Episode Three: Personal Stories: Being your authentic self in life and at work

Posted on November 1, 2017

Samantha Jayne Nelson, Vice President of Risk Engineering in the Global Energy Practice of Marsh, and Ghela Boskovich, founder of FemTechGlobal, discuss being your authentic self, the concept of ‘witnessing’ others, the power of support networks and how organisations can overcome biases and break down barriers.

Samantha Jayne Nelson

Samantha Jayne Nelson is Vice President of Risk Engineering in the Global Energy Practice of Marsh, a global leader in insurance broking and risk management and an operating company of global professional services firm Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC).  

Samantha is the Chair of the Pride@Marsh UK network group. She is an active member of LINK (the LGBT insurance network), Samantha is passionate about creating an environment where all people are valued for their diversity, authenticity, and journey.

Samantha has been recognised as a diversity champion through her active commitment both outside and within Marsh & McLennan, to engage, educate, involve, and bring together the LGBT+ Community and allies.

In May 2017, Samantha received the Diversity Champion Award at the British LGBT+ Awards.

You can follow Samantha on Twitter @SamJay_Nelson

Ghela Boskovich

Ghela Boskovich is the founder of FemTechGlobal, an organisation built on the premise that diverse teams create better solutions, and embracing differences fosters creativity. Ghela is very active in the fintech industry, having spent the last ten years focused on business development for core insurance and banking system solutions. Her work centred on financial services pricing governance functionality, which has leveraged her background in regulatory economics, cost modeling and rate of regulation pricing models.

Ghela is also a regular contributor to fintech publications and discussions, specialising in dynamic pricing and customer centricity. Named one of Brummell Magazine’s 2016 ‘30 Inspirational Women Innovators’, and included in Innovate Finance’s Women in Fintech Powerlist 2016, Ghela is also on the board of the Financial Inclusion Institute.

You can follow Ghela on Twitter @Ghela_Boskovich

 

Episode Three Transcript

Julia: Hello and welcome to DiverCity™ Podcast. My name’s Julia Streets. A key part of increasing and extending diversity and inclusion is the need to drive change. On previous podcasts, we’ve heard leaders talk about what needs to change; today we explore what drives transformation. I’m delighted to welcome two esteemed guests. Each with a journey story to tell: Ghela Boskovich and Samantha Jayne Nelson.

Ghela Boskovich has enjoyed 10 fruitful years in business development for core insurance and banking systems. While she was with her last organisation, Ghela founded FemTech Global, which is an organisation built on the premise that diversity creates better results, and embracing differences fosters creativity. She was named one of Brummell Magazine’s 2016 ‘30 Inspirational Women Innovators’ and Innovate Finance’s Fintech Power List last year. She’s also on the board of the Financial Inclusion Institute. Ghela, welcome.

Ghela: Thank you.

Julia: We’re also joined by Samantha Jayne Nelson, who is the Vice President of Risk Engineering in the Global Energy Practice of Marsh. She is the chair of Pride@Marsh UK Network Group and an active member of Link, the LGBT Insurance Network. She is widely recognised as a diversity champion and in May 2017, Samantha received the Diversity Champion of the Year award at the British LGBT Awards. Samantha, it is a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for joining us.

Samantha: Thank you so much.

Julia: At the beginning of every podcast we invite our guests to just talk a little bit about themselves, and so I’m going to start with Ghela in terms of your personal story. In two or three minutes, share a bit about your background with us.

Ghela: My background is really cerebral, in the sense that I came from a regulatory-economic background. I’ve been working on pricing models for eons and started working in technology and understanding some of the pricing impact and modelling impact of technology in terms of architecture and business model structure. Ended up getting into Fintech, I guess technically when it became a hashtag about four or five years ago, just because of a curiosity of how one input can change the entire model. I found that there was no real formal study. So it became an exercise in satisfying curiosity through social media and networking and learning from other people, and found that having those conversations, and having the opportunity to have as many different conversations with as many different people in as many different aspects of Fintech, actually enriched my world.

