What is your role?
Head of Wordings
I started working as a junior technician for a broker in the late 80s, back when processing was still done with bits of paper! The broker is long since gone, as are the bits of paper! My career developed through the 90s as I gained more senior positions and at the beginning of the century, I changed track and moved into the Underwriting fraternity by joining Aon’s MGA business.
More recently I’ve worked for QBE and following a short spell at the now defunct ProSight syndicate, I’m now having a challenging and enjoyable time working for Accredited Insurance (Europe) Ltd – Part of the Randall and Quilter Group (R&Q).
What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
My personal history is a total non-issue. I’m accepted totally for who I am and I’m respected for what I bring to the table as an individual.
b. Do you think there is improvement needed? What are your ideas?
My current employers can’t do anything more really.
What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
For a Trans-person transitioning there’s no hiding; there has to be a day when you present yourself in the workplace in the ‘true’ gender. It took a while for people to adjust, if I’m honest, in hindsight I underestimated how long it would take them to get used to it. However I’ve found it tremendously liberating and empowering. Every day since, I’ve gone to work knowing that I’m not hiding anymore.
Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
The world is full of different people with different life experiences and LGBT+ people are no different. More often they’ve come from a position where they’d had to fight to be who they are, and that builds character.
Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
I’d like to say ‘just do it’ but I know it’s not that easy. It’s sad to say, that while we’re on the cusp of the third decade of the twenty first century, there are still individuals and managers who hold views that belong to a bygone age and companies that turn a blind eye. Fortunately, they’re heading to Jurassic Park….
Anyway, even in the most archaic institutions there are decent people who are prepared to listen and care. Find a friend within the company – so you can be yourself to at least one person, then build from there. Look for support beyond the company, Stonewall, Link etc. Above all, believe; believe in yourself and that things will always turn out for the best, even in the most unexpected way.
10. What advice would you give to your younger self?
To be patient with others and remember that it’s not all about you!
Also stay off the chocolate…
Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
Oh wow, I never realised I was!
Personally, I feel more of a role model in my career rather than as a transgendered woman. That said, I’ve been approached by a few people who were considering transitioning over the years; one of whom has very high profile in her particular industry. So, if there was a moment that made me realise I could be a ‘role model,’ it was when this lady reached out and asked for advice. It was quite a humbling experience!
What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I think just being professional in the workplace, and treat everyone with respect, be they serving your morning coffee or the CEO. We are all human, we have feelings, dreams and desires and it costs nothing to be kind to those who we interact with. To quote Monty Python: You come in to the world with nothing and you leave with nothing, so no-one is any better (or worse) than anyone else.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Be nice. If someone is unpleasant, be nice. If you’re nice, people will remember you more fondly than if you are obnoxious and moreover, it will help dissolve and preconceived ideas that they may have. People are likely to adopt a negative stereotype of ‘our’ community if you behave like an idiot, so don’t!
What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
Ironically, I’m writing this on Transgender day of visibility, and I’m going to replay a piece of advice someone gave to me many years ago. I’m a transgendered woman. I have a perfect right to be so and to be able to go where I please, but I should also be mindful of where I am and who I’m with. I could be the first Transgendered person someone meets, and that may create a lasting impression so it’s important that it’s a positive one.
Who is your most memorable role model and why?
As a transgendered woman, it must be Caroline Cossey, who was a supermodel in the 70s and 80s until the tabloids got hold of her story and basically outed her, in their own charming style. Her story changed my life in so many ways.
Otherwise its Bob Geldof and Midge Ure; architects of Band Aid and Live Aid. Two men who in 1984, proved that with nothing but determination and bloody mindedness went on to change the world.
How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
It was a few years ago, and it changed a lot for me. Since transition, I had tried to keep quiet about my personal history, it was something that happened, and I’ve moved on from there. Also, to be honest, I thought the Insurance world would be the last place on earth where such a group would exist, let alone thrive. But it does exist, and it has thrived, and it’s changed my perception of how I fit in the world.
How has the Link network helped you?
I wish it had been around twenty years ago! I suppose it’s nice to know that I’m not alone, although I’ve yet to meet another transgendered woman from the London Market.
What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Firstly, for people in this Market, it provides a valuable support network. As I said, twenty years ago when I transitioned there was nothing and I was fortunate that I was in a company and working with people who provided a lot of support. It could easily have been very different.
Secondly, there’s it’s position as a voice in the Market. It’s got this precious platform, where the Market is listening and engaging with it through things like the Dive In festival. It has the support and backing of significant market players which is making others sit up a listen.
Finally, there’s that fab first Tuesday social – an easy way to break the ice…