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‘Being authentic has transformed my career. It can do the same for you’

‘Being authentic has transformed my career. It can do the same for you’

Em Sendall is one of the leaders of GLOBE, the LGBTI network at Deloitte.

Sponsored: Being part of Deloitte’s LGBTI network has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career so far.

It has enabled me to be involved in something that I care deeply about, grow my network and develop my professional skills.

The people at Deloitte are amazing. It’s fantastic to work in an inclusive environment, with such interesting, intelligent, curious professionals, who really care about the work they’re doing.

As a manager in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, I work with a wide range of private sector companies, helping them navigate complex business transformation. It’s incredibly interesting but can also be very hard work. If I didn’t feel able to fully be myself I’d struggle to devote the energy and focus that the job needs.

Deloitte’s LGBTI network (GLOBE) helps me feel confident about being out at work.

Tentative beginnings

I joined Deloitte, one of the world’s leading professional services firms, a decade ago. But I didn’t come out as gay for about 18 months.

Not because I encountered homophobia or anything else to make me think it would not be safe to come out, but rather because I didn’t see any overt signals that it was ok to be out. I didn’t know any other LGBTI people and the topic was not discussed.

Erring on the side of caution, I decided to lay low.

Coincidentally, GLOBE was established around the time I joined the firm. After a few months, I joined the network mailing list quietly and kept my distance. Eventually, being in a relationship and wanting to talk openly about my life outside work prompted me to come out at work.

As is the case for many people, coming out was a complete non-event. Nothing bad happened as a result, and attitudes towards me didn’t change. All my colleagues care about is that I can do my job well, and with confidence.

Reflecting on my experience made me want to contribute to making Deloitte more LGBTI inclusive, so I gradually became more and more involved in the network and eventually became co-chair in 2011.

Bringing together people from across Deloitte

Being involved with GLOBE has been brilliant for my personal and professional development. I’ve made some amazing friends, had some incredible experiences, and feel like I have made a real and tangible difference to the experience of LGBTI people at Deloitte.

People from right across the business make up the GLOBE leadership team. In my role I work with graduates who joined us last September through to some of the most senior partners in the firm.

Recognising shared experiences and a shared interest for promoting LGBTI inclusion brings people together and creates a strong sense of community and purpose.

Often the natural order of seniority doesn’t apply within the network leadership team. We encourage more junior people to take on leadership roles and develop their capability.

Although LGBTI networks are typically not focused on immediate commercial success, people who work in an environment where they feel able to be themselves are more productive and able to thrive.

It is critical we create a culture of inclusion that is underpinned by respect, and where people are judged solely on their contribution.

My proudest moment

I’ve had so many moments of pride over the years that it’s impossible to pick just one. Three in particular stand out.

Firstly, the launch of our LGBT Allies Programme in 2014. This simple but effective approach has provided a way for hundreds of non-LGBT people at the firm to show their unequivocal support for LGBT inclusion and equality.

Secondly, marching under a Deloitte banner for the first time in London Pride with a huge group of friends and colleagues is a moment I’ll never forget.

And finally, the introduction of Deloitte’s Gender Expression and Transition Policy – launched on Trans Day of visibility this year – was a seemingly small but very poignant moment for our network and our firm.

All of these moments were significant in their own way. And we couldn’t have done any of them without our brilliant team. Although our immediate leadership team is only eight people, it takes over 40 people to deliver the activities of the network and help us make such an incredible impact year after year.

We’ve made space for allies

GLOBE really took off when we launched the LGBT Allies Programme.

The concept is very simple but very effective. It’s about giving people that visible signal that I was looking for when I joined the firm – it’s ok to be yourself.

We equip our allies with rainbow mugs, lapel pins, stickers and notebooks that say ‘I am proud to be an ally of GLOBE, Deloitte’s network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people’.

And we encourage them to have open conversations with colleagues and clients about GLOBE and our activities.

Having LGBTI be a normal part of the working environment helps demystify it. And it helps those who are wondering whether or not to come out to know that it is safe to do so.

Making it easier to come out

The impact is measurable. Before we launched the Allies Programme, a considerable percentage of our members were on the private list. That meant nobody – not even other members of the network – knew who they were. Since the launch of the Allies programme everyone has joined the open list.

People often have every intention of coming out when they join a new employer – especially those people who have been out at university or at a previous employer.

But then they have that first conversation and they make a split-second decision not to be open. Then the next conversation happens, then the next, then a week goes past, then a month.

And before long it can seem like coming out is almost impossible. We wanted to give people a clear, visible signal that Deloitte and our people are LGBTI inclusive.

Some of our allies simply want to do all they can to promote an inclusive environment. Others believe if we can get LGBTI inclusion right – notoriously challenging – that says a lot about how we’re doing overall.

And many of our people have LGBTI friends and family, and allies often bring LGBTI children, parents, siblings and friends to our events. They want to embrace that part of their lives and are glad that the firm they for work enables them to do so.

Allies enjoy being part of the network and participating in all we have to offer. GLOBE is visible across the firm and we hold interesting and engaging events. This summer we’re planning to take part in a number of Pride parades across the country.

Networks can help graduate joiners

Students or new joiners should look for a firm that is the right fit for them in terms of culture. Where they believe they will be happy.

Things change when you leave university and move into the professional environment. Expectations shift and it can sometimes be hard to remain true to yourself. Find a working environment where you feel encouraged to be yourself.

A lot of graduates come through our doors. The ones I remember most are those who are able to adapt to the professional environment, but are also able to maintain their sense of self. Being part of a network like GLOBE can help that.

Find out more about life at Deloitte here and explore Deloitte’s career opportunities here. You can also connect with GLOBE on Twitter. Deloitte is sponsoring Gay Star Students, going live this summer.