Host Julia Streets is joined by Arlene McDermott, co-chair of the London Stock Exchange Group Proud network and Ethan Salathiel, coach, consultant, programme leader and entrepreneur.
In this episode, and timed to continue the support for Transgender Awareness Week, Julia, Arlene and Ethan discuss what firms can do to make room for all LGBTQ+ employees, with a particular focus on individuals wanting to transition. They discuss the importance of senior and middle management leadership, the importance of intersectionality and how organisations can remove the barriers between various networks and communities.
Together they recognise that for some it may still be concerning to be out and the importance of corporate culture in attracting, supporting and therefore retaining talent. As we head into tough economic times, they examine why maintaining LGBTQ+ issues as a high priority on the D&I and corporate agendas really matters right now.
Arlene is the Portfolio Director and Co-chair of Proud LGBT+ network at London Stock Exchange Group. Arlene McDermott is co-chair of the London Stock Exchange Group Proud network and is passionately promoting the power of being out at work. Spearheading events that include a wide variety of City institutions and partnering with LGBT+ charities Arlene is making sure the LGBT+ agenda remains central to the narrative of the City. A Portfolio Director managing large scale change across multiple geographies provides Arlene the ability to influence far and wide. The Proud network has been shortlisted for the Diva network of the year award 2020.
Ethan is a coach, consultant, trainer, programme leader, innovative entrepreneur, and describes himself as a ‘living system’. Ethan’s particular areas of expertise include lnclusion & Diversity (I&D), LGBTQ+, Banking Governance, Credit & Risk and ESG. Ethan has a commercial banking background having worked at HSBC and progressed into senior leadership roles at a Regional and Global level where he transitioned genders. He later founded, grew and exited an award-winning UK E-Commerce start-up business – WHEY AHEAD® Organic Protein. As a coach, he enjoys developing people’s authentic personal brand and identity, encouraging positivity when dealing with change, leading with purpose and building resilience. He is a certified Personal Trainer, passionate about inclusion, team sports, organic health/nutrition and fitness. You can follow Ethan on Twitter: @ethansalathiel
Series Nine, Episode Six Transcript
Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion, and diversity in financial services. On the podcast we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus and offer lots of ideas to help drive change.
Today I’m delighted to be joined by Arlene McDermott and Ethan Salathiel. Arlene McDermott is Co-Chair of the London Stock Exchange Group, Proud Network, and is passionately promoting the power of being out at work. Spearheading events that include a wide variety of City institutions and partnering with LGBT+ charities, Arlene is making sure that the agenda remains central to the narrative of the city.
A Portfolio Director managing large scale change across multiple geographies provides Arlene the ability to influence far and wide, and the Proud Network has been shortlisted for the Diva Network of The Year award 2020. Arlene, wonderful to have you on the show today, thanks for joining us.
Arlene: Thanks Julia. Hi.
Julia: Joining Arlene today is Ethan Salathiel. He is a consultant, a coach, a trainer, programme leader and entrepreneur. Describing himself as a strategic thinker, he sees the world as a series of interconnected systems that make up a whole picture. His particular areas of expertise include ‘inclusion and diversity’, LGBTQ+, banking governance, credit risk, and ESG, also Environmental, Social, and Governance. He has a commercial banking background having worked at HSBC and progressed into senior leadership roles at both a regional and a global level where he also transitioned genders. And Ethan is wonderful to have you on the show, thanks for joining us.
Ethan: It’s an absolute pleasure. Thank you, Julia. It’s just wonderful to be here.
Julia: The way I start every conversation with all our guests on DiverCity Podcast is really just to ask you, first of all, before we get into a discussion about LGBTQ issues, is really to think about, what are you focused on for the remainder of 2020? Arlene, let me come to you first of all.
Arlene: Thanks for asking me to be here. It’s a real pleasure to talk on these things. I think one of the things that we found, and a recent consultation that came out from the Kaleidoscope Trust, is the importance of supporting LGBT+ charities. Funding obviously is stretched across, not just the city, but across organisations more generally. We were going to do Pride this year and provide some funding to AKT who is our charity partner for the Proud Network. Of course we haven’t been able to do that, so, we’ve been trying to think of other ways to contribute to those charities. For us, it’s hard because obviously we don’t know what tier we’re in and we don’t know where lockdown is going to go, but as much as possible, we’re trying to promote the fact that LGBT+ charities need support.