I noticed that I was a little bit on the outside in the sense there weren’t a lot of middle-aged crazy women in the field – I mean, there are a bunch of middle aged women – but they weren’t crazy like I’m crazy! So trying to find community and find a place and making those connections, and was fortunate enough to get involved in an Innotribe report in 2015 about the number of women in financial services. I’ve been given some bios to read, and I thought I knew half of these women, but I didn’t know them all.

Oddly enough I felt like there was this compulsion to get to know them all, that I was missing something fundamental in terms of my education, my understanding, and my ability to even contribute to the industry because I didn’t know these comrades of mine. I took up the adventure of forming a network that actually did that for me and in exploring that avenue, I realised that I couldn’t actually exclude anyone – I needed to know everything from everybody.

The principle that drives me is curiosity is a virtue, it’s a moral virtue. That curiosity needs to be satisfied through as many different sources as possible, and that it was almost my obligation to not only connect myself to those people, but to connect them to others. I found that through the strength of the network and through the strength of those conversations and sharing those ideas and putting them up for debate, that we all benefited from them – not just commercially in terms of the business that we can do – but actually how we start to think about developing a banking system for people generally, because money is at the root of every single one of our lives in some way, shape, or form.

Money allows us to move, it allows us to transact, it allows us to communicate, it allows us to share. Money is essential to this, and so how do we create a system that enables everyone to participate in this? Because again, as the water rises and the boat rises, everybody else rises. It really comes down to actually making those connections and building that network; that’s the journey I guess.

Julia: You went from being in a fully employed job to then leaving that job and making a point of transition where you said, “I don’t need to take the paycheck anymore. I’m going to set up my own organisation. I’m going to set up my own network and I’m going to make that work, not only for the greater good, but actually for me in terms of my career journey.” What drove that change? What drove that decision to leave the paycheck behind and go off on your own venture?

Ghela: Kind of this realisation that money grows on trees – it sounds crazy, but it does. That there would always be an opportunity if I brought something to the table that was rich, and it was fruitful, and that I gave it generously, that there would be people that could appreciate it, and that I can have support in paying the rent or the mortgage or whatever bills were coming. That wasn’t an issue. The security of a consistent salary wasn’t as interesting or as important as the security of knowing I could find the next project or engagement irrespective of its commerciality. A part of it was you had a certain point where you’re like, “Enough. Basta. I’m done.”

Julia: There’s a lot in there, which I’m keen to unpick in terms of aspects of the emotional side of your journey and the choice of direction, then also taking a leap into the unknown with just the faith that there will always be survival out there somewhere, there will be ways of finding a happier future.

Because this is a consistent theme that we’re hearing throughout transformation journeys and where people are thinking that they don’t quite know what the future looks like, and it can be quite unknown in many regards. But let me at that moment invite you Samantha, because you have an extraordinary story, which I think is one which is truly inspiring. I would love you to share that with our listeners, and again, there’s so much in the parallels that I think will be worth talking about.

Samantha: Okay. Thanks Julia. Yeah, people say my story’s remarkable, I don’t consider it to be particularly remarkable. I was born a long time ago, pre-internet, pre-that information, that togetherness, that interconnectivity that we now benefit from. So I struggled to actually find myself for a lot of years. I was born in the North East of England – traditional working class, Roman Catholic upbringing, and the constraints that come with regard to that. When I was born I knew I was different. I totally identified internally as female, however, I was identified externally by the experts as male.

Really I was forced to fit into a box that was stereotypically Northern male – this is what the expectation of you is, this is what you need to do. And that’s everything that was drummed into me, that was so adverse to my own self-belief, for my own self-realisation of who I was. Unfortunately, as I said, there wasn’t the internet, there wasn’t this interconnectivity of communities at that time and I really, really struggled to find myself. Consequently, I progressed down an engineering route, which was what was before me as far my peer group presented.

