Introducing EMpower…

upstanding-collage_mid-res

 

Thursday 16th February 2017, a day to remember as our next big step in diversity and inclusion, where we launch our new venture called EMpower.

Last night saw the reveal of the EMpower brand, and with it, the opening of nominations for the Top 100 Ethnic Minority Business Leaders and Top 30 Future Leaders.

We celebrated the real strides being made in BAME inclusion, both in and out of the workplace. This is a big step for us, and it was wonderful to see so many people there supporting this initiative, and supporting BAME workplace inclusion. EMpower is building on last year’s UPstanding Executive Power List, and allows us to provide support and content on a range of BAME inclusion issues.

Not only are we launching the lists, we also have a membership offering, which begins with our 10 founding members and what a list of members it is:

  • Dentsu Aegis Network
  • Barclays
  • BP
  • Slaughter and May
  • LinkedIn
  • Jupiter
  • PwC
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Coca-Cola
  • Virgin Money

As mentioned by Vivian Hunt (Managing Partner of McKinsey), in this day and age “there is simply no excuse for companies to not be looking for the best talent, from all kinds diverse groups”. Last night we heard from so many inspiring figures in the BAME community, with Krishna Omkar (Associate at Slaughter and May) saying “we have to push through the fatigue, or nothing will change.” As Karen Blackett said “talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. We have people of colour in positions of power and we need to celebrate that.” We know that these lists are helping people to be comfortable with being recognised for their differences, and that our Future Leaders specifically can create a landscape that we are proud to be a part of.

You can nominate your leaders using the link below so please like and share this post to spread the word:

https://www.out-standing.org/empower/

As with our other events, it is always great to see our members and role models in attendance and celebrating achievements. With so many of our EMpower founding members represented, I felt truly humbled and privileged by the support. We have an exciting calendar of events coming up, not only will we have the lists in May, but we have some fantastic activity planned.

The experience of BAME people in the workplace is clearly different and we exist to help them develop, be promoted and be included. Yesterday validated our existence even more. I’m so proud of where we’ve started with EMpower and can’t wait to see it grow and unfold for the rest of this year.

“Now more than ever we have to stand up for what we believe in, don’t be afraid to fight.” – Vivian Hunt

 

A night to remember

osgala-web-271016-8726

What. A. Night. I can honestly say that last week’s Gala Dinner was truly OUTstanding!

It was our biggest and best event yet, and was a fitting celebration for all of our LGBT+ and Ally execs, and our LGBT+ Future Leaders. We were joined by 280 inspiring members, leaders and OUTstanding advocates, and London’s impressive Banking Hall was bursting at the seams.

A few people commented on the impressive calibre of our speakers, and I have to say, I completely agree. Both Paul Polman and Antonio Simoes are incredibly widely respected, not just within our network but within the wider business world. So to have them both speaking at our event was a real honour. Antonio kicked things off with a heartwarming speech, reminding us all to think about the world that our children will grow up in, and Paul followed with some wise words about the business case for LGBT+ inclusion. He’s right – we’ve been saying for years that companies who embrace diversity are where people want to work, and it’s just fantastic to see such a globally recognised businessman pushing this message out at such a senior level.

I can’t fail to mention the warmth, engagement and professionalism that Jane Hill always brings to our events. It’s the fourth time that Jane has presented for OUTstanding, and I hope that she’ll join us again next year, as I quite honestly cannot imagine doing it without her. I’m always in total awe of Jane’s poise and professionalism, not to mention how immaculate she looks at every occasion.

It was a shame that neither Gigi Chao nor Marc Benioff, our number 1 executives, could attend the gala in person. However the inspiring, and rousing, speeches in their acceptance videos sent the room into awestruck silence followed by rapturous applause. You couldn’t disagree with Marc’s encouragement to take the higher ground when pushing for LGBT+ rights; and Gigi’s call to embrace our LGBT+ identities as honest and hardworking members of society who deserve to be loved, really resonated with me. It’s such a privilege to have people such as these topping our lists.

Here are the links to their acceptance films below:

Gigi Chao acceptance speech

Marc Benioff acceptance speech

The last word of the night was saved for Raymond Braun. They say ‘everybody loves Raymond’ – and at the Gala Dinner, they did. Raymond flew over from the States to be with us, and I think he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He’s kind, genuine – and even popped into the office this week to toast his success with the OUTstanding team. I was lucky enough to have dinner with him on Tuesday and can honestly say, the warm, funny person he is up on stage isn’t an act – that’s all him. He spoke from the heart, and finished the gala off a treat.

I’ll finish with my highlights…

Best quote: 

“Dignity, respect and equality are human rights. We have to ensure that everyone, for generations to come, have these rights” – Paul Polman

Best outfit: 

Mine, of course 😉

Best moment: 

Hearing that one of our Future Leaders tell us how she was going to use her place in the 2016 OUTstanding & FT Power Lists to come out as bisexual to her mum over the weekend. The fact we’ve played a part in that moment fills me with so much joy. We all wish her the best of luck.

To those of you who were there – thanks for coming, hope you had as good a time as I did. Now that it’s over, I’m taking time to reflect on all of the inspiring stories that were shared. Nights like that remind me why we do what we do, and give me the motivation to keep making OUTstanding bigger and better and it’s your support on this movement for change which is making the biggest difference.

So, OUTstanding Gala Dinner 2017 – who’s in?

Two steps forward, one step back?

ft-exec-cover

Wow. Here we are again – the 4th time we’ve joined forces with the FT to release our annual power lists. In some ways, when I think of everything we’ve achieved, our launch in 2013 seems like such a long time ago. But in other ways, I can remember it like it was yesterday.