There’s a lot of people today in lockdown in environments that maybe are hostile toward them as a result of being out. I think that’s really important. Another focus for us will be during Trans Week from 13th to the 19th of November. We’re really pleased to have Freddie McConnell coming to talk to us and who has an amazing story, as many people will know. One of the things that we really want to do is to ensure that we really are promoting the ‘T’ of LGBT+ individuals across our organisation and even wider than that, if we possibly can.
We’ve been doing a lot of work on being out at work, as you say, that is my personal passion. I believe everything is better when we’re ourselves. But Trans Week is going to be important to us, I think that conversation needs to go further. There’s a lot going on at the moment, I think they’re probably 20 years behind us, and we need to bring our trans colleagues and trans friends forward in the narrative. Finally, I would say we’re also really focused on intersectionality, and we had a great event just last night with Lady Phyll talking about intersectionality of being both black and part of the LGBT+ community, and there’s a lot for us to think about in that respect and in that regard.
I think it’s such a powerful thing to hear the story of people, and to get those stories out there so that we all can be consciously aware of how other people feel in an environment. It’s very difficult to turn around the damage that can be done on the first day of somebody walking into a workplace when they don’t see themselves being represented in that workplace. It’s extraordinarily costly to try to reverse that damage. and we need to do more. I think we all need to do more to enable people to see themselves within a workplace so that they know that they belong. Those are the three areas that we’re focused on this year.
Julia: Wonderful. Thank you very much for that. There’s so much in that we’re going to unpick throughout the discussion for sure. For those listeners, when we talk about Lady Phyll , Lady Phyll is actually the founder of the Black Pride Initiative, and is a massive, incredible champion and role model in the industry as well. How great to have had her at your event last night as well. Ethan, let me turn to you as well. As you’re looking at the year, as it wraps up and then into the beginning of next year as well, what are you paying attention to?
Ethan: I think for me, for the rest of 2020, it’s all about the employee experience, and really, for me, that means focusing on and championing on the voices of the individual and celebrating and sharing lived experiences up and down organisations in a systemic sense. The way that I’m doing that is delivering reciprocal mentoring programmes, which are sometimes called ‘reverse mentoring programmes for diversity’. We call them ‘reciprocal’ because they’re trying to get away from that hierarchy language. Reciprocal means more about co-learning and collaboration. And the idea is, programmes that we are delivering are specifically for the LGBTQ+ and the BAME communities. But we’re going to evolve that into more of an intersectional lens because I believe about having diversity within diversity, not just silo-ing off various streams
It’s about giving the junior employees a voice and allowing those stories to be shared right up through the organisation to the senior levels and, to some extent, to the C-suite. I just think it is such an important endeavour, and companies are looking at this because not only is it the right thing to do, but there is great commercial benefit in that. When we’re thinking about the financial services industry and operational risk and resilience, this is really a point in time, having experienced what we have this year in 2020, to really challenge the status quo and the existing ways of doing things and getting those voices heard throughout the organisations. It’s a very exciting thing, and similar to Arlene, big focus on intersectionality, because I believe that that is the future
Julia: It’s interesting, because a lot of the conversations tend to come back to that again. Before we get into the question of intersectionality, which we will talk about, for sure, I’m going to come to you first, Arlene, on this question, which is, when we think about LGBTQ+ community, and we think about different identities as well, they are ranging from non-binary, gender fluid through to binary trans, and those are also transient as well. I ask the question, are we making enough room for everyone? We talk about the importance of being authentic selves and in the organisation as well, are we making enough room for all?
Arlene: I think, no, but I don’t think that that’s deliberate. I think society as a whole has now begun to see more lesbian, gay men within popular media. I always think about, do you see yourself being reflected back to you during your normal life? How many black women see themselves reflected back? How many black female couples do you see selling toothpaste? What are we actually seeing back? I always go back to the Brookside kiss. I still remember that because it was two women, “Oh my God.” We are beginning to see that a lot of popular celebrities coming out in popular media. I think because that gets reflected back into society that people begin to accept.
