Marianne Skinner, Zurich

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What is your role?
Real Estate Underwriter

Marianne's Story
I’m relatively new to both London and insurance, having joined Zurich’s general management graduate scheme in 2015. I actually studied chemistry at university so, like many, fell into the industry by a happy accident. Since completing the scheme in 2017, I’ve been working as a real estate underwriter in London, which is both challenging and a lot of fun. Outside work, I love exploring new places and trying out new things and so can get a bit twitchy if stuck inside for too long! I do love a good natter over a cup of tea though, so by all means please come and say hello!

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

When I sat down to think about this, I actually found it very hard to pinpoint. I’ve been fortunate to work with a lovely group of sensible, non-prejudiced people, who make being myself at work very easy, and so I’ve never stopped to think about it before. Knowing that I have the support of my colleagues also means that I feel comfortable telling new clients and brokers too, if it comes up in conversation.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
Having said that, I think there is definitely room for some improvements. For example, small touches in the offices would help let someone new know that it is a welcoming environment. For example, rainbow ally lanyards are a really nice touch that some companies have adopted – I’d know for sure I was amongst friends. I also think our fantastic internal networks could be better advertised during recruitment. Sometimes the little things can make the biggest difference!

What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
I was determined that after the headache of coming out as a teenager I wasn’t going to allow myself to get back into a situation where it had to be a big announcement, because once you’re back in that place, it becomes a much bigger uphill battle. So I’ve been out since the start of my career. For me, I can’t imagine not being out at work; it makes a huge difference to me to be able to come into the office and be able to chat about my life the same as anyone else. Being myself has also allowed me the confidence to try and make a difference for other people too.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
You are not alone in this. It can be incredibly daunting, and depending on whether you’re out outside of work, it can also be quite lonely. Speak to someone you trust, whoever that might be, so that you’re not struggling by yourself. It’s also completely your decision to come out or not – if you’re not ready then that’s okay too. But when you are, I guarantee there will be so many people who will be ready to support you than you’d ever have expected.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Try not to worry so much! Having said that, I could still do with taking that advice now..

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
I’m not sure there was a defining moment; I think by just deciding to be an openly gay woman in the insurance industry one becomes a bit of a role model by default as there aren’t that many of us!

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I’m not a high profile member of the insurance industry, and so my platform to be a traditional role model is limited, but I always try to be open, genuine and approachable. If seeing me around, or being able to talk to me about LGBT life, could have even a small impact for one person then that’s enough for me. I also try to do what I can to support any LGBT initiatives happening in my company or across the industry, either through participation or by helping to organise them.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
I personally think being a role model is something that happens naturally through your actions. But you have to be willing to be genuine. If you can find something you really believe in, and do your best to fight for that, then I think you’ll become a role model without realising.

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I’m a member of the Link committee which means that I have a great platform to directly contribute to the progress of diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry. In particular, I’ve been involved in the organisation of some of the London Dive In events, which has been a fantastic experience and allowed me to work with some amazing individuals.

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
My biggest role model is Brandon Stanton, founder and owner of Humans of New York. What started as a photography project in 2010 has led Brandon to showcase stories from people all over the world, giving people a platform which they don’t usually get. I think his work is incredible, through social media he has managed to shift the perceptions of millions of people and raise money for so many humanitarian causes. If you haven’t seen his work, I would urge you to go check it out.