I ultimately ended up working on the oil rigs for a lot of years, wearing a mask, pretending to be something I wasn’t. But if I was going to pretend, I wanted to be the best I possibly could at it. I was always very driven. I ended up managing installations and in a position where I had 200 guys accountable to me. For those of you that know the oil industry, it is 99% masculine – very, very macho.

I endeavoured to fit in, but struggled more and more with it, particularly when I go into this more management realm and we were starting to preach the doctrine of authenticity – open door, “come and see me if you have any problems”, be yourself. I was sitting there day after day questioning myself and saying, “Look, I’m not being myself here. I’m in a trap here.” I realised that. Fortunately, around that time, the internet had come about and I was starting to develop more and more of an understanding myself, which removed from my earlier recollections of going to the library and going through the duodecimal index system to find any reference of …

Julia: It’s not often you hear about the duodecimal index system!

Samantha: Not anymore, but it was something I did manage to negotiate quite readily at one point! The other source of information was of course the newspapers at the time. The newspapers at the time, anything that was averse from the traditional, what we want to be presented as the norm, was very much frowned upon – it was always shock headlines and over-dramatised. I didn’t want to be over-dramatised. I didn’t want to be the focus of that sort of attention, but ultimately I did get to a point where I thought, “No, I need to do something about this”, and I was very fortunate at that point, the Offshore installation, the Offshore industry that I worked within you work a cyclical rota.

I used to work for two weeks, then have three weeks off – which was a fantastic rota by the way – but where I found myself was, for the two weeks I was away, I was presenting in this very macho management style, coming home, and then living as myself, presenting as myself. I’ve established contacts through the internet at this phase, and I was really struggling with these two parts of my personality to connect them. It was almost like I built a wall and I surrounded myself in the work environment and was very much just performing, doing what needed to be done but not letting anyone get close to me.

As opposed to when I was home, I was distancing myself entirely from work and being myself, and that’s where I found real joy and real energy in myself. I couldn’t think of a way internally of how to connect those two elements. That’s basically where fate intervened and I always tell this story when I’m presenting. At the time, we’d started to get smartphones, we had the internet and we had various social media streams. I had my social media stream in my female persona. Obviously some of the colleagues at work had my mobile phone number. They did an upgrade to the software and the service providers thought it was smart to connect to your social media page to your mobile phone number, so when you rang people, you got a photographs of their ‘primary’ photo.

Not many people had my personal mobile phone number, but one in particular who did, who I was very close with, obviously saw my female presentation in my photograph when we were calling one another. They ‘ummed and aahed’ and weren’t sure whether they should approach me and say that, “We know. People know, you need to be aware of this.” Ultimately she did, and I’m so pleased she did at the end of the day. She said, “Look. I want you to know not to worry about this, but I need to let you know something.” That’s where she said she knew and it was okay. I didn’t have to do anything, but she was there for me if I needed anything at all.

That chink that appeared in that wall, that divide between my working environment and my home environment, all the bricks just seemed to tumble down. All of a sudden I had this light, although I’d been taught that if anyone ever finds out, I’ll lose everything, which is very much what I had being brought up believing. All of a sudden I had someone from my working environment that came to me and said, “Look, it doesn’t matter. We’ll be there for you.” She’d already approached HR, because we had a friend in HR who was the HR director at the time, just to canvas opinion on what she should do and what the company would say. Very much, the company said, “Look, we’re there to support, as a safety net”. As soon as there was a safety net there, I thought, ‘What have I been hiding for? Why have I been using all this energy to stop people finding out who I am?’

Julia: The amount of energy that is wasted on what people think is amazing. You used the words “building up your own wall” and “building up your own framework.” Equally with career paths, we think that when we set out on a career journey, this is the path that it’s going to take. When we set out on a life journey, this is the path that’s going to take. We put up a lot of these walls and boundaries ourselves.

