Stephanie McCahon, Swiss Re

Stephanie McCahon (pic).JPG

What is your role?
Claims Medical Manager

Stephanie's Story
I grew up and gained my qualifications as an Occupational Therapist in Australia, but have now lived and worked in London for almost 14 years (yes, despite the weather!!). I met my – also Australian – husband here 8 years ago and we have a 2-year-old son and baby number 2 due in April. I've worked for Swiss Re for almost 10 years in the area of life and health disability claims, where my team's focus is on helping our clients to help people recover and get back to work. What I really enjoy about my job is the need to be innovative in how we link best practice in the medical and rehabilitation fields, into the business environment of re/insurance claims. Helping people at a low point in their lives is at the core, and the creativity comes in how to best do this in a way that's equally clinically sound, customer-focused, and cost-effective.

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

I feel very lucky to work within a team and wider department where people genuinely care about each other and are interested in each other as people, and not just colleagues. I think formal policies about how people should treat each other are important and have a place, but for me day-to-day I feel involved and included because people take the time to ask how I'm feeling, share their weekend plans, want to sit and have lunch together, and care about what makes me tick as a person.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
Yes, improvement is needed! But I also think we're on the right path. My sense is that there are pockets of things being done really well, but also a way to go until everyone feels comfortable and confident in bringing their true self to work. The open discussion and acceptance that change is needed is great, the next big step is the DOING it – and for this to be consistent across teams/departments/regions.

What was your first motivation to be involved with the LGBT community? How has this most positively influenced your experience?
One of my team members and another department colleague are proactive founding members of our company LGBT network. Also my eldest sister is gay (..as is her girlfriend!). I have gay friends. I wanted to become an Ally to visibly show my support for my colleagues, family and friends. It wasn't until I attended a talk from Stonewall that I realised it's not necessarily enough to be accepting of the LGBT community (as this isn't necessarily visible to others) – it's more helpful and powerful to be a proactive and vocal supporter.

Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT people bringing the best of themselves to work?
I think only good things – including positive working relationships, creativity, and increased productivity – can come from people feeling comfortable enough to be honest and open about who they are as individuals. A lot of energy can be wasted, and valuable talent lost, by people's thoughts being sidelined feeling they need to hide aspects of themselves at work. Confident and content people make more positive contributions to teams: so it makes perfect sense to me to do whatever we can to create an environment that fosters that confidence and contentment.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
It's a difficult perspective for me to give advice on, as a non-LGBT person. My Ally advice would be: just as people don’t yet know the true you, there are plenty of people out there who are supportive of you – even though their unquestioning acceptance of you might not be obvious. A poster I saw at a festival sums it up well: "We have far more in common than that which divides us"… That's a bit of a leap of faith for someone who isn't out at work yet, but a slightly different way of looking at a situation where you might be anticipating a negative reaction.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep learning about yourself and others.

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
…When my team member asked me to complete this questionnaire!!

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I aim to be true to myself, although I admit I definitely have room to improve on always bringing my own true self to work. I try to treat everyone fairly, and I don’t think that this always means treating everyone the same – I think it means treating each person as an individual with unique needs and preferences.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Another catch-phrase, sorry!, but I really like this one: "Be [with] someone you want to be with."

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
…Nothing ground-breaking, I'll admit!! I try to always respect people similarly whether in my personal or work life. Raising a toddler has made me really conscious of striving not to perpetuate stereotypes – I've noticed how easy it is to slip into doing this, whether it's relating to sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion, or ethnicity.

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
A bit of a cliché but my first response would be my lovely Mum, whose best, frequent and wise advice is always to “be kind to yourself”.

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
Link Christmas Party 2017: I felt proud to be supporting colleagues who I respect, and also to be part of a community that is doing such positive work in the industry. What I also really like was how encouraging and supportive the group was: the welcoming atmosphere was palpable. There was a banner that struck me, with words along the lines of, “It takes more energy to be someone you’re not than someone that you are.” (The Barberfellas were also great entertainment!)

How has the Link network helped you?
Knowing that it is there, and active in the industry, I feel is a really positive thing for the insurance industry.

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Disappear as quickly as possible: as that would mean that there is true equality and acceptance.