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Meet tomorrow’s LGBT business leaders

Meet tomorrow’s LGBT business leaders

L-R: Darren Beaumont, Aritha Wickramasinghe and Rica Paras

Last week, professional networking group OUTstanding, in conjunction with the Financial Times, published its annual power lists – profiling the top 100 LGBT business executives in the world, alongside allies and emerging leaders.

We take a closer look at its list of business leaders of the future and speak to some of those profiled.

The 2015 Top 30 LGBT Future Leaders

Aritha Wickramasinghe
Aritha Wickramasinghe

1. Aritha Wickramasinghe, Associate, K&L Gates LLP

Originally from Sri Lanka but now based in London, Aritha is an international banking and real estate finance solicitor.

He was chair of Arcus (the LGBT network at his previous employer, Clifford Chance) for two and a half years, and is now part of the Diversity Committee at current employer, law firm K&L Gates.

As well as undertaking pro-bono work to help advance LGBT rights, he has been instrumental in in coordinating a panel with representatives from the UN, World Bank and other institutions, to advise on creating a mandatory curriculum to teach equality to children in schools; the Equality Studies Global Initiative.

‘There is increasing acceptance that an open and more inclusive work environment is a happier place to work and, I know it may sound cliché, but happy employees are always more productive,’ Aritha told Gay Star News.

‘Being out has meant that I can focus my energies on my career and contributing to the work place rather than hiding. People often underestimate the effort that’s required to live a lie.’

‘The OUTstanding and FT lists are crucial. Like any minority, it is important that there are adequate, visible role models for LGBT youth to inspire towards. By being visible, LGBT leaders send the message to LGBT youth that being themselves is not a detriment to their careers.

‘It creates one less fear and one less doubt in our minds and that means we can put in more effort and time in helping grow the business rather than hiding from senior management.’

‘To be included in this list has been a great honor and a humbling experience for me.’

Mark McBride-Wright
Mark McBride-Wright

2. Dr. Mark McBride-Wright, Safety Engineer, KBR

Mark is a safety engineer with the global technology, engineering and construction company KBR, and has been very active in promoting LGBT inclusion in engineering – chiefly as the Chair and Co-Founder of LGBT and allies network InterEngineering, which he launched in 2014.

Last month he wrote for Gay Star Business on being gay in the engineering world, saying ‘Engineering does suffer from the stereotype of the predominantly male workforce which it contains, and with this it can mean it is difficult to be open in the workplace.’

On hearing about his placing on the future LGBT leaders list, he said, ‘Through InterEngineering, I am pushing for increased LGBT diversity and inclusion in engineering and the OUTstanding/FT listing has helped raise the profile of our network globally which is fantastic.’

Cory Valente
Cory Valente

3. Cory Valente, PhD, Associate Scientist, The Dow Chemical Company

Dow Chemical Company has been recognized before as a corporate leader in the field of diversity and inclusion, and has been vocal in its condemnation of legislation that could discriminate against LGBTI people.

Cory is an associate scientist for the company, and is also the Global Leader for GLAD, Dow’s LGBT & Allies network, which is comprised of nearly 30 chapters and has over 2,600 participants in more than 35 countries.

‘There is a mental tax to being in the closet. Always on the defensive. It’s exhausting,’ says Cory.

‘And the data is out there to prove it. LGBT individuals that feel compelled to be closeted because of non-inclusive workplaces suffer both personally and professionally.

‘We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our employers to be our best selves and to not leave anything on the table.’

Rath Wang
Rath Wang

4. Rath Wang, Senior Consultant, EY

Rath is a senior international tax consultant specializing in transfer pricing for EY in Japan. He has advocated for the implementation of sexual orientation and gender expression anti-discrimination policies, and started the first consulting and professional services LGBT & Allies employee resource group in the country. He is also a founding board member of Japan’s largest workplace equality advocacy, Nijiiro Diversity.

‘This is truly an inspirational award and it will encourage me to continue the work I have already done inside and outside EY on raising awareness of LGBT inclusiveness,’ he said in a statement.

‘I recognize that it is important for future leaders to continue building a better working world. The legacy that we set now will create the right environment for the leaders of tomorrow.’

Andrew Barratt
Andrew Barratt

5. Andrew Barratt, Head of Ogilvy Pride, Ogilvy & Mather Group

‘I was delighted and humbled to feature number 5 on the future leaders list,’ says Andrew Barratt, the Head of Ogilvy Pride, the specialist LGBT marketing consultancy and LGBT & Ally network of global marketing organization Ogilvy & Mather Group.

‘Being out in business is so important – to be authentic with others and true to yourself. We live in a world of transparency and free information, where individual and corporate brand reputation is now simply a reflection of who you are. There is no room for hiding!’