Samantha: Yeah, I think it’s part of your social conditioning. Obviously, you build a lot of unconscious bias that’s learned from your … your tutors at an early age. I was taught by my parents, I was taught by my teachers, I was taught by priests, the unacceptability of who I was. It wasn’t a wall I’ve built, it was a wall that was proposed to me and then I assembled, because that’s what I was taught.

Ghela: It’s interesting you bring that up because it’s that notion of things can only look one way and we’re told things should look one way. There’s a notion of what’s perfect and what is imperfect, and it’s a binary thing. It’s that understanding that all of that is myth. That what we’re taught, what we’re told, is actually someone’s attachment to their perspective. It has nothing to do with reality and has everything to do with that framework that they want to operate within, but it doesn’t say something has quality or something doesn’t have quality. It just says, “this is the way that I feel comfortable seeing the world, and I’m going to superimpose that on you”.

I remember breaking away from my parents constructs and their beliefs systems many times over and finding that each time I broke away from that, like “here are the commandments. Follow these commandments”, whether or not they are coming from the clergy or they’re coming from your parents, or they’re coming from your instructors. Every time I broke the rule, the world didn’t end and I didn’t end, and I didn’t shatter. It’s that notion of this is the way it has to look and it can’t look any other way, and when you get to that moment. Actually, what did that moment feel like when you realised, ‘screw this, it can look any way I want it to look!’.

Samantha: Yeah, I think it’s such a point of realisation, having been self-confined for so long, and you’re right, it’s a feeling that’s superimposed upon you. I think the human condition is you want to belong – you want connections, and you build this barrier thinking, having been taught and believing that if that barrier falls, I’m going to lose all my connections, all my livelihood, everything that I have. But once you have that chink and you take that step, and once you develop a greater understanding of yourself and who you actually are and are willing to step over the threshold, it’s a brand new day. It is so energising and the pressure and the weight, and then the energy that you used to maintain those barriers – strip that away and all of a sudden you have an entirely new perspective on life. It brings with it so much joy, or certainly in my case it did. It was almost that if I’d been born again.

All those things I stopped myself from doing because I was so terrified of someone seeing me, once I presented as myself, the world became my oyster. I travel around the world now with my job; I’m so, so fortunate, visiting so many fabulous places and meeting so many fabulous people, seeing different cultures, interacting in so many different environments. Going back 15 years, I wouldn’t have considered it. I wouldn’t have known it was possible now.

Ghela: Because somebody put the expectation on it that there was a limit. This is interesting because I always wonder about accepting self first, or accepting others first. I talk a lot in terms of how to network with people and what might ethos is on networking and it’s never about me. In fact, I was in New York last week having the most odd conversation around my perception of somebody and his discomfort and how I perceived his discomfort. He said, “Your personality changed from the first time we met. You were very funny and you were ready to spar, and it was just rapid fire this, that and the other, and you’re actually really, really calm and quiet, and I’m not quite reconciling. I don’t get this. This isn’t the person that I met.”

I said, “What’s interesting is, when I met you, I met you where you were and I knew you needed that. I knew that was a self-defense mechanism, you needed to be funny, you needed to seem like you were in control. Totally happy to meet you there. Now that you’ve relaxed into who you seem to be, you’re seeing who I am. The thing is I accepted you from the get-go. I gave you what you needed, and I don’t need anything other than for you to feel comfortable. In fact, my need is for you to feel like you can be who you are in front of me, and know that I just appreciate that you’re willing to interact with me because what I want most is the connection.” Whatever form that comes in, I’ll work to get the connection. It’s an interesting thing that when I stopped saying “I need to be accepted” and turned it around and said, “No, no, no. I need to make sure the other person knows that they’re accepted,” it fundamentally changed the way I was able to navigate every aspect of my life.

