Katherine Russill, Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)

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What is your role?
Courseware Editor

Katherine’s Story
Throughout school, I never anticipated that I would end up in publishing or insurance. I was deemed to be ‘not academic’. However, when I went to university, I found my niche and ended up excelling. My tutor’s suggested I consider a career in publishing.

After graduating 5 years ago, I found work as an Editorial Assistant at a medical journal. About a year later I moved to a legal solutions/publishing company (which was owned by the same corporate group as the medical journal) to work as an Editor. I stayed in that company for nearly 2 years before I felt it was time to move on.

What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
With the work of CII’s LGBT+ Advocates (of which I am Chair) and the continuing work with Stonewall to increase our Equality Index ranking, it is clear that the CII is committed to creating and maintaining an LGBT+ inclusive work environment.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed? What are your ideas?
There are always ways to improve. In fact, better involvement with Link has been identified as one of the areas we were lacking – so I guess that’s (partly) why I’m here!

What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
I never thought of the need to not be out at work – I try to be open in every aspect of my life. However, in previous workplaces I did experience panphobic comments. But rather than be cowed, it gave me even more motivation to be out and to educate anyone who may be ignorant (not just of pansexuality, but of all identities).

Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
I believe that people work best when they operate in ‘safe’ spaces. If someone doesn’t need to be self-conscious about their identity, be judged and are comfortable, then we aren’t expending energy on misplaced anxiety and can improve output.

I work with study texts and it can be easy for our writers to use ‘default’ language, which is often white, straight, cis, able-bodied and male aligned. The CII now has inclusive language guidelines to help direct our internal and external communications to resist this pitfall. I hope this widens the appeal of our products to a wider demographic.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Check your company policies – is there a transitioning policy? Is there a complaints procedure in case you do experience or witness any LGBT+ phobic behaviour and language? Is there and LGBT+ network?

And start small – maybe come out to a colleague you feel safe and comfortable with and then work from there to be open with all your colleagues.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be kinder to yourself.

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
When a family member told me the looked up to me.

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I have a badge in my signature that shows I am and LGBT+ Advocate, but also I try to lean into the conversations about gender and sexuality. I seek to be better informed than I was yesterday.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Don’t feel you have to be a role model 100% complete at all hours of the day. You do not need to be perfect all the time – in fact it is impossible! It’s more about the behaviours you portray. If you are wrong, admit to it; if you don’t know the answer, find someone who does.

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
Treating people the way I want to be treated – with compassion.

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
Honestly, I don’t really have one. I admire lots of things about lots of people – no one stands out.

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
Haven’t been yet *hangs head in shame*.

How has the Link network helped you?
Theresa Farrenson gave a great training session on Inclusive Language – it helped bolster the efforts of the LGBT+ Advocates.

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Honestly, I’m not sure. But whatever they do end up doing, I’m willing to help!