I think probably what isn’t being properly reflected back into society is the gender points. From trans men and women to gender fluidity we hear the ridiculous arguments that you hear on breakfast television about, ‘well, if there’s 75 gender identities then I could call myself a penguin’ nonsense. It’s not healthy, it’s not a good conversation. I heard something the other day that I loved, and I’d love to just mention this, if I was to say to somebody, “A friend of mine has got really ill the day and went to hospital”, your answer to that will be, “I hope they’re okay.” Because I didn’t mention a gender. So, you don’t know their gender. So, you’ll start using words like, ‘I hope they’re okay’, ‘when did they go in’, ‘when, like, they get out of hospital?’
How amazing would it be if, in general speech, we were to not assume that we knew somebody’s gender. Just because I might look male or female, It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the gender that I identify with. I’m constantly mis-gendered, I’m constantly referred to as a man. I’m constantly asked, “Is that all, Sir?” It happens to me all the time because I have short hair. I identify as female. I know what that’s like, and I can only imagine that if you have spent your life really fighting for the identity that is yours, to then have that taken away, contradicted, for you to have to justify that, is extraordinarily difficult for people.
Do I think we’re making enough room? I don’t think we know enough. I think people’s gender identity needs to be talked about more, people’s journeys, if they’re going through a transitioning journey, needs to be talked about more, because when we do that it becomes normal. When people see it it becomes normal, and then opening up to those individuals becomes easier, because those individuals are then more free to open up to us. It’s a two-way street. I’m actually personally, I have a child who’s currently on that journey, so I’m very close to it, and I’m delighted. I think it’s a great thing to be able to, at such a young age, to be able to open up and talk to their parents about this kind of thing, I’m really happy about that. Are we doing enough? We can do more, but it’s a job and we need to talk about it, we need to bring into our normal conversation, and that’s exactly what we’re pushing to do.
Julia: When we were talking earlier about the networks, so when we come back to the question of intersectionality, and let’s get to that question of intersectionality quite quickly as well, I’m just wondering within various networks, is there more that could be done to introduce that conversation into certain networks and organisations?
Arlene: Yes. Within the group we have a number of staff networks who represent people with disabilities, people from the black community, parents and carers, we are all intersectional. I’m a parent, I’m a gay woman, I’m a boss, I’m an employee, we’re all many things. I think networks do need to work together. We work very closely with our BEING network, which is our black employee network, to ensure that we are understanding each other, but also to ensure that everybody has a home, even if that is multiple homes, that actually we all come together a lot of the time.
Our trans conversation, for example, in November will also be about parenting, because Freddy’s a father. So, we’ll talk about parenting, and we will bring our parent and carers network into that conversation. None of us are one thing, and we need to, I think, be true to that and really honour that. My experience as an Irish gay woman is very different to the experience of an African gay woman, for example, but we can all learn from that because we all have to interact and be friends and be colleagues. We can only do that when we really understand each other’s stories and have the empathy and compassion that’s needed to truly build great teams, great groups, great societies.
Julia: It’s fascinating because so much on the conversation on the podcast always comes back to the question of culture. Absolutely, what you’re saying is that we want to create a culture where people are happy colleagues, friends, and teams working together. There are a number of dimensions, and we won’t unpick culture into its entirety today, if only we had time, but Ethan, I do want to come back to you on this point because there’s a conundrum that comes up a lot, which is about the conversation about leadership. The reality that I framed this in, if you like, is that, being out of the workplace can lead to feelings of uncertainty, particularly if you don’t get full support from senior leadership.
As you’ve explained, saying it’s good for individuals, it’s good for teams, it’s good for performance, exactly as you were saying in terms of the commercial point of view which matters to the listeners of DiverCity Podcast working in the city, but I would love to get your thoughts on some of the positive experiences that you’ve experienced yourself or witnessed that can help leaders engage better.
Ethan: Yes, I’m very happy to share, Julia, thank you. My positive experience, it was immense. It was at HSBC, as you’ve pointed out. I’ve transitioned genders at quite a senior level. When I think that, looking back on reflection, the key to the success of my story was around the navigation that I sat down and worked out upfront from a systems thinking perspective. It was about really looking at the touch points in my lived experience at work, that’s in terms of the facilities, the tools, skills, and resources I had at hand, but also the teams and the support I had from people, and making it as human as possible.
