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Soho celebrates inspiring LBTQ women

March 2020

We know who runs the world. But sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves of the issues women face, particularly in the LBTQ space. Which is why we came together at Fora – Soho to showcase some of the women in that community, their achievements and how they have overcome their personal struggles. In short, a very inspiring Friday evening!

 

Different careers yet all LBTQ role models

This event was hosted by LBTQ Women, a network that aims to highlight issues affecting lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women and ensure they can come together to engage and be confident with who they are.

The evening’s panellists had a range of inspiring stories to tell. Clare Coates, head of Large Corporate at Barclays Payments gave an insight into the corporate world, particularly her work as deputy chair of Barclays LGBT+ Network ‘Spectrum’.

Alexandra D’sa who is kept busy by four jobs, focussed on her work as an actress “I enjoy the escapism” she says and the setting up of House Of Pride, a space for queer women, non-binary and genderqueer people.

Charlie Martin is a racing driver who has transitioned and when not getting her adrenaline fix, is dedicated to using her professional position to inspire young people to be their true selves.

Finally, Ruth O’Gould, an officer in the Metropolitan Police, was drawn to a career in the force by seeing the bravery of her colleagues and the family feel of the organisation.

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Tales of coming out

While for Ruth, her sexuality was the first thing about herself she told her university housemates, others have found coming out more challenging. “I wish I’d come out sooner,” says Clare while Charlie admits, “I couldn’t see anybody like me who’d come out in the racing world, I was incredibly scared.” These days all the panel exude confidence of who they are with Alex adding, “I lead with the fact I’m a lesbian when I’m introducing myself.”

 

Smashing the double glass ceiling

We’re all familiar with the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching their full career potential because of their gender, but there’s another layer of discrimination when women are LBTQ+.

“There’s a real lack of senior women who are out, which means a lack of role models,” Clare explains, going on to say that it’s great that there are senior executive allies within businesses but there is a need for more members of the LBTQ+ community in top positions to bring others on that journey.

In her career in motorsport, Charlie has found getting commercial partnerships, an essential part of the industry, particularly difficult. “I’m still someone who is a bit of wildcard for sponsors.” There aren’t enough women coming into the sport at grass roots, she explains, which then means there is less representation at the top as those people progress.

 

Positive discrimination and other solutions

Audience member Kathleen asked about positive discrimination and the panel broadly agreed that this was a good thing. Be a cheerleader for your friends and colleagues advises Alex. If you see a job you think they can do, tell them to go for it.

Clare suggests collaborating with other networks within your organisation, whether that’s a BAME network or a mental health network as you can help each other and offer support and advice. Saski, an LGBTQ educator in the audience added that it’s sometimes also about getting out of your groups and looking to the wider world to get the message out and the support you need. And if you don’t feel progress is being made in terms of the visibility of the LBTQ community then don’t sit back, take risks and do something was the overriding message, whether that’s going to an event like this and talking to people or setting up something yourself.

“Encourage the younger generation to be out and proud,” says Ruth. And what better way to conclude proceedings than everyone standing up and doing the Each for Equal symbol in a mass show of support for International Women’s Day. A Friday night well spent! And you can sign-up for other empowering events at Fora here.