation), and create more opportunities that don’t discriminate. For example, question a recruitment process if it seems to favour applications from certain groups of people – even if it doesn’t seem intentional.

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I’m always ready to call out inappropriate behaviour – it’s even more of an issue outside of work if people are hiding their true views only to express them in a different environment.

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
I would say Keegan Hirst, as I attended DiveIn event he spoke at about coming out as a gay Rugby League Player. Homophobia in sport is a huge problem and it seems like one of the toughest fields to come out in (at least in a country like ours). He probably helped change people’s perceptions of what a Rugby player ‘should be’.

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
Quite excited – I love any excuse to chat to people and everyone at the LINK events has been extremely easy to talk to.

How has the Link network helped you?
I’ve been delighted to meet everyone I have at all the events. I’ve spoken to such a wide range of people, some with similar backgrounds to me and others very different. I feel like the network has helped me understand other people in the LGBT+ community and how varied their backgrounds can be.

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Just existing is enough – it’s a brilliant signpost for anyone newly joining the insurance industry that like-minded people have been able to be part of such a successful and large network.