The localised management is key. It’s all very well having fantastic global policies in place, but it’s actually, if they’re not executed appropriately and properly at local level, then they just have no impact and they’re meaningless. For me, I was lucky. I had a very fantastic supportive line manager. I had quite a funny coming-out story. Obviously came out twice at work because first as a gay woman, then as a trans man, and it was actually at my year end review. My boss was in Hong Kong and I was sitting there in London, in Canary Wharf, and I had a video conference screen, like we all are now, and just about to finish my review, just about to spill my life’s beans and explain what was ahead, and kaput, the stream went completely blank, and we had a system failure.
So, just at my crucial moment things went terribly wrong. Looking back it was funny, at the time it was quite stressful. So, I just nipped into an adjacent meeting room and phoned him back and told him. To his absolute credit, he was pretty supportive and said that we would obviously discuss it in more detail. Then, I flew out to Hong Kong a couple of weeks later, and he took me aside and he said that he had told the team and spoken to his boss and that he would do everything he could to put in place what I needed. He told me to think about that, because sadly back then the policy was in its infancy and it was quite new. I ended up evolving that policy with HR as a result of my experience.
But as I said, it was a question of sitting down and planning out what I needed in terms of resource and time for surgeries or whatever I needed to have in place. Just thinking about the key learning points though, for me, it’s about, as I say, having that openness and that human element to the coming-out story, both from the individual and the leadership perspective. It’s also, for me, and this is what happened when I evolved the policy, which was to introduce key things, which was number one, a safe space for people, particularly in the early days of transition. I didn’t have that at the time. I remember my wife and I were going through IVF alongside me just about to embark on my transition, because I’m father of two as well.
I was having conversations with the IVF clinic just outside the glass screen of the lift lobby, with my face against the wall in a corner somewhere. I just remember it was quite strained, and it was that cost of continually thinking twice about what I needed. Another example was when I was on the phone to my global colleagues, and I remember a particular one in Brazil, and I was answering the phone after my Group Director and email had changed over and I had my new name and identity and gender, and they were asking me for my previous name and gender. I was, Okay, no, let me explain to you, it is me, but you know, this has happened.
That additional cost of thinking twice all day, it happened multiple times, was difficult. The other side of it, and I know you, Arlene, touched on about language and pronouns usage, but it’s also about communication, not just on a local level, but wider afield, and thinking about that employee journey and who they actually interact with on a daily basis is absolutely vital. Then, the last thing is facilities. For me, I had to use the female restroom and felt quite uncomfortable early on. I asked HR what could be done, and I was given the key to the disabled’s toilets. I’m pleased to say now, when I visited companies in London, they have gender neutral toilets and facilities available, and put such a big smile on my face every time I see that. It’s absolutely wonderful.
I know, from an American bank that I’ve been talking to recently, they actually even now fund some of the surgeries on their private health insurance in financial services. Things have really progressed, and it’s very welcome. Wholly positive experience, generally speaking.
Julia: It’s wonderful to hear because I know a lot of organisations are thinking about, actually, what are some of the practical things that we can do. And thank you for, not sharing your story, gosh just the thought of that technology going down right at the critical moment-
Ethan: I know!
Julia: I can’t even begin to imagine. We joke about it, but actually I can’t begin to imagine what an enormous moment that was for you. Also, there are organisations who are already thinking about very practical things that they can do, and thank you for all your insights on that because there’s much for the listeners to take away and to implement as well, which is really important. Thinking about it from the flip side almost is, I suppose, this is a great conversation we’re doing in a very positive sense, but for some people it still feels very risky. Arlene, I want to come back to you, here we are in 2020. Why would it still be risky for some people to come out?
