LBWOMEN MIDLANDS AMBASSADOR
Head of UK Fiduciary Content and Delivery
CLAIRE SKINNER | Mercer
The best thing about your career
I have worked at Mercer since leaving University in 1995. What I like is how much the organisation has changed and evolved, and continues to change. No 2 days are ever the same and we are certainly never bored.
I did actually leave Mercer to train as a teacher. This was just after the financial crisis and I felt work was taking up just a little too much of my energy and time, and with my daughter still a toddler. What I began to appreciate most about Mercer, with the benefit of some perspective, was that everybody works together, we all have the same goal in mind in doing the best for our clients and everybody works towards this. I also noticed a huge change in the 3 years I was away in the progress Mercer had made in terms of diversity and inclusion, and not just around LGBT+ issues. We now have global Business Resource Groups, for example, for networking and the exchange of views under a Diversity Matters banner.
Why you think being out is important
I think it is hugely important to have senior out role models, not least to highlight that being LGBT will not impact on your career, but for individuals this is a very personal decision and there are still very good and real reasons why individuals may wish to stay in the closet. In fact, as a self-confessed introvert I tended to go for the “it’s there if you want to see it” option until recently, bringing my partner to work events etc but not being something I particularly broadcast. In 2016, with the rise of the Mercer LGBTA network and increasing discussions around diversity, and with a background of 20 years at Mercer in a senior role, I felt confident enough to officially come out with an email around the business and subsequently with an increasing presence within various debates, networks etc on diversity themes. There is no doubt that the more relaxed and open you are at work, the better the work environment. We are all individuals, and that individuality adds value. Spending energy on hiding a part of yourself impacts on work outcomes as well as an individual’s health and wellbeing.
How and what was the reaction to you coming out
The reaction has been very positive. I have lost count of the colleagues who have personally contacted me with questions or support and the office even sports a number of rainbow flags and Ally stickers. Being out has also been helpful from a practical perspective, with my partners mother diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, I was able to take time off at very short notice.
There has inevitably also been some questions and comments, some of them more challenging than others. It is after all only a couple of years since the LGBT community could get married, adopt children, celebrate their lives, and there are individuals who may not have moved on as quickly as others. What’s important is the open dialogue. A number of people have questioned the need to come out, for example, but for me my identity as a gay women, with my partner and family, is a huge part of who I am.