Dr. Rhian-Mari Thomas, Chairman and Managing Director of Barclays Green Banking Council, is a senior sponsor of the Barclays Spectrum network and recently featured on the 2016 FT/Outstanding list. Here she reveals why inclusion is so important and why she became an LGBT advocate.
How did you got involved in the LGBT agenda and why is inclusion so important to you?
I joined Spectrum as an Ally after hearing the story of a business leader who offered his protégé an aspirational overseas role only to be confused and critical when the colleague struggled to immediately accept that opportunity.
The colleague was unable to agree to the promotion as it was based in one of the 74 countries where homosexuality remains illegal. At a time when he should have been celebrating a milestone in his career, he faced the distressing dilemma of either having to come out to his mentor and boss or possibly resign to avoid doing so.
The business leader had no idea of the torment he had caused and, similarly, I realised that despite my activism and support for gender diversity, I was horribly ignorant of the challenges faced by our LGBT colleagues.
Inclusion is a matter of fairness and social equality, which are fundamental values of mine.
Why did you get involved with the Spectrum Allies program?
After winning a Barclays Women of the Year 2014/15 award, I wanted to use that platform to support the inclusion of a minority group which doesn’t enjoy the many privileges I do. I may be a woman but I’m Caucasian and straight; and so I was delighted when the Spectrum Chairs agreed to let me be one of the senior sponsors for the network.
I then started getting more involved in the LGBT community, sitting on an advisory board of an LGBT organisation and chairing one of their committees, speaking at external events, attending Pride and fundraising for LGBT-focused charities.
Why do we need Allies and how do they make a difference at Barclays?
Allies make a difference when we visibly promote a safe and inclusive environment for LGBT colleagues. Numerous studies show the negative impacts that members of the LGBT community suffer when they aren’t able to be their authentic selves, from lower productivity in the workplace through to increased levels of anxiety and depression. It seems a small gesture on the part of the majority to help others feel accepted, confident and able to fulfil their potential.
How has being part of the Spectrum Allies programme impacted you personally?
Making an effort to listen to, and understand, the perspectives of others has made me a better colleague and leader. Occasionally I’ve been saddened and shocked to hear of the prejudice and challenges that some of our LGBT colleagues have to face in both their personal and professional lives. However, mostly I’ve enjoyed thought-provoking, interesting, fun conversations and events with LGBT colleagues and other allies, all of whom are committed to showing kindness and generosity to others.