Arlene: Why is it risky? I have a theory. I’ve been asked by many graduates coming into the group, so really young people, if it’s okay to be out within the group. That triggers a whole load of things in me. Why ask? Why not just assume? Are we not giving enough subtle or more blatant messaging that it’s okay? We do have rainbow flags everywhere. We do get an enormous amount of support from our most senior leadership. Our group CEO has a rainbow flag in his office, which is very visible. There really is no issue whatsoever, but people are asking that question. So, we recently did an LGBTQ+ event with the London School of Economics. They’ve got lots of companies where people were asking about how open and inclusive organisations were, so we were asked to go along and do that
I asked the question because I had a theory about this. And I asked the question and said, “Do you think that, because social media predominantly provides such a huge voice to those who are against the LGBT+ community. You see what happens to like JK Rowling, you see what happens to a lot of other people who come out against or even implied to be against a part of the LGBT+ community, the noise and that vitriol is so huge that I now feel that a lot of people coming into the workplace, they don’t really want to expose themselves as being different for fear of that sort of reaction,” and they agreed. They said they were terrified coming into the workplace. What’s the risk? I genuinely don’t believe there is a risk. I think that we unfortunately are so subjected to such an enormous amount of awful narrative that the risk feels very real.
I know of nobody in my organisation who would, certainly not out loud in any way, be against somebody from the LGBT+ community. And let’s just turn that question around. What’s the risk of not coming out? That’s where the risk is. The risk of not coming out is that, as I did early on in my career in the City, every relationship I started, friendship, close colleagues, started on a lie. I wasn’t totally honest with people, and that lack of integrity was horrible for me. It meant that at some point in the future I would have to say, “Oh, you remember I was talking about my boyfriend, John? Actually, it’s a girlfriend called …”
I’d have to then backtrack and reveal that bit of dishonesty that I kicked off the relationship with. As Ethan said, there’s also that double checking constantly, trying to use, and we’ve all done this, in trying to use gender neutral pronouns, not necessarily talking about that brilliant night you had in old Compton Street, trying to filter yourself. And what that means is, people are obviously dedicated to their jobs and fantastic at their jobs, but imagine how much more effort you have to put in when you’re constantly having to be aware like that. Then, of course, there’s also the wider risk to the bottom line. We know that when people are their true selves at work, businesses is better. So, for me, it’s not the risk of coming out. It’s the risk of not coming out. That’s what we should be asking ourselves.
Julia: It’s interesting, isn’t it? I talk quite a lot on the podcast about my 20 years of just trying not to be asked the question, “What did you do at the weekend?” Not that I was doing anything pretty exciting because I’m not really that exciting. But actually, when you begin to break that down into the barriers you put around you when you’re trying to build positive working relationships is, it’s exhausting, it’s absolutely exhausting. I am very keen, and Ethan, I’d love to come to you for your thoughts on this, we’ve talked about middle management and we’ve talked about senior management and how they can be supporting the community as a whole and within certain areas of it.
What I am very keen to get your thoughts on, what are we at risk, particularly in 2020, because attentions have been skewed slightly. I don’t want to talk about Brexit and I don’t want to talk about COVID, but I actually recognise Arlene’s comments in the opening about, there are some people who are very unhappy at home in various home places where they’re not perhaps appreciated for their identity. I would love to get your thoughts on, what are we at risk of side-lining, or what do we need to pay attention to that needs to come higher in our minds?
Ethan: It’s an interesting question. In terms of side-lining, I think from a trans perspective, I can talk about the Gender Recognition Act as a case in point, and the fact that that was postponed so much by the government with various initiatives and obviously COVID not helping that. Then, as a result, sadly, it’s been rather of a light touch reform as opposed to the de-medicalisation that the community called for, which plays right into that intersectional view as well. When you don’t see the community for the full spectrum of that community, and there are those out there, that trans group, that T, that don’t want to go down the hormone and surgeries routes, and they just want to identify in the gender that they feel that that’s natural to them, then medicalising the process isn’t going to help them.
I think if you see it through an intersectional lens and you see people for their full authentic selves and you allow them to have that empowerment, then we need to be championing that more, and we need to be making that voice heard much louder at the government level to help those reforms get pushed through. That type of thing has certainly been side-lined, which I think is a great shame. But, you know I’m a bit of an optimist at heart. And I think for all the things that have been side-lined and budgets that have been constrained and moved into, as I said, response mode with COVID through operational risk, etc, there has been some great work on the D&I sides. In terms of wellbeing of employees now working more flexibly and at home, I’ve seen a big growth in that side of things, which is so incredible.