Samantha: As soon as I knew that there were allies there, as soon as I knew I had support, I think I was at this space in my life where I was desperate to do something because as I said I felt constrained. I really needed that wall to be deconstructed, I was struggling between the two parts of my personality. When it came down, I’d always been an advocate for diversity streams anyway because I knew what I was hiding and I didn’t want other people to be hiding it, but I wasn’t as vocal about that.

I was in a working environment, predominantly masculine. I was pushing to get females into the engineering sphere, I saw that as being a bit of a mission for myself. But then once the mask came down and I was actually able to present myself, going back to the energy that brought, all of a sudden it opened my eyes and started me thinking about various other diversity streams that hadn’t had any real involvement or real engagement with. Once I started looking, “Okay, how can we get everyone around this table? How can we look towards bringing equality to everyone?” Ultimately, I don’t want anyone to be sitting in the situation I was – confined by this wall and not able to express and be themselves – because there’s nothing more important in this life than to be able to present and be yourself, have your own opinions, and have people listen to them.

Ghela: I call that witnessing. I almost say the purpose of our own lives is to witness others and I say this often. My job is to witness you as you are and as you want me to see you, and when I do that, I fulfil my responsibility as a human being. All I ask in return is that you witness me as I am, and that is the social contract that we have with one another. It’s a place of non-judgement, it’s a place of neutrality and it’s a place of pure equality because it doesn’t have any of this framework. There’s no expectation on it, you are you, I see you and I get the privilege of respecting you as a human being.

Now, whether or not we choose to interact afterwards or what kind of business arrangement we have or what kind of friendship we have, that’s a different thing. But you as you, that has to be pure, it has to be a perfect respect. That’s witnessing. It’s an interesting notion I think we really forget day to day, is the moment that we’re almost obligated as human beings just to witness one another.

Julia: We talked about unconscious bias and we talked about diversity and inclusion within organisations. When we talk about sales and leadership and emotional intelligence or EQ, this is something that’s becoming the latest buzzword. But when you break that down into what it really looks like, the witnessing piece is incredibly important because people go, “Yes, yes. I get it and I understand it, and I will work on it”, but actually it’s only when you really understand the impact of witnessing that you can have a much better engagement with the employee who’s sitting there going, “I want to turn up at work every day just being me, right down to my soul, in every way.”

Ghela you talked about your network and Samantha you talked about your journey with the support that came immediately when you needed it and when you travel around the world as well, I’m very interested in where you see your support networks coming from along that journey? Are there some that surprised you, people that came out of the blue? Or are there some that you’d expect such as your corporate structures? Are there networks or support infrastructures or individuals that have cropped up?

Samantha: I think yes, from my perspective. I came through a transition a number of years ago. At the time it was fairly novel and certainly wasn’t as popular as it seems to be becoming all of a sudden, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s power to what has been done visibility-wise. But at the time I found myself interacting with a lot of HR professionals and asking questions like “Why aren’t we doing this? How can we do this better?” Which was good from one respect, I was there at the concept of a lot of this stuff being put in place.

As I’ve progressed through my career, there have always been one of those individuals who has been particularly passionate or interested in getting people around the table. I seem to have been very fortunate to interact with those individuals, whether they’ve come to me or I’ve gone to them and made the connections, just because I can see the positive energy that I carry. Together within organisations, we’ve very much driven the idea of getting everyone around the table. That engagement piece is the very first step and I think a very important moment in society, certainly within the financial services, where we are all starting to talk about this now.

Now, as you say, talking is one element, action is an entirely different one. So that education piece that comes back. Once you’ve got the people sitting around the table, you’ve engaged, how do we educate one another? How do we listen to one another? How do we communicate? How do we breed that empathy, build the understanding – the witnessing of one another? And not just the witnessing, but giving each other that support.

Ghela: It comes in so many different forms, I think that it’s interesting. It goes back to the listening actually, when you talk about the support structure. It came from the people I listened to, not from those that were listening to me. That’s the interesting thing it was when I again, made it outwardly focused and said “I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’ll fully witness you, but I will listen and I’ll actually try to understand exactly where you’re coming from” – the empathetic part. Those are the people that showed for me in ways that surprised me and I am still surprised.

