The people listed here are both LGBT+ and allies. They are at different role levels but they all share the same characteristic of being positive role models and emulating and encouraging inclusive behaviours.
Click on an entry to reveal more information about each person and discover the different ways they have found to be a positive role model.
I have lived and worked all over the world. I only came to live in the UK in my early teens – going to a boys boarding school near Cambridge. I was one first girls to go into the school. I was different as I had moved from Jamaica – I had a Jamaican accent, never worn a school uniform let alone shoes and I had been home schooled before I arrived in the UK.
The simple fact for me is that I find it incredibly tiring having to lie about my life.
I was hesitant about coming out at first, but as mentioned, seeing the head of our division confidently out and with no one seemingly bothered then this was the real catalyst for me.
I have family members and many friends who are part of the LGBT community and from a very early age I have heard many different stories, and experiences that people have had when coming out or being around people who are not tolerant and to me it has never entered my head that anyone should be treated differently just because of who they are. When I had the chance to be involved with Pride I jumped at it as I knew how passionately I felt about making a difference and now was the chance to do so.
After I had left a job, an ex-colleague took me out to dinner – she felt sorry for me because she thought I was all on my own. I was shocked and thought, how can you live a lie like that? How could my closest work colleague not know that I had a partner? I was moving to a new company, and I thought "this has got to stop".
I joined our diversity and inclusion steer co 18 months ago. It became very obvious to me at this point **cliché alert** that I had to be the change I wanted to see. We all have a part to play in inclusion. I think it’s easy to assume that someone else is taking care of it.…that it should sit with HR or the leadership team and those were my thoughts until I got my position on that committee. But actually we are ALL responsible and that makes us all role models. We all need to display good behaviours in order to continue to drive an inclusive culture.
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.
We need to facilitate more honest conversations. Being tolerant of the LGBT community is not the goal. Being silent at work while voicing your views on social media is counterproductive and stagnates the pace of change we can make in the insurance sector. We need to have more awkward conversations where we empower people to speak their mind.
I was frustrated to be leading a double life and having become an expert in diverting conversations away from my personal life when everyone else didn’t even need to think about that. Some positive experiences and relationships encouraged me to be myself and that it was ok to be me.
How did I get to be where I am today? An enormous amount of luck – inspiring colleagues, patient clients, great leaders, shared values.
For the record, before entering this industry my previous job was a road sweeper. In May 1984 I moved to London, no flat, no job, no connections and an overdraft – could have been tricky!
Do whatever makes you comfortable. Personally I feel uncomfortable trying to avoid talking about my life outside at work so an initial uncomfortable conversation (which probably is only uncomfortable for you!) means a more enjoyable experience at work. Don’t force yourself or let others push for you to do anything, do whatever you feel in yourself is what will make you most comfortable and therefore allow you to perform at your best.
The first Link event I went to actually only became a Link event retroactively! In May 2015 I hosted the first Leeds LGBT Business Network event at Aon. It was after this event I was asked to join the Link steering committee and Link Up North was born.
Have the courage to know yourself deeply, meet as many people as possible while staying true to your ideas, values nd feelings.
Work on what you are passionate about and do not keep silent about anything you want to say. Trust in good people, avoid toxic ones.
Focus on what you do and what it means, rather than on what you have or how much you make.
When you can take the effort that you spend on hiding facts about yourself and channel it into your work, everyone benefits. I often challenge my straight colleagues to go a week without using their partner’s name or pronouns, just to show how stressful it is and how much energy it takes up.
I came out pretty early in my first job: I was part of a graduate scheme and amongst peers so it was relatively easy. I was in the middle of my first break-up and the group noticed I was not myself and I just told them what was going on. They were fab and supported me and it just grew from there. As soon as I knew I was accepted as myself there was no reason to move to a job where that might be threatened, so I just asked at subsequent interviews. I won’t lie, it was scary and 20 years ago was not a particularly usual question for a candidate to ask in an interview … but it did mean I went confidently into further roles.
The latest thing I’m grappling with is that of my gender identity. Through finding out more of the various identities and have recently come to recognise myself as gender non-binary. It is weird to find myself coming out all over again.