Now, I think organisations are linking wellbeing theory to positive psychology and helping people. We talk about groups of LGBTQ+ groups and mental health, and I think wellbeing is massively part of that. Martin Seligman, who’s the big leader of positive psychology, he has five areas in terms of wellbeing theory that you should focus on, which are: positive regard for people, relationships with others, engagements, sense of meaning and sense of accomplishment. Back to my point about systems and navigating the system, if we can think of people in that sense across those five areas of well-being theory, that can really help put a positive stance on things and help prevent things from being side-lined.
Julia: Can I ask you to just repeat them again for the benefit of the listeners, because, actually, it’s quite quite good to land them twice.
Ethan: Yes. That’s Martin Seligman, he’s the leader of positive psychology wellbeing theory in the States. And the five areas are: positive regard for people, engagement with others, relationships, sense of meaning or purpose, which is a massive area of thinking, and sense of accomplishment or achievement in life. Those are the areas of wellbeing, which form a part of that employees experience that I opened with, and I think has a great resonance with the LGBTQ+ community, and especially with an intersectional lens, because we do need to see things for the breadth rather than put people in boxes.
Julia: It’s fascinating, because if I think of all the conversations I have with so many leaders at different levels of the organisation, the one thing that everybody’s thinking about of course is mental health and mental wellbeing, and thinking about how that actually translates into people whose identity and COVID journeys are actually unique to them. So, that’s enormously helpful. Thank you for repeating it as well. It’s incredibly important. I think that’s a great moment to bring in Cynthia who’s got some research to support today’s discussion.
Cynthia: For 2020 Trans Awareness Week, Citi announced a new feature that will enable their transgender and non-binary customers to update their chosen first name on illegible credit cards. The launch, in conjunction with MasterCard, allows existing credit card customers to request a new credit card with their chosen first name. Additionally, customers will be referred to by their chosen first names when calling customer service and throughout the company’s various online and mobile access points. According to the National Centre for Transgender Equality, almost 70% of trans people don’t have even one identity document that reflects the name they use in their daily lives, and only about 20% have been able to update all their legal documents due to a complicated and prohibitively expensive process. This move from Citi will help trans and non-binary people better navigate the world as themselves.
Julia: Wonderful, thank you, Cynthia. The links to the research can be found on our website, divercitypodcast.com. That’s where you can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.
I am thinking a lot now, and it’s a question I’m asking all our guests, and it really matters, and it’s something that I’m slightly obsessive about, so, bear with me. But as we head into an economic downturn, I’m deeply concerned that, actually, ‘diversity inclusion’ can fall down the corporate agenda. And I’d love to get your thoughts, for the benefit of the listeners, about why it’s essential that D&I remains high. Arlene, can I come to your first of all?
Arlene: I think D&I should never, in any environment, in any sense, drop down on the agenda. Of course, it’s one of those things that may be a victim. An economic downturn is something that is going to affect people. Our diversity inclusion initiatives and our networks are about our people and about not just looking to an individual for what they can do on an excel spreadsheet, but more about that individual as a whole person. As we look at the news and we see our high streets closing and we see friends who maybe are either furloughed or put out of work, and I have people in my life who’ve suffered in that way, our mental health is incredibly important. I think also, it’s very easy to forget the importance of diversity and inclusion for the health of an organisation.
While firms and companies may be recovering from, financially, a downturn, what you don’t want to add to that is that their staff are having to recover as well. If we can maintain our focus on our people, then as we begin to recover from any financial stress, at least it’s not had such a huge impact on our people, because we can’t underestimate the importance of our people.
Julia: Wonderful. Ethan, same question to you, if I may, why D&I should remain high on the corporate agenda.
Ethan: Yes, I totally concur with Arlene’s comments there. It should always be high because we’re wanting to evolve our workforce into the most dynamic, diverse and inclusive environment possible for success. But particularly in light of an economic downturn, it’s vital, it’s a strategic priority for all companies. I think, I read in a recent McKinsey report dated May, 2020, called Diversity Still Matters, where they commented that in order to come out of the downturn and economic difficulties in a position of growth and renewal, companies should not turn their back on our diversity and inclusion because that really does place them at a disadvantage. And they actually said that could cause a backlash from both internal talent and in terms of talent retention, but also from the customer base and always wanting to mirror society at large and in terms of internal offerings. Diversity does filter out externally as well as internally.
