Tell us about your role at Gallagher
I joined the insurance industry in 2011 spending 4 years at Ageas as Sales & Customer Services Director. I joined Gallagher in 2015 as MD of Insure4Retirement and I am now MD of Deacon and Vasek.
I came out at University at 20. Started work at 21. Came out to family at 22. Finally came out at work at 25. You never just ‘come out’, though you are always ‘coming out’; New teams, new bosses, new clients, new suppliers!
I started work in the retail industry in 1995. The average age of the workforce was young at 26, yet it still took me 4 years to tell someone I was gay. My Team Manager used to say to me, “People think you’re cold, you never talk about your personal life”. When I went to my first Pride event I spent the whole day scared I would bump into someone from work. My view had been clouded because someone had once said to me, “you will never get promoted in a corporate world if people know you’re gay”. I had 16 fantastic years at the company starting as a sales consultant and leaving as General Manager for 2 of their on-line brands.
How has being involved with the LGBTQ community influenced your world view and the way you do business?
If people feel comfortable in the organisation they work in, with the colleagues they work with and the manager they work for, then I believe you will get the best from them. Whatever their background, whatever school they did or didn’t go to, whoever they chose to spend their life with, if they feel comfortable and relaxed then I think they are likely to perform better.
I know when I could stop worrying at work about people finding out and perhaps judging me and I could just relax; people got to see the real me and I know that made me a better leader, colleague, employee and friend.
Why is Pride month important to celebrate?
For me it’s a chance to take a step back and remember how far we’ve come. It was fantastic last year in the Gallagher Bournemouth office to celebrate with Pride flags, lanyards, rainbow shoe laces, a rainbow cake and everyone dressed in bright colours. 25 years ago I was scared to go to Pride in case I bumped into people from work and 25 years later we can celebrate like this in the workplace!
What actions can colleagues take to ensure their LGBTQ colleagues, clients and community feel included every day – not just during Pride month?
Be kind. Be supportive. Be sensitive. Don’t ask too many questions if the person doesn’t seem keen to answer. I only ever wanted to be treated as an equal and if we achieve that then we will have achieved something.