Really Donald?

In a week where the UK government showed progress with plans to reform out-dated equalities laws in relation to trans* people, the US appear to have taken a huge step backwards.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to announce that members of the trans* community would no longer be allowed to serve in the United States Military, citing medical costs as the main reason for the decision.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,”

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

These may be the answers they are willing to give publicly but I’m not convinced, and I’m not the only one. A RAND study suggested that, of the approximately 2,400 active trans* service personnel, a maximum of 129 would be likely to seek transition care which could disrupt their ability to deploy. With the sheer lack of substantial evidence behind this announcement, I wonder if we will ever truly know the rationale behind this deplorable act.

Press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stated that the decision was based on “what’s best for the military”, though neither she nor anyone in the White House appear to have a plan for implementation. A Pentagon spokesman has also refused to answer questions about what the announcement means for the current policy. New to her position, Sanders hasn’t had the best start as Sean Spicer’s much needed successor. This is simply another move in a string of missteps since Trump took office. He hasn’t got a great track record with LGBT+ issues – and particularly trans* rights. Since the beginning of his campaign I have been waiting for him to prove me wrong, to pleasantly surprise me with his humility and open-mindedness…still waiting.

Many influential LGB and trans* individuals and allies have already taken to Twitter to slam Donald Trump – and rightly so. Caitlyn Jenner is asking “what happened to your promise to fight for them?” whilst Katy Perry echoes the sentiments of so many in the community – “ALL those who defend our right to live freely should be able to serve freely!”

At OUTstanding, our role models lead by example. It is a value we hold dear and something that I believe everyone in positions of power should aspire to do. I can only imagine the dismay of Trump’s LGBT+ supporters, realising today that their leader does not support our community to the fullest. According to a 2014 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA, approximately 21.4% of trans*gender individuals in the USA have served in the military in some capacity. It will always astound me that a leader with such power can disregard so many of his people, treating them as an expense to be cut rather than as human beings to be respected and valued. These are people who are willing to fight for their country – to risk their lives to proudly defend and protect their nation. Yet in return, they get rejection, not protection.

It’s a sad and scary state of affairs when the world’s most powerful country is regressing rather than progressing. It’s 2017, and whilst we accept that politicians are human and make mistakes, hiding political failings behind a vulnerable community is not the way to do it. To truly succeed as a leader, Trump needs to encourage visibility, authenticity and tolerance within all communities.

Trans* individuals are not numbers in a budget. They are people, they are soldiers, and they are patriots.

We must stand with them and fight inequality at every turn.

Trans rights = human rights. Full stop.

Do we still need Pride?

I’ve been at events in London and San Francisco every day for the past 3 weeks, my social media feeds are awash with rainbows and I’m finding traces of glitter everywhere. Which can only mean one thing: it’s Pride month.

After an exhausting (but fun) weekend spent at Pride parties, brunches, dinners, the Pride in London parade and the Black Pride festival, it is only natural to reflect on Pride and why we celebrate it. What started as a very political movement back in the 1970s has evolved, globally, to become a symbolic festival for the LGBT+ community, with talks, events, parties and the huge parades for which Pride is best known. With such a big presence and recent societal and political progress around LGBT+ issues, there have naturally been questions raised about the impact of Pride and whether we still need it. I get that. But the people asking these questions need to open their eyes. The reality is that Pride still has a huge role to play.

As we are frequently told, there are more LGBT+ people in business, the media and even sport than ever before. Being LGBT+ is no longer the preserve of the arts and entertainment industry. I know this only too well from OUTstanding’s work with LGBT+ Executives and Future Leaders. But, for all of those out, proud, successful LGBT+ people, there are a whole host of people who are still in the closet. This could be through fear of what their friends and family might say. Fear of what their colleagues might think of them. Fear that it could affect their career or future prospects. It’s such a hugely personal issue that there could be any number of reasons. Whilst we’re always encouraging people to be their authentic selves, research commissioned by Pride in London this year has revealed some shocking hate crime statistics in the Capital, which sadly wouldn’t support this encouragement:

  • 68% of LGBT+ Londoners worry that they could be a victim of hate crime
  • 42% of LGBT+ Londoners have been a victim of hate crime in the last 12 months
  • 18% of UK adults believe that they have been a victim of hate crime
  • Only a third of UK adults that have experienced a hate crime reported it to the police and amongst LGBT+ Londoners this falls to around a fifth (21%)

Seeing figures like this alarms and upsets me. There are enough terrible things happening in the world as it is – we shouldn’t have to worry about hate crime on our doorstep, especially when we live in a liberal, western country where being LGBT+ is not illegal, and no longer taboo. In these challenging times, we should be sticking together, not coming apart.