I think the two crucial elements, I think more just to weather the storm, and some of the qualities that characterise a diverse workforce are innovation and resilience. Those are the two key things for me. And I think we should be looking more in terms of the hearts and minds of the people that we’ve got in organisations and particularly from the LGBTQ+ streams that we’ve been discussing today. There are so many people there with unique stories and backgrounds to share and to learn from, and when it comes to innovation resilience, those are often the most creative people that have gone through great amounts of adversity. We can learn from them on a much higher and strategic level. So, I do think that that will be the key to the economic downturn and turning that around to coming out the other side smiling, hopefully.
Julia: Well, most definitely feels this is the time where we need fresh ideas and we certainly need innovation. That’s been most wonderful. Thank you both for all your thoughts today and also your thoughts on that topic in particular. And I’m just going to ask you to see yourself on a high note. If I could ask you to very quickly, within about 45 seconds, if you could give us the reasons why you are optimistic. Arlene, coming to you first.
Arlene: Oh, so many reasons. Let’s just imagine a post-COVID world in 2021. I’m optimistic. It’s Pride next year, celebration of LGBT+ leaders, people, individuals. I cannot wait to have a huge party because I know that that’s what we all need. And I know I’m probably being a bit frivolous and Ethan can be far deeper and more complex and sophisticated than my answer. But that’s what I’m really looking forward to. January this year we had what’s called a Market Close event. You might be aware, when they ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. And we had Market Close to launch Pride In The City’s 2020 agenda. It was a big, huge event. And we had most of our senior leadership on the balcony, and it was fantastic, so great.
What that demonstrated, I think, to staff, but also we had 50 firms there, was the support that people had from our most senior leadership. I know it’s there. What I’m really looking forward to is demonstrating that again to our people, how supportive they are and to just celebrate outside. Cannot wait for Pride.
Julia: I think talk rhetoric is cheap, and, actually, symbolism and standing up and being counted and leadership matters, not to mention the power of role models as well. Ethan, your thoughts as well, reason why you’re particularly optimistic as we head out of this year and into next.
Ethan: Yes, absolutely. And I echo Arlene’s thoughts there, particularly about the celebration of the individual, absolutely all behind that. But I think we’ve got a unique opportunity at the moment, and there’s been a paradigm shift in the way that we work, which has given us greater flexibility, both in our professional and our personal lives. I actually quite welcome that balance and that new world. I think that, as we have the opportunity, as I’ve just said, to craft and evolve that in our own way, particularly thinking that the 9-5 model is dead and it’s outdated and no one size fits all can happen anymore. I think that intersectional lens really excites me. I’m very optimistic about that being adopted far more widely in every organisation. So, that really excites me.
I do also think that it links back to ESG as well, in financial services there’s a lot more products coming out with an ESG rating, and credit ratings that are factoring in ESG factors. And the ‘S’ of ESG is all about diversity inclusion and gender pay gap. We really need to be thinking about that and some of the carbon neutral and net zero products that we’ve got on the ‘S’ side, as we’ve been discussing today about people’s identity and intersectionality and celebrating difference. I’m very optimistic that actually out of all the troubles that we’ve experienced in 2020 will have a hugely positive effect longer term. So, yes, that’s me.
Julia: Well, you have inspired me to take the ‘S’ further. We will be having more conversations about this. It will not be the last conversation we ever have, certainly not on the DiverCity Podcast, editorial planning, but also, I look forward to meeting you both again in person when the time is right. I can’t tell you how much I’ve really enjoyed the conversation. Not only did we look at this from a commercial and leadership point of view, we’ve also thought about this from a very personal point of view as well. You’ve both been very generous in your sharing your experiences and your thoughts as well. Much to be inspired by you both, and phenomenal role models. I’ve had a fantastic conversation today. Arlene, thank you so much for joining us. We’re really grateful.
Arlene: Thanks Julia.
Julia: Ethan, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for being with us today.
Ethan: It’s a pleasure. Thank you, Julia. And thank you, Arlene. I’ve enjoyed the conversation.
Julia: As always, thank you to all our listeners for tuning into DiverCity Podcast. I’ve been Julia Streets, and we look forward to the next episode.
Kieron: This episode of the DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya for her insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.
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