What is your role?
Head of Diversity and Inclusion, UK and Europe
I have been in HR for over 20 years, both within the public and private sector. Over the last 7 years I have specialised in diversity and inclusion, building on my personal and professional experience. Lifelong education is important to me – I was seriously bullied in my teens, being hospitalised at one point, and at 16 years old I was literally told I was too stupid to stay on in my Birmingham based Comprehensive School by my teacher and that higher education was beyond my capability. I now hold a BA (hons), MA, MPhil and I am just completing my PhD. I am also a Fellow of the CIPD. Being told I was too stupid actually spurred me on to prove them wrong, but I am always aware that it could have completely gone the other way.
What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
We have a very open culture at AIG, with senior leaders being incredibly supportive of under represented employees. We have 14 Employee Resource Groups across Europe covering 7 strands of diversity and these staff networks are all run by enthusiastic volunteers. I am comfortable being my authentic self at work, and I have a personal objective to encourage others to do the same.
b. Do you think there is improvement needed? What are your ideas?
We could always do with some more role models – I know we have bi and lesbian women in the company but they do not want to come forward as role models which is disappointing, although understandable.
What was your first motivation to be involved with the LGBT+ community? How has this most positively influenced your experience?
Many years ago a friend from Birmingham escaped and moved to London. There was no gay scene to speak of in Birmingham at that time so he felt that London was the place to be and moved. After having a wonderful time for a number of years in London, he was killed in a horrendous attack. Originally identified as a homophobic attack, it was later, and wrongly in my eyes, downgraded and reclassified. This experience has shaped how I think. It is incredibly important to be a vocal and prominent ally and I am proud to bring my children up as being open and welcoming to everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
Quite simply how can an employee bring their best to their work if they are spending so much energy on hiding who they truly are?
Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Seek out a role model in the business if possible, outside if not. Talk over your fears with them. Also make use of your allies.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Some really rubbish things are going to happen, but some really good things will happen too. That’s the journey so try to either enjoy it or learn from it.
Describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
I feel uncomfortable with the term as it feels very grown up!
What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I try to be honest and open on a day to day basis. I also try to be friendly, approachable and open to new experiences.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Try your best, even if it doesn’t work out all of the time…
What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
From a family perspective my husband and I try to be good role models to our 4 children. All are now teenagers and have an acute sense of fairness and openness. We speak openly about sexual orientation and the fluidity of gender identity regularly and we are incredibly proud of their advocacy for LGBT+ rights. As a West Ham United season ticket holder I am also a member of Pride of Irons, the LGBT+ fan group. With only 200 or so members, from 54,000 ticket holders we are a small but important group!
Who is your most memorable role model and why?
My friend, Julia. I met Julia before she transitioned and I was incredibly proud to support her through her transition a number of years ago. She went through such a difficult time with such grace and is an inspiration.
How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
How has the Link network helped you?
Its great to have a professional network to encourage young LGBT+ professionals into the industry.
What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Stay fresh and relevant, get some GenZ on board as advisors. Millenials will soon be the ‘old’ generations,