The lists have gone from strength to strength, and this year really is our biggest and best yet.

We have more nominations than ever before.

There’s more diversity than ever before.

There are more new entrants and more repeat power listers than ever before.

Seeing the size, reach and popularity of the lists fills me with so much pride. People around the world have heard of OUTstanding, and have recognised the benefits of securing a place on one of our lists, both personally and professionally; for themselves and for those around them.

As much as I love to see the success of the lists and what we’re doing, it also saddens me. It’s fantastic that LGBT+ and D&I issues in general have been brought to the fore in recent years, and feature much more heavily in politics and popular culture than they did even 3 years ago when OUTstanding launched. But despite this, it feels like we’re regressing. After years of moving forwards, the shock Brexit vote this summer has divided a nation; and the current race for the White House is creating a similar divide across the pond. It’s upsetting the balance, and I don’t like it.

Uncertainty and fear has brought out the worst in people, and the past six months has seen a marked rise in homophobia, xenophobia and fear of the unknown. We’re not the community minded nation we used to be. I read this week that 37% of LGBT+ university students now say they feel worried about the prospect of hate crime due to their sexual orientation. They’re not the kind of stats we should be seeing, particularly when – as our lists have proven – we know there’s a big appetite to drive inclusivity and celebrate diversity.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fear, the caution, the hostility that’s all around us.  But we need to be brave and stand tall. We need to look at the inspiring actions of our LGBT+ and ally role models.  I never fail to be impressed and in awe of our number ones, and this year is no different.

Both of our LGBT+ role models had to challenge their friends’ and family’s expectations of normality.  Four years ago, Gigi Chao faced a public battle that few can imagine. Her father publicly offered HK$500 million (US$64.5 million) to any man who could convince his lesbian daughter to marry him.  Having to risk both her personal AND professional happiness and security in order to stay true to herself can’t have been easy. But she did it, and continues to use her status to raise the profile of LGBT+ issues.

And whilst Raymond Braun’s parents didn’t offer money to turn him, he still felt the pressure from his peers to be the all-American teenager; fulfilling the sporty, macho stereotypes and suppressing his true interests, emotions and animated personality.  The incredible global success he’s gone on to achieve professionally, and in the field of LGBT+ rights, is really quite something (and all the more impressive given that he’s only 26!) – and just goes to show how much further you can spread your wings if you’re able to succeed as your true self.

Being an ally is not always known about or understood. As we often say in the office – it’s not just about having a gay friend! But people like Marc Benioff show us what it means to be a true and passionate ally. It’s thanks to people like him, our no.1 ally executive, that LGBT+ communities continue to flourish, and barriers to LGBT+ success are slowly but surely broken down. We need more Marcs – people who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in, even if it brings little or no personal benefit. Seeing the stand Marc took against anti-LGBT+ legislation in the southern states of America filled me with joy, and hope. He’s the kind of guy that personifies what our lists are all about.

We have to keep fighting for change, so nobody lives in fear of being authentic. I’m asking you all right now to help make this happen. Keep reaching out through your networks, keep sharing these stories. Whether it’s at a Town Hall in a different country, a social media post to your network or just chatting to someone in the pub. These stories make a difference. We shouldn’t have to be here saying this, and in a number of years OUTstanding should be a luxury, not a necessity.

 

Suki Sandhu is Founder & CEO of OUTstanding. The 2016 OUTstanding Leading LGBT+&Ally Executives and LGBT+ Future Leaders lists, Presented by the Financial Times were released on Tuesday 25th October, and can be viewed in full here.

An audience with Inga

Last night OUTstanding was proud to host a first-of-its-kind event. We had the pleasure of welcoming Inga Beale in conversation with Claudia Brind-Woody about the importance of bi visibility in the workplace.

As Inga herself said, nowadays being gay is often seen as ‘cool’ and people are falling over themselves to be seen with their gay or lesbian friends. But being bi is rarely spoken about. To heterosexuals, bisexuals are often perceived as indecisive or promiscuous. And within the gay community there’s a feeling that there’s a lack of authenticity, with ‘bi now, gay later’ commonly quoted.

So with biphobia coming from both outside and inside the LGBT+ community, it was fascinating to hear Inga’s experiences, both personally and professionally.

Inga openly admitted that, for her, “it’s absolutely fantastic to be bisexual” – “it’s about a freedom of spirit and not being confined.” She’s achieved personal and professional success, and has always had incredibly supportive friends and family (in fact, she revealed her parents suspected she was a lesbian before she’d even considered the possibility herself!).

However she also acknowledged that she perhaps doesn’t always talk as openly as she should about LGBT+ and gender issues, and should take more courage to do so. She urged us all to remember that we are incredibly fortunate to live in the UK; a country where we do not face prosecution or persecution for being LGBT+, or speaking out about related issues.

Inga was a warm and candid speaker, filling the room with both inspiration and laughter as she regaled guests with stories of rugby club parties and boardroom gender politics.

In amongst the laughter and the stories, a clear message resounded throughout – be open minded and honest: “It’s up to all of us to get biases out of our minds and be more free in our thinking.”

Inga’s final words came from the heart, offering advice to not just bisexuals, but also the L, G and T – and of course their allies:

  1. Have courage. Be yourself. And if you’re not supported and appreciated for who you are at work– get out of there!
  2. Listen
  3. Be open minded
  4. Leave baggage at the door and be more accepting of everyone

And our incredible host Claudia Brind-Woody eloquently summed up the impact of Inga’s words, and the resulting buzz in the room. “Your influence, like your shadow, goes where you’ve never been.”

wp_20160922_20_01_43_pro