For me it isn’t rocket science it is just about being nice. There are two ways to get the end destination and achieve results – we can be nice, inclusive and give positive reinforcement or we can whip the donkey until it drops and then get another donkey. I prefer the former and having an environment like that makes me feel involved and included. Nice doesn’t mean we can’t achieve and deliver company results it means not having a blame culture, appreciating differences, realising that different skill sets adds value, can we get more out of people if we train and support them etc.
We need more role models across all the spectrum of diversity and we need more dedicated resources to help raise awareness; to educate and to help set the internal agenda for us. We need to expand our dedicated Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs) into more areas such as mental health and disability. We need to move more of the activities we currently do out of London and into the regions and we need to find local partners to help us move our local agendas along.
We are able to retain talent and also drive innovation with having people at the table thinking differently to get the best outcome for our customers. I also believe that they are excellent at assessing risk given that is what they have to do every day. This is a perfect match for an insurance company as that is our core activity.
Advice for my younger-self: Although money is a big incentive, it isn’t everything. Don’t just do a job for what it pays: I’d rather come to work happy every day that hate what I do. You spend the majority of your week at work, why would you want to spend that time feeling miserable.
A culture of acceptance and openness, with the focus on creativity for the business, is at the top of my list of why I would want to work for a specific company. From a gender perspective and an LGBT lens I think there is still a way to go to really turn positive feelings and acceptance into practice. One of the best things about the environment in the London Market is the people and I see relationships that get forged over many years based on mutual respect and admiration.
There are a few people that stick out in my memory for being great role models. I think the best people I have met have all had the following in common. They have been great at including people in their work and making sure that they are contributing. They also are the first to admit that they got it wrong sometimes. However, they learned from the experience and apologised. Good role models that I have had also knew exactly what they brought to the table and how they were able to help. I think that understanding who you are and what your values are is incredibly important.
Many years ago a friend from Birmingham escaped and moved to London. There was no gay scene to speak of in Birmingham at that time so he felt that London was the place to be and moved. After having a wonderful time for a number of years in London, he was killed in a horrendous attack. Originally identified as a homophobic attack, it was later, and wrongly in my eyes, downgraded and reclassified. This experience has shaped how I think. It is incredibly important to be a vocal and prominent ally and I am proud to bring my children up as being open and welcoming to everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Don’t wait to come out at work, be out a work from the start. Often, you being nervous or uncomfortable about coming out is just that, you. Remember, most people don’t care if you are LGBT so give them a chance to accept you for who you are from day one.
In school I learnt a lot of things; being gay wasn’t normal, was one of them. I learnt to divide myself into two different people; public James and private James. For a long time the private James, the gay James, was only for me. He had feelings that could never be discussed openly and wanted a lifestyle that growing up I didn’t really know it existed.
I felt trapped not being out at work. I was out since I was 18 and never held this back until I started my first job in banking. Going back into the closet, even if only at work, was difficult and probably contributed to my frustration with my job. I decided I would look to other opportunities outside banking and that gave me the courage to just take the step and come out to my colleagues as I had nothing to lose. The reaction was on the whole positive, though I had some interesting questions. When I started my first job in insurance at Aon, I brought it up with my manager right away as I wanted to make sure that didn’t hang over my head like it did before. I was free to focus on my work and be myself, which gave me a huge increase in confidence.
I’d advise potential role models that it’s not exactly a strenuous task! Wishing to be a role model already gets you halfway there…Come along to events and ask questions, call people out when they’re being inappropriate. Act on anything you notice in the workplace that isn’t inclusive (even if it means just bringing it up in conversation), and create more opportunities that don’t discriminate. For example, question a recruitment process if it seems to favour applications from certain groups of people – even if it doesn’t seem intentional.
Every time I started a new job, I had the fear of being discriminated against, fear of exclusion, fear of not having career opportunities. This is very stressful and no one should feel this fear anymore. We need to work together to avoid that fear.
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.
