What is your role?
Director of Policy, Long Term Savings and Protection. I am also the ABI’s Executive Sponsor for LGBT+ inclusion.
Where do you work?
Association of British Insurers (ABI) – we are the trade body representing the UK’s insurance and long term savings industry.
I’ve worked in financial services for over 20 years, after starting my career as an academic researching criminal law in Germany. I left academia to work as a capital markets lawyer at the Wall Street law firm Cleary Gottlieb and at the investment bank Goldman Sachs. My British partner and I had meanwhile moved to London.
My next move was into policy and regulation, by joining the Financial Services Authority, the forerunner of the FCA, working in policy and public affairs. I joined the ABI in 2006 and since then have led our work in different areas.
What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
In my own career, my experience has been that you need to change the environment yourself, leading by example. But you also should do what you can for those coming after you.
As a member of the ABI’s five-person executive team, I am in the position to shape our culture to make sure that our environment is welcoming to all, and as a representative organisation, we can help set the tone for our sector.
b. Do you think there is improvement needed? What are your ideas?
In our society as a whole, there has been great progress for LGBT+ people in the past two decades or so, although financial services have not exactly been in the vanguard of change.
But now progress is being made, particularly when businesses realise that their bottom line is affected by a lack of diversity. It is fantastic to see some of the ABI’s members, such as Aviva, leading the way on this issue. And groups such as the ABI's partners OUTstanding and Link have a key role here in educating companies about the “return on equality” that comes from investing in LGBT+ staff and in embedding genuinely inclusive cultures.
What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
I have always been out at work. It was vital to me, on a personal, psychological level, to be true to who I am and open about my life.
How the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
There is obviously a psychological cost to LGBT+ people who feel unable to be themselves at work - and that will affect their productivity too.
Employers also gain hugely by employing those who are outside a mainstream culture - an ability to see beyond societal “norms” can lead to fresh insights that are greatly beneficial to organisations.
Finally, if employers want to attract young talent, having a diverse and inclusive culture is key – millennials in particular look for diverse and inclusive employers.
Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Take the plunge! It may be less scary than you think. And remember the quote “a life lived in fear is a life half-lived”.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’m not sure she would have taken it!
Describe the moment you realised you were a role model
Probably when younger members of staff confided in me, at social events. It made me realise that they have benefitted from a senior member of staff being out, and supportive, at work.
What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
Lead by example – including speaking about my home life - and treat people as I would like to be treated.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Be true to yourself and be kinder to others than necessary - everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I support organisations that promote diversity and equality in all its forms and act as a mentor to others.
Who is your most memorable role model and why?
I haven’t had role models (or mentors) but I am drawn to people who show warmth, integrity and a generosity of spirit.