What is your role?
Head of Diversity & Inclusion
I am a single mother with two adult children, I am the first person in my family to go to university and studied Business Administration with a major in Personnel Studies (oops still showing my age!). I have wanted to work in HR since I was 14, after a two-week work experience stint at the London Stock Exchange. After graduating I started out in training and development and transitioned to Diversity over 10 years ago. I’ve always been the type of person to put my hand up for new opportunities so in my early roles I volunteered to learn new skills aligned to the area my company was expanding in, I took the opportunity to shadow the sales team when the business was looking for growing.
What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
Having supportive managers has been the one constant in helping me to be myself at work, I know that if I need support my manager will support me 100%
b. Do you think there is improvement needed? What are your ideas?
We need to continue to develop role models at all levels, especially those with people management responsibility. It’s not enough to wear a lanyard, consider how you are actually demonstrating support for all LGBT+ colleagues.
We also need to hold people to account for their behaviours and actions – at work we are inclined to focus on the things that we will be rated against. If we want to see change we need to ensure the framework is in place to have a dialogue when it’s not happening.
What was your first motivation to be involved with the LGBT+ community? How has this most positively influenced your experience?
I guess I’ve been an Ally since 2005/6 when a group of LGBT colleagues & Allies wanted to launch an LGBT network, I was inspired to support when it was clear that we were one of the few investment banks not supporting our LGBT+ colleagues. The stories that were shared at our opening event, especially that of Sarah Weir had me hooked! Helping to set up the LGBT network was one of my early steps in transitioning into the field of Diversity & Inclusion and I’ve not looked back since.
Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT people bringing the best of themselves to work?
I am in the very lucky position to engage with colleagues at all levels across the organisation, when people can be themselves they are more engaged, more productive and happier at work and at home. Seeing non-LGBT+ colleagues take the time to learn about the barriers and speak up for their LGBT+ colleagues makes our business a better place for everyone.
Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
I understand that coming out at work is a personal journey and for some can be a difficult next step, my advice would be to start by seeking support from someone you trust, a close colleague or a mentor for example, join a network like Link so that you can build a support network around you and then when you are ready to take that first step you have support around you every step of the way.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To stay true to who you are, never be afraid to stand up for those around you. Your voice is both powerful and important - be sure to use it, to change one person’s life is the first of many steps that changes our world for the better.
Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model
I sit on an advisory council for a UN Foundation project and in 2014 I travelled to Ethiopia to meet women and children refugees. It wasn’t until day 3 of our 5 day trip that I realised I didn’t need to be a celebrity or a life-long campaigner to make a difference to the girls and women I met. I could support them by just being myself – We are all role models, no matter our seniority – we just need to realise that we are!
What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I listen to people when they want a few minutes of my time. I smile and make eye contact when people talk to me. I share things about myself to build relationships. I call out behaviours and banter that could be hurtful to others and I challenge stereotypes and biases by dispelling myths
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
It’s never too late to start!
Listen, Learn and Walk the Talk – you can meet someone for a coffee to learn more about barriers they may have faced at work, you can read articles to learn more.
What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I have been a governor for the last 10 years in my local primary school and regularly go in to speak to children; I think it is important to give back to my local community. In addition I am also an advisory council member for “Girl Up” – a UN Foundation organisation; in this role I am supporting the growth of Girl Up in the UK and across Europe. I am also a mentor for a number of young people and regularly mentor individuals through professional networks.
Who is your most memorable role model and why?
Nelson Mandela, he embodies the very spirit of humbleness and greatness. I visited his home in Johannesburg and the prison in Robin Island a few years ago and learnt of the suffering he and many others endured, but he never gave up and fought each day for peace and harmony – a true role model whom we could all learn from.
How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
My only recollection was the amazing number of people I met, many of whom I continue to network with and have called upon to help me with my diversity and inclusion work across insurance.
How has the Link network helped you?
I think Link does a great job of keeping people connected; I would like to see more thought-leadership here.
What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
I think Link has the ability to connect the younger generations with the more experienced, perhaps establish a mentoring or reverse mentoring programme.