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Karin Cook: ‘Everyone should be able to bring their whole selves to work.’

A ‘Top Straight Ally’ on this year’s OUTstanding Top 30 Allies’ List, Karin Cook, of Lloyds Banking Group, shares her experience championing the LGBT agenda at one of Britain’s biggest banks

Karin Cook: ‘Everyone should be able to bring their whole selves to work.’
Lloyds Banking Group
Karin Cook is Group Director of Operations, Lloyd Banking Group

One of the most rewarding aspects of my day job running Operations for Lloyds Banking Group is my voluntary role as the Executive Sponsor for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

I am committed to helping our LGBT colleagues be more comfortable and confident in bringing their whole selves to work and I want to see Lloyds Banking Group as an employer of choice for the LGBT community.

At Lloyds Banking Group, diversity and inclusion sits at the heart of our business’ objectives. We believe that we can better understand and serve our customers if we reflect the diversity of 21st century Britain today, and this relies on our own employees representing the customers we serve and, crucially, feeling included.

As part of our Helping Britain Prosper Plan, we have set a public goal around increasing the engagement levels of LGBT colleagues, and we are committed to making it happen.

I’m really proud how far we have come and we were delighted to be recognised by Stonewall this year as the Top Private Sector employer of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in 2015.

Being an executive sponsor is about championing the agenda at the highest level – creating an environment where colleagues voices can be heard, ensuring our leaders are committed to our diversity and inclusion activities and encouraging more allies to support our LGBT colleagues.

We have a goal to grow our 2,000-strong LGBT Rainbow Network to 5,000 people in 2016, which we will do through encouraging more colleagues to join and champion the aims of the network.

Even though we have made great progress there is still lots to do for our colleagues; ensuring visibility of senior role models, developing and nurturing LGBT talent, educating line managers on the challenges LGBT colleagues can face, strengthening our mentoring and reverse mentoring offerings and meeting with LGBT colleagues on a regular basis to understand their concerns.

At a Group level, we are always introducing new initiatives as well. We have recently launched our own version of the Stonewall ‘No Bystanders’ campaign – ‘Words Count’ which tackles non-inclusive behaviours and language.

We know non-inclusive language and behaviours aren’t always intentional; sometimes it’s the seemingly harmless comments made without thinking that can have an impact.

Much of the work I have done since becoming Executive sponsor for LGBT is to make our LGBT colleagues and customers feel included. For example, during London Pride 2015, we celebrated by turning our ATMs into ‘GAYTMs’ and had rainbow flags flying at our office sites to show support for Pride.

We are also active in the LGBT community, as proud sponsors of the Stonewall Youth Volunteering Programme, which gives young people aged 16-21, support to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in their communities.

My leadership team and I recently spent a day volunteering to support LGBT charities The Albert Kennedy Trust and PACE.

I am also aware of the importance of my position in ensuring that all colleagues have visibility of the work we do to support LGBT colleagues, customer and the community.

I write a weekly blog which reaches more than 20,000 Lloyds Banking Group colleagues that regularly includes discussion of LGBT issues and I host and attend as many internal LGBT events as possible.

I believe communicating often about LGBT issues across the Group, and by ensuring LGBT role models are accessible to everyone in the organisation we help create an open forum for discussion and engagement, thereby creating an effective force for real change.

Throughout my time as Executive Sponsor, I have been encouraged by the change I’ve seen and the support across the business to ensure our LGBT colleagues and customers are fully included.

When I have spoken to colleagues who have a limited knowledge of our LGBT agenda, and talked about why I am so committed to ensuring Lloyds Banking Group is a place where our LGBT colleagues can flourish and reach their full potential, they have transformed into passionate and active LGBT advocates.

I am sometimes surprised by how often my colleagues have been excited about driving change and raising awareness about this important agenda – in fact, the more time I spend in my role, the more I realise that people just need to be given the opportunity to become involved and see that together, we can make a difference.

Karin Cook is Group Director of Operations, Lloyd Banking Group (LBG), and Executive Sponsor for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. More information on the OUTstanding Top 30 Ally Executives lost can be found here.

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