February marked LGBTQ+ History Month – a time to recognise and reflect on the impact of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals on history. As a part of our celebration at UCL Guild, committee members organised an ‘LGBTQ+ Panel & Networking’ event, bringing members an exclusive opportunity to speak and listen to representatives from Accenture, Macquarie, Capital One and Oliver Wyman, who kindly shared their experiences of being LGBTQ+ in the workplace.
The UCL Guild had the pleasure to host:
- Rica Paras (Senior Manager at Accenture Technology Practice)
- Sam Turnpenny (Talent Attraction Specialist at Accenture)
- Kris Vucak (Vice-President in Commodities and Global Markets at Macquarie)
- Scott Liu (Executive in the Macquarie Asset Management Division)
- Mark Abrahamson (Partner and Head of UK Finance and Risk at Oliver Wyman)
- Dave Richards (Head of Corporate Responsibility at Capital One UK)
The event began with speakers introducing students to different affinity networks and resource groups available at each of their respective companies. Attendees first heard from Dave, who currently chairs the LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group at Capital One, also known under the name of Out Front. Officially launched in 2019, Out Front fosters open channels of communication and engagement among LGBTQ+ associates, leaders and allies, and focuses on raising awareness through organising a range of events and internal campaigns. Out Front is only one of many Business Resource Groups available at Capital One, which, having collectively amassed over 30,000 members, strives to provide resources for professional development, connections, cultural celebrations and community engagement.
Next, Rica and Sam introduced two inspiring initiatives at Accenture: the PRIDE Network and Global Trans+ Support Group Network. As underscored by Sam, the PRIDE Network at Accenture is one of the largest LGBTQ+ Inclusion Resource Groups (IRGs) globally, involving over 200,000 employees worldwide. The network focuses on professional development, inclusive policies, recruitment, promotion and retention guidelines, insurance of equal benefits (including insurance coverage for gender affirmation surgery), employee resource groups, as well as a global ally programme. Beyond this, Accenture has specialised programmes for transgender and transitioning employees. Students heard more about such initiatives from Rica, who currently leads the Global Trans+ Support Group Network. This network supports transitioning employees, whether in providing employees with specific guidelines on handling important changes in a workplace setting (e.g. name change), or through educating trans individuals on the firm’s opportunities, particularly with regards to benefits with Accenture insurance providers. Projecting into the future, Rica hopes that one day the network will introduce more specialised sub-groups for trans-men, trans-women and non-binary individuals.
In addition, students also heard from Mark, who serves as an executive at GLOW (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Allies at Oliver Wyman) and sits on the firm’s Inclusion Council. Through organising a range of diversity forums, mentoring sessions, and social impact projects, GLOW aims to foster a culture of authenticity, supporting inclusion and diversity initiatives and advocating for the unique needs of Oliver Wyman’s LGBTQ+ employees. When asked how Oliver Wyman have adapted their initiatives and fostered an inclusive environment during the pandemic, Mark reflected on how the digital shift created an opportunity for their LGBTQ+ global network to come together for the first time, in the form of a global Town Hall organised for the network in 2020.
From a more personal perspective, Kris and Scott shared their experiences in joining Macquarie, of which both considered their experiences to have been very positive so far. They introduced students to Macquarie’s PRIDE Employee Network Group, which focuses on inclusive policies, ongoing education, awareness, and community engagement. When asked about his experience in bringing his authentic self to work, Scott reflected on his first day at Macquarie. He recalled the simple things, such as employees wearing LGBTQ+ badges, and how such acts made him much more comfortable being himself in his work environment. These experiences at Macquarie solidified his belief that showing newcomers that the company has a safe and supportive environment is the most important thing in successfully building authenticity in the workplace. This belief was also shared by Mark, who considered inclusivity in the workplace to be greatly impactful on one’s personal life.
Unfortunately, research shows that 40% of LGBTQ+ employees are still not out at work. As such, speakers were asked as to why they thought this was still the case, as well as what potential changes could be implemented. Firstly, Rica reflected on how levels of support given to LGBTQ+ and transgender individuals have taken a massive leap from when she first started working. She recalled her early years in the industry, sharing with students how few opportunities there were for transgender individuals to take up client-facing roles and how the concept of support groups wasn’t fully developed. We also heard from Sam, who highlighted how over the last few years many firms have successfully eliminated bias in recruitment and started to create a more equitable hiring process. However, he believes that focus must now shift to performance management and ensuring representation at all levels of organisations. This concept was further taken up by Dave, who agreed that issues of progression, which could stem from the higher level of imposter syndrome in LGBTQ+ communities, are now becoming a new focus of LGBTQ+ support groups in many companies.
Finally, speakers were asked to share a word of wisdom for young LGBTQ+ professionals:
Kris: Join support groups and be yourself in the workplace.
Scott: Get involved in the LGBTQ+ community or PRIDE network at your workplace to find like minded people and make the transition from university to work environment much easier.
Dave: Masking an aspect of your identity is hugely exhausting and will have a knock-on effect to your productivity at work. Get into a workplace where you feel comfortable and be your full authentic self. In your interview, ask about what support there is and what the culture of the organisation is like.
Mark: You should feel entitled to be included. Carry it with confidence to your employer. If your employer is not reflecting that to you then you’re in the wrong place. Join one of the firms represented in this panel.
Sam: Trust yourself. If you don’t feel included, don’t question yourself, but leave the organisation immediately. Embrace your LGBTQ+ community engagement in your CV/Cover Letter during the application process.
In reflecting on both his organising and attending of the event, Guild Executive Edison Tsang noted:
“The LGBTQ+ Panel and Networking event was a personal passion project that could not have been realised without the help of my fellow Guild committee members. It was an amazing opportunity to gather LGBTQ+ professionals in the city and listen to how varied their experiences are when it comes to navigating their sexuality in the workplace.
Moderating the panel was a completely foreign experience to me, however, through having informal catch-ups with the panelists before the event, I had built a friendly rapport with all the representatives who spoke to on the day. Ultimately, this event allowed me to realise how important it is to reach out and to leverage the network you have despite how daunting it may seem, as all these leaders within the LGBTQ+ space responded with such generosity and came together to disseminate such important messages of diversity.”
As such, the UCL Guild hopes to reiterate this event in coming years – hoping to inspire future generations of LGBTQ+ individuals.