I know there has been some debate over ‘Love happens here’, this year’s Pride in London theme. I understand the arguments but I think the underlying sentiment is spot on, and sums up what I hope the majority of Londoners know to be true: London is a place where you can come to be accepted, and succeed as your true self.

Looking around me this weekend I was overwhelmed with pride, if you’ll excuse the pun, seeing the great variety of people from all walks of life, just being themselves and being accepted because of it, not in spite of it. I was thrilled to be on the Aviva PLC bus on Saturday with Mark Wilson, Group CEO of Aviva and the only FTSE 50 CEO to be in the Pride parade (see the photo to the right). It was a great symbol of solidarity to have such a senior ally up there leading the charge for the company. I saw, first hand, how grateful, happy and proud the Aviva folks were to have Mark and two other ExCo members (Sarah Morris, Chief People Officer and Angela Darlington, Chief Risk Officer) there proudly marching alongside them. It’s role models like these who are inspiring their teams and peers, leading by example and helping us with our mission to further LGBT+ inclusion in business.

Black Pride on Sunday was a very different kind of event, but was no less inspiring or heartwarming. It’s the first time I’ve seen such a huge gathering of LGBT+ people of colour – a community that often feel excluded from more traditional Pride activities – and the atmosphere was incredible. It felt more like a festival rather than a parade which was super fun. Of course, the sunshine and fantastic Vauxhall location helped, but ultimately it was the people there, collectively and peacefully celebrating their communities who made the day what it was. At OUTstanding, we talk a lot about intersectionality in business, and seeing the huge non-white LGBT+ population yesterday reminded me that we need to continue talking about the intersections of race, sexual orientation and gender, as there’s still more of a divide than there should be.

So to answer the question I put to myself at the start of this post – do we still need Pride? Yes, this whole weekend was one big festival-like experience with drag queens, rainbows and a healthy sprinkling of glitter. And yes, there was a big focus on fun and celebration – which was great!  But there’s a much deeper meaning: the significance of being able to express ourselves in this way, as a community. Pride is showing everyone in London, in the UK and around the world, that it’s ok to love whoever you want to love. It’s ok express yourself however you feel most comfortable. And ultimately, it’s ok to be yourself. So until that state is achieved for all LGBT+ people around the world, there will always be an important place for Pride.

OUTstanding in San Francisco

SF skyline

I’m sat here in the San Francisco sunshine reflecting on what an incredible 72 hours I’ve had. It’s been an historic first for OUTstanding. We kicked off our Future Leaders’ Programme stateside, with an all-day event at LinkedIn, San Francisco. And as if that wasn’t enough, we followed it up with a Summer Reception in both London and San Francisco, celebrating our 4th birthday, our achievements of the past year and launching nominations for the 2017 Leading LGBT+ & Ally Executives and LGBT+ Future Leaders lists.

Time difference aside, this was the closest to simultaneous events we’ve ever managed, and I think I speak for everyone in saying they were a runaway success. Alas science didn’t permit me to be present at both, however I know that the feedback from London was just as positive as the feedback from San Francisco, and a good time was had by all. The photo above shows the fabulous terrace on the 17th floor of LinkedIn’s offices in San Francisco where over 140 guests helped us to celebrate. If you couldn’t make it, don’t despair! All of the speeches from both launches can be found on our Facebook page.

When you look at how far we’ve come, it’s hard to believe that OUTstanding is only 4 years old, and that this is only the 5th time we’ve launched the lists. With that in mind, I’m going to share some statistics with you.

In 2013…

  • we had 39 guests at our opening of nominations event in London
  • we had 75 guests at our publication celebration
  • we celebrated 50 LGBT+ Executive Role Models

This year – 2017…

  • we welcomed 300 guests to our nominations launch across London and San Francisco
  • we are expecting around 350 people at our gala dinner publication celebration
  • we’ll be celebrating 100 LGBT+ Executive Role Models, 50 Ally Executives, 50 LGBT+ Future Leaders and 20 LGBT+ Private Sector Executives

Now I’m no statistician, but they’re pretty good growth figures.