It sounds funny to say I’m gobsmacked when someone offers to connect me to somebody else or that they do something above and beyond what I’ve asked because I couldn’t conceive of asking for the stars, I only asked for the sand, and the support comes from those that I was being generous with my time and attention to, not the other way around. It sounds an odd thing to say, but at the same time it’s that notion of how do we build that? How do we build the muscle to do it? Then how do we actually start putting it into practice? Water rises to its own level.

Julia: Actually in our first podcast, Justine Lutterodt was talking about the various muscles you use for leadership and that was absolutely one of them, and the power of listening as well. With my commercial hat on, when I think about sales teams and leadership and how organisations drive change, for me it always comes back to a very central premise, which is people do business with people they like. If you can build that connection with everything that we’ve been talking about today, then you’re going to have a much, much more powerful and productive business relationship.

Ghela: Well, you’re talking about sales. Sales only happen when you can actually solve the problem and you can’t solve the problem unless you know what that problem is. How do you know it? You know it by listening and actually listening to the stuff that’s not being said.

Julia: We’re going to take a moment there actually, and I’m going to invite Cynthia and Robert to share some research that they’ve found in the industry.

Cynthia: The 2017 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet, with research carried out by Out & Equal, stated that transgender people face double the rate of unemployment as the overall population.

Robert: Nearly half of transgender people were not hired, were fired or were not promoted due to their gender identity. 9 in 10 transgender employees experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job or took steps to avoid it.

Cynthia: For transgender employees, in 2002, just 3% of Fortune 500 companies had non-discrimination protections that included their gender identity, but today 82% include gender identity in nondiscrimination policies.

Julia: These are very positive stories, and what’s great is we’re talking about everything from the experiential to the practical to the commercial ….. why this matters in business, leadership, sales, et cetera. But it’s not always rosy. Along the journey somebody will have an opinion that you don’t necessarily appreciate, expect, or favour, and I’d like to take some time to think about how you deal with that? How do you plan for it? Prepare for it? Go through it? Samantha, along your journey, and I know that you also mentor and support lots of other people right the way across the diversity inclusion spectrum, do you talk about this very much?

Samantha: I do. I come from a slightly different perspective. I obviously, as we mentioned went through my journey had problems to my educational system, through my parents. I still don’t talk to my parents; I speak to my mother, I’m not allowed to speak to my father. So there are problems that are incurred with that. It’s not where I want to be, and it’s something you have to deal with. You deal with it through getting to know yourself and knowing the value of yourself. Anyone who positions any negativity upon you, I’m very much of the opinion that everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but whether I listen to that opinion or not is an entirely different matter.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve sat around tables with groups of men drinking, being boisterous, and expressing their true feelings about a number of issues. I was obviously presenting in a completely different way to how I present now. Some of the things I heard at those points were terrible and I wished I had the strength of character to stand up and actually try and make a difference at that point, but I was so concerned about holding my mask up and protecting myself at that point that I didn’t, I shied away into the corner. I think one of the learnings, one thing I always discuss going forward is that people are there, round a table and they hear things being said that make the hairs on the back of their neck go up and they’re thinking, “Oh, I should really something.” It’s so much more powerful that those people that aren’t directly impacted by it actually step up and say “That’s not right”.

That allies piece is so important to remove the negativity because it is about developing and understanding, about educating and supporting one another. I travel the world and surprisingly although I had a huge wall and was terrified about it falling down and that was going to lose everything, now that I go everywhere by myself, I can actually say hand on heart that I’ve never ever felt any negativity. Whether that’s because I’m so surrounded by my own happiness bubble or not, I don’t know, but I couldn’t be happier.

