What is your role?
I started working in insurance in 1982, a lone female in a male dominated world. My first same sex relationship came after about 10 years of working and I realised the enormous challenge of being different at work. But I got through, and had the courage to take on new roles and new challenges before I ultimately became CEO of Lloyd’s in 2014.
What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
We have worked hard to have open dialogue and put some of the big issues out on the table. One specific memory sticks out for me: I will always remember the launch event for pride@Lloyd’s, a colleague approached me, who had been working here for a decade, and he told me how fantastic it was that we were having the event. He told me that his son is gay and he always thought that he could not talk about him at work – but now he felt that he could. That is how it feels – we can talk about these things now. It’s just another part of bringing your whole self to work.
b. Do you think there is improvement needed? What are your ideas?
I think there is improvement needed. We have got to communicate the business case. We have to communicate that we mean it, and that it matters. The reason why I say this is because people don’t trust business at the moment. We have got to communicate that we mean this and earn that trust. We have got to create charters and codes of conduct for businesses to sign up for. We should put in place targets and score cards and measure ourselves against them. Policies – they have to be up to date and support inclusive and flexible workplaces. We should provide training on how to create diverse teams. We need to encourage employee resource groups to tackle the bad behaviours. We should discuss the real issues and get the issues out on the table and celebrate success and diversity.
What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
My motivation was that I was moving to a new job and I decided that I could not hide anymore. It was not fair on my partner, or me, or my work colleagues.
It was a particular incident that I remember well: After I had left a job, an ex-colleague took me out to dinner – she felt sorry for me because she thought I was all on my own. I was shocked and thought, how can you live a lie like that? How could my closest work colleague not know that I had a partner? I was moving to a new company, and I thought "this has got to stop".
It lifted a weight from my shoulders and I felt free. It’s remarkable to be able to be yourself at work.
Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
We know that the more engaged employees are the more productive than they are at work. No need to explain the science, but that means that if we can engage the LGBT community than the entire company benefits.
Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Think about how you are being negatively impacted by not being out at work. Think about the positive impact you would have on others if you come out. Think about the positive impact you would have on yourself. I think you will find that you would be supported by the employer and your colleagues.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t try to be something that you are not – you are the one that suffers at the end of the day. And you can be so much more impactful if you behave as you truly are.
Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
We are all role models at some stage and often don’t realise it. The first time that I was thinking about how I was a role model was when I attended a woman's network event. I was the most senior person in the company that attended. Later, I got an email from a young associate to thank me for turning up. Just because I showed up - they felt that I was as supporting women. That was the first time that I realised that even just showing up can make such a positive impact.
What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I use language that is inclusive as possible. I challenge people if I feel they have said something that is not appropriate. I aim to be there to listen to anyone that just wants to talk about something in confidence. I will do what I can to use my profile to accelerate the need for change.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Be yourself - it has to be genuine so don’t force it. If you want to be a role model and it feels forced, try sharing your experience with others, and listen to what others are saying to understand what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes. No-one knows what it is like to be someone else. But we should do what we can to listen and share.
What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I get a lot of requests to speak, to mentor people, to speak to groups – my schedule will not allow me to do all of it, and if I can’t I will find someone who can and connect people.
Who is your most memorable role model and why?
For me, quite recently, it is HSBC’s Antonio Simoes whom I heard speak at an LGBT event at Davos. It was remarkable to see a CEO of a serious financial services business talking about his sexuality and it was very inspirational.
How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
I missed the launch. The first Link event that I went to was a gathering at a pub. I was surprised at how few women were there, but I loved the informal and welcoming atmosphere. It was a very welcoming environment. Since then, really fantastic events have taken place.
How has the Link network helped you?
It has helped me in terms of having someone - now I guide people to Link. I have people that come to me that need some advice and I am able to show them Link and encourage them to go along. It’s a positive thing.
When it comes to supporting and running insurance events for LGBT people I go straight to Link.
What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Start connecting MORE with other groups that are for the underrepresented groups. Because Link has reached the stage where it is successful, it is known, and delivers, and now we can have a positive influence on other groups.