And that’s just on the LGBT+ side. As many of you will know, this year has been huge for us as we’ve expanded our offering, branching into broader diversity strands. In February we launched EMpower, a membership offering and role model list initiative for BAME Leaders and Future Leaders, with 10 founding members. Last month we published our first EMpower role model list in the FT, and we’ve already started welcoming additional members into the network. As if that wasn’t enough, we launched the FT & HERoes Champions of Women in Business lists on International Women’s Day in March. We’re so proud to be supporting so many different communities, and cannot wait to see the networks’ continued growth. In the words of Bruce Vincent, Chair of our Advisory Board, “we’ve built a growing & thriving membership organisation, we’re so proud.”

In light of the phenomenal progress we’ve seen at OUTstanding, San Francisco felt like a very fitting location for our events this week. It’s a city that oozes forward thinking from every pore. It’s a globally renowned symbol of LGBT+ evolution, famed for its inclusive attitudes, progressive political figures and celebrated LGBT+ culture. And Silicon Valley is, hands down, the most well-known tech hub in the world, bringing together some of the sharpest minds on the planet to develop the newest technologies for the future. In short, we couldn’t have picked a more progressive location.

But it wasn’t just the progress that made Wednesday night special, it was also all of you; our network. The LGBT+ role models past, present and future who continue to drive the LGBT+ agenda forward and give us a reason to celebrate. For that, I’m eternally grateful. One day, I hope that organisations like OUTstanding aren’t necessary. But whilst they are, we count on your continued support. So please do click here to nominate your leaders for this year’s list.

We’ve never hidden the fact that, whilst we may be small, we have huge ambition. And this international extravaganza shows that that we are right to dream big. I’m so proud of the team and the dedication they’ve all put in to pull off the events of the past 48 hours. I’m off to continue celebrating LGBT+ progress at San Francisco Pride this weekend, and I look forward to seeing many of you at Pride in London when I’m back. As one of San Francisco’s most famous residents, Harvey Milk, once said “Bust down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight”.

Well, Harvey, I’m off to do just that.

Introducing HERoes…

Banner 3Today is an exciting day.

Today is International Womens’ Day.

Today is also the day that we launch a brand new role model list. In partnership with the Financial Times, we are delighted to announce that nominations are now open for the FT and HERoes Champions of Women in Business lists.

So what’s HERoes?

HERoes is OUTstanding’s latest diversity initiative. We’ve seen the positive impact that our work has had on the LGBT+ and ethnic minority communities, so we’re now expanding our focus to encompass gender diversity too. We hear a lot of talk about the progress that has been made with gender equality in business. But with women still earning 18% less than their male colleagues and men being 40% more likely than women to be promoted into senior management roles, there’s clearly still lots of work to be done. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to succeed, and have their success recognised. So we want to celebrate those who are leading the charge.

And what are these lists?

The FT and HERoes Champions of Women in Business lists are something very special, and they’re a bit different to your average ‘power list’. We’re celebrating not just those who have achieved significant success in their own careers, but also those – both men and women – who have helped drive the female talent pipeline, elevating others during their rise through the ranks. The lists will be published in the Financial Times at the end of September, coinciding with the FT Women at the Top conference.

Who decides who gets to be on the list?

Now this is where I get really excited. We have an INCREDIBLE panel of judges who will be deciding on the final role model lists. Helena Morrissey, founder of 30% club and all round role model extraordinaire will be joining me, Carola Hoyos, Financial Times, Mellody Hobson, CEO Ariel Investments & Chair, DreamWorks and Mark Wilson, Group CEO, Aviva.  There are still a few judging panel spaces we’re in the process of finalising, so watch this space for more announcements coming soon. I’m thrilled to have such powerful, high profile names on board and I can’t wait to spend some time with these inspiring leaders.

Know any HERoes?

So there you have it. We’ve got a really good feeling that the FT and HERoes lists are going to be huge. And we can’t wait.

Do you know any inspiring business leaders who are creating opportunities for women to succeed? If so, why don’t you nominate them? You can find full details on our website.

Introducing EMpower…



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:

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