You might get the odd glance when I first go into a seminar or an event. I was recently over in Indonesia and there was a big event, I was talking and there was about 200 people there. I wondered in, you could see when I first took to the stage and first started talking, there was a raised eyebrow or a glance, or ‘something’s different here – it’s out of our norm’. But once you start discussing about a topic you are aware of, whether that’s from a technical aspect, which this one actually was: engineering, or whether it’s something to do with diversity, once you engage with people and people develop understanding, those barriers fall down. People have that understanding and that’s what we need to do – just talk, just educate and just empower people to support as allies.

Ghela: The ally bit is absolutely important – strength in numbers – and especially the people that aren’t affect. Again, it’s witnessing others too. It’s not just witnessing the person in front of you, but it’s witnessing the experience and the dichotomy of interactions of others.

Samantha: Yeah, that’s tightrope we all try to walk. We’re at the vanguard of a lot of change, and certainly what I’m trying to do, role modelling and supporting various diversity streams. Within organisations you very much have a network, you have millennials coming through who really don’t see this as being an issue. You got ourselves who’ve been pushed in agendas for too long, really, and have made progress. But you always feel that although the upper echelons of organisation, get the facts and figures and then see the value of it, whether they actually believe in the value of it is another thing.

But then that frozen middle section, that middle management, the generation you were speaking about, they’re in that stage of their career where they developed and they’ve got control over people’s promotions or the hiring. Really, they’re set in their own ways and actually breaking into that middle section is the most difficult thing to do. We must be careful not to alienate them. I think that’s the important thing to get across – it’s how we communicate correctly with them and bring them on board.

Julia: In that middle layer that you talk about, have there been any areas that have really surprised you in terms of where certain behaviours that you thought were entrenched in old school practices and actually somebody’s eyes have been lifted? Can you talk about some of the triggers that have led to that or some evidence around that?

Samantha: Yeah, again just from personal perspective, I’ve been fairly visible for a number of years now, certainly since I’ve come down to London, I work in the financial area. I was always worried about that transition from where I was comfortable from an engineering perspective, working offshore, to coming somewhere different and presenting 100% as myself without anyone knowing my background. There were comments made and a bit of confusion when I first came into the organisation – they weren’t sure about risk assessments for me going overseas, or how that actually stood legislation-wise, which is a bit strange.

Julia: Is that something that people are looking at now?

Samantha: It’s something they look at, I tell them not to worry too much about it because I go anywhere regardless! That’s my approach, but people were concerned about that, which is fine. It was the unfamiliarity with the situation. That got people thinking, which I thought was fabulous, and they’re willing to engage and discuss it. I think just starting that dialogue allows people to better understand a situation. They’re all standoffish and not quite sure what to do, but actually engaging and talking one to one, you suddenly found that parts of what could be perceived as the frozen middle were starting to thaw. “Oh, she knows what she’s talking about. Oh, she’s all right, we’ll listen to her.” Once you get those ‘pockets’ thawing, what a difference it makes having representation to that part of the organisation. There are still people who are uncomfortable with it, not sure what terminology to use, and that’s across the entire diversity spectrum, not in just LGBT, by any means.

Julia: Yeah, in fact we were talking to Heather Melville about this very topic in the first episode.

Samantha: Yeah. They use what they see as being politically correct (and I hate that term), but they’ll refer to D&I, or they’ll refer to issues, or agendas. And it’s not. At the end of the day, it’s all about us being human beings, about achieving the best that we possibly can for one another – recognising in yourself that what you bring to an organisation, you were talking about sales and products, I think your main product is yourself.

Ghela: It is. Your unique selling proposition is you!

Samantha: It is.

Julia: Ladies, I think that’s a perfect note to end the discussion on today. It’s been wonderful. We could talk for a long, long time, but Samantha and Ghela thank you both very much indeed. Thank you.

Kieron: This episode of DiverCity™ Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website DivercityPodcast.com. Whilst you’re there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed in iTunes or your favourite podcast app and if you’ve enjoyed this episode of DiverCity™ Podcast, remember to give us a rating or review in iTunes. It all helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.