Sarah Booth, Beazley

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What is your role?
Senior risk manager 

Sarah's Story
I’m from Glasgow and spent the first few years of my working life there in a call centre for Lloyds TSB bank.  I realised pretty quickly that if I wanted to advance my career I should look in to going to university.  At 23 I was old enough to know to choose a subject which would get me a job at the end of it.  Having worked in financial services I identified risk as a growth area and so decided to study risk management.  Many of the risk management degree alumni make their way in to insurance and so here I am. 

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

I think most would agree that we are in an industry which has historically been very male, white and middle class.  I identify as female and I had a very working class upbringing so there could have been challenges for me.  Thankfully, I work for an organisation that has moved on quite significantly from the traditional status quo so, I’ve never felt like I couldn’t be myself or didn’t have a voice here at Beazley.  Not only do we fully embrace diversity and inclusion but we also have our Beazley values which underpin the idea that everyone can bring their whole selves to work.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
We should always strive to improve.  The work is never done.  Until every organisation in the corporate world has diversity at every level then improvement will continue to be needed.  And even when we get there we need to remain engaged in the topic so we don’t go backwards.  This obviously can’t happen overnight but working on the pipeline to bring through diverse candidates and ensuring the culture continues to support diversity and inclusion are two key elements.  I think tone from the top is also incredibly important.  Our CEO is so open to hearing what he can do to help shift the dial in the D+I space which has been instrumental in continuing the diversity conversation and action at Beazley.

What was your first motivation to be involved with the LGBT+ community? How has this most positively influenced your experience?

There are many elements that have driven me.  One is the fact that I have several people close to me who are part of the LGBT+ community.  I’ve been privy to some of the challenges faced by those individuals – at work, at home and during their education simply because of their sexual orientation.   To me that’s a massive injustice.  And that’s another element.  I simply don’t like injustices in any context and if I can help change hearts and minds in that space then I want to do all that I can.  Seeing some of the changes in recent years has been the most positive thing for me.  People I personally know beginning to feel as though barriers to them coming out are being removed, allowing them to be open about their lives and relationships. 

How the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
I think this is bigger than what I personally think or see.  Time and time again, study after study, anecdote after anecdote.  When people can be themselves they feel happier, less anxious and more relaxed.  This leads to increased productivity which ultimately impacts the bottom line.  Working towards creating such environments is, for me, a no brainer.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
My advice would really depend on the individual and the place of work.  Here at Beazley my advice to everyone would be “be yourself”.  There’s so much support here for you.  Of course that’s easy for me to say isn’t it?  I’ve never been on the receiving end of bad behaviour because of my sexual orientation so I recognise that it’s not quite that straight forward.  I also understand that some places are not as far along their diversity journey as we are here and that can make coming out more difficult.  I genuinely believe there is some form of support for everyone though.  And even if that isn’t immediately obvious within your own organisation there will be someone willing to help you.  Come to first Tuesday drinks and hear from others who have been through it.     

What advice would you give to your younger self?
The same advice as above.  Be yourself.  The years I spent worrying about what others might think or that I wasn’t good enough for certain roles because of my background.  I can now see that my life experiences and the things that differentiate me are what mean I can bring diversity of thought to the workplace and ultimately help the business succeed. 

What was the moment you realised you were a role model?
I joined our diversity and inclusion steer co 18 months ago.  It became very obvious to me at this point **cliché alert** that I had to be the change I wanted to see.  We all have a part to play in inclusion.  I think it’s easy to assume that someone else is taking care of it.…that it should sit with HR or the leadership team and those were my thoughts until I got my position on that committee.  But actually we are ALL responsible and that makes us all role models.  We all need to display good behaviours in order to continue to drive an inclusive culture.

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
As I mentioned earlier, the Beazley values are very aligned with the behaviours required to create a good D+I culture so being a positive role model is not a challenging thing to do here. 

More generally, in my day to day life it’s back to what I said previously about injustice.  I try and call it out in all contexts.  Often just speaking up in a supportive way can help moderate others’ behaviour.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Some times people do or say something you don’t think is quite right.  Call them out.  But call them out supportively.  We are all on a journey and all at different stages.  Create the inclusive culture but do it in a way that helps educate and not alienate – that’s the spirit of inclusion.  Not everyone understands that certain behaviours or language can be hurtful.

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
As per the above: Supportively calling out those things which I don’t think are quite right.  I also always try to lead by example by inclusive behaviour. 

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
My head of 6th year at school, Miss Rafferty.  I won’t give away my age but I can tell you I finished high school more than two decades ago.   She really instilled the belief in the young women she was responsible for that we could be anything and a successful career was ours for the taking.  I know that sounds simple but this was actually a very progressive point of view 20 years ago.  Especially in a city which at the time had relatively high levels of poverty.  In the area I grew up most families did not have money to provide the opportunity for their children to have a tertiary education so it wasn’t easy having aspirations.  I’ll never forget the positive influence she had on me and credit her with many of my achievements. 

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
Fantastic!  What’s not to love?  Everyone is friendly and supportive.  If you are thinking about it just do it.

How has the Link network helped you?
In many ways, but in the interest of time I’ll share my favourite experience since I joined.  Hands down attending the London pride parade with other insurers.  It was an amazing day and just reinvigorated my commitment to supporting D+I.

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
I think continuing to provide a supportive and safe network is key.  In terms of the detail beyond that, new generations will tell us what they want and need.  Being there to offer support will always be required – whether it’s gen X or millennials or the new wave of generations coming through.  We are all still human and everyone needs somewhere to turn at sometime.