Andrew is also a member of the CIPR Diversity Workplace Board and is a regular contributor to the marketing trade press on the importance of LGBT diversity and inclusion within business and brand marketing.

Rica Paras
Rica Paras

6. Rica Paras, Solution Architect Manager, Accenture

Rica has the distinction of perhaps being the only person on the emerging leaders list to have something of a public profile at home in the Philippines – thanks to her participating in the country’s version of Big Brother in 2009!

Nowadays, her life is more focused around her career with management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company Accenture.

Demonstrating a passion for mathematics and computing from a young age, she is a Solution Architect Manager, and for more than a year has been their ASEAN LGBT Lead, spearheading collaboration between LGBT advocates from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

She is a core team member of Philippines’ Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FLAG), a Spokesperson for the Philippines-based LGBT political organization “Ladlad”, and has served as the Chairwoman of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP).

‘I am proud to work for a company where a person’s individuality and strong sense of gender identity is recognized and respected,’ she told Gay Star Business.

‘At Accenture, Respect for the Individual is one of our core values, which helps assure me that I will be safe and secure as my authentic self in the workplace. I carry personal hardships of coming to terms with myself, living as a transgender woman, but Accenture provides the support and encouragement that helps me personally and professionally.’

Amy Stanning
Amy Stanning

7. Amy Stanning, Shared Services Director, Barclays

‘Being able to come out and be fully myself in the workplace has been an amazing and empowering experience,’ says Amy Stanning, Shared Services Director at Barclays, and the Co-chair of Barclays Spectrum, a 2,000-member strong colleague network in the UK and EMEA regions.

‘I can bring my full self to work without having to hide away a huge part of who I am.

‘I am more at ease in the workplace, more authentic and confident and I take better decisions. Since I came out I have moved to my biggest people managing role so far in my career.’

She is involved in developing an Allies program for Barclays employees, is seen as a role model for transgender people working at Barclays, having been involved with mentoring younger employees who have transitioned or have considered transitioning.

Darren Beaumont
Darren Beaumont

8. Darren Beaumont, Assistant Vice President, Technology Solutions Architect, Deutsche Bank

Describing himself as a ‘creative tech geek’, Darren is an Assistant Vice President and technology strategist at Deutsche Bank, where he has transformed how their dbPride LGBT network connects globally.

As an openly out bisexual, he has been instrumental in championing the use of technology to share personal journeys, highlight visible LGBT role models and allies and expand the networks online community.

‘Coming out for me is about not having to hold back if someone asks me if I have a partner, or what I did at the weekend.’

‘Often the thing that held me back the most was my own personal fear that people’s opinions of me would change if I let them in to my personal life. In reality, this was all in my own head, and being open has given me more confidence to be who I am.’

Christopher Moody
Christopher Moody

9. Christopher Moody, Market Risk Stream Lead, BP

After graduating from Brunel University with a degree in Information Systems, IT specialist Chris took up a position at BP. He now works in its Integrated Supply and Trading business.

He has been a member of BP Pride’s executive leadership team for the last three years. Initiatives he has been involved with include producing videos to allow LGBT role models to share their experiences, creating an interactive toolkit to help the BP Allies program, and reverse mentoring to help leadership teams understand the issues faced by LGBT employees.

‘We all grow up with our heroes, whether it’s Superman or Spider-Man, regardless of our sexuality,’ says Moody. ‘But when we grow up and enter our working life it’s important for us to look up and see people we can relate to, people who may have had the same experiences or fears but managed to breakthrough and become successful.

‘It’s hugely important for LGBT leaders to be visible, be active and provide sponsoring and mentoring opportunity for the younger talent so we can eliminate and glass ceilings and create a meritocratic environment for all talent.’

10. Michael Oakes, Head of Programmes, EMEA, The Economist

‘I’ve only recently started being so public about my sexuality and using it to make the many worlds I operate in more inclusive,’ says Michael Oakes, the EMEA Head Of Programmes at The Economist.

‘The beginning of my career was spent focusing on just that – my career, which I feel was the right thing to do. It’s only now I’ve hit my mid-thirties that I recognize how easy I’ve had it, and have also developed an awareness of the power and impact my experience might have on others.

Oakes is currently the chair of the EMEA chapter of The Economist’s LGBT network, and also the global program lead on The Economist’s Pride & Prejudice initiative, which aims to present the business and economic case for LGBT diversity and inclusion through editorial, research and event channels.

The project will culminate in a 24-hour, rolling global Pride & Prejudice conference – with events in Hong Kong, London and New York – on 3 March 2016.

‘As I rise through the ranks, being an active and vocal part of the LGBT community will remain a very important part of who I am. Being gay, and being able to be so transparent about it has undoubtedly made me better at my job – and benefitted the businesses I’ve worked for.

The full top 30 future leaders list can be read at OUTstanding.