Link Christmas Party 2017: I felt proud to be supporting colleagues who I respect, and also to be part of a community that is doing such positive work in the industry. What I also really like was how encouraging and supportive the group was: the welcoming atmosphere was palpable. There was a banner that struck me, with words along the lines of, “It takes more energy to be someone you’re not than someone that you are.”
The Link Committee and network includes so many able, dedicated, talented and good people. Guides like this wouldn’t be possible without so many people giving freely of their time and skills. My focus has been on joining up Link with corporate supporters and influencers across the market, and continuing to challenge the Committee on what role Link plays in the market.
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.
I was finding my feet in the London Insurance market and was invited along to a Link networking event, new to the environment I was keen to engage and found myself feeling very comfortable in an inclusive environment with diverse representation. I enjoyed many positive interactions and made some wonderful new friends.
It was when I realised how lucky I was being able to be myself and conformable with who I am as a person, and the realisation that not everyone is as fortunate to have had the experiences of being ‘out’ as I have. Realising that I then wanted to share these experiences and show that being open and honest to everyone really is the best thing you can do.
My team allows me to be myself at work. They are very friendly and do not judge me based on age or anything else. They have always made me feel involved and included. When I first started I was really nervous to speak to my colleagues, especially as this was my first job. I was also worried that I would be judged for my inexperience of the working world and insurance. However, I soon grew comfortable as they always invited me to lunches, insurer meetings, events etc. This made me feel like part of the team.
It’s vital that every member of staff – whether they identify themselves as LGBT, male, female, old, young etc – brings the best of themselves to work. It is essential to actively and consistently source ideas that help to innovate and differentiate us in a competitive market and if people feel excluded or isolated, it’s likely that their creativity and expression will be suppressed as a result of that.
I am fortunate enough to have a very supportive line manager and team who have always actively encouraged me to be myself and voice my opinion no matter how different or ‘left field’. My opinion is valued as much as everyone else’s in the team, and it is this which makes me feel involved and included despite being quite the ‘odd one out’ I never feel it. I am also encouraged to attend the D&I events that I care about, my team regularly join me at them as allies, and I am able to spend a portion of my time working on D&I initiatives like our LGBT Plus network.
Push for more trans understanding and acceptance, I think we as an insurance industry have a long way to go in this space. Graduates coming into the industry now are more likely to identify as trans or non-binary than ever before – let’s make them welcome.
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).
I came from a very, very, poor working class family, a broken home. I was the youngest of 6; an absent mother and a father who preferred the company of a publican to the company of his children. Studying wasn’t a chore for me – it was a necessity, an escape as I was going to university. I needed to study. I had no parental financing for university...…I worked in a supermarket to raise funds. I financed myself with government support and bank loans and four years later I beat many “elite” students to secure one of six Graduate trainee spots with the RSA in 1995.
So what advice would I give a younger me? Understanding my history, I’d probably get pretty choked and say “You are doing just fine Andrew….stay focused, crack on and never look back”.
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.
I am a diversity champion so I believe in fairness which stems from my own intersectionality and is far reaching so being involved with the LGBT community is simply part of what I believe. My diversity is visible (black female) so I have had to react to people based on what they see and what they believe. Being involved in the LGBT community has given me an appreciation of a managing something that is non-visible and in some instances personally crippling, and therefore made me think on how I communicate to diverse audiences.
I’ve just spent the day in a primary school talking to girls about how to have courage in everyday life. A tough gig when the wide-eyed 11 year olds have more courage to be themselves than I see every day in the workplace. I work closely with my children’s schools on role modelling adult behaviours and sharing life experiences, be it a talk about the wonders of India, the challenges of managing conflict in the work playground or the important of presentation skills to make your message impactful. The world is a rapidly changing place, I marvel at children’s agnostic approach to all diversity issues. These will be our future leaders and with our support, their views will help reshape the world for the better.
I took a call from a fleet engineer of a large customer of my employer. I was asked if it was true I was gay (or to be exact, is it true I’m an F*@*&ng poof). After asking for the question to be repeated, my response was positive: "Yes I was" That person then asked if I was ashamed of myself…. I said "I was certainly not but was he?!". Nothing more was ever said.