Speaking at Inside and Out 2012 recruitment event

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of representing the bank I work for at the annual Inside and Out targeted recruitment event.  Having helped coordinate the last 2 Inside and Out events from the Bank’s dbPride employee network perspective, this event was to be a little different from my previous experiences.  Now in its 5th year, the event is organised by London’s LGBT Interbank Forum, run by Stafford Long and Partners and this year attended by representatives from 11 banks.  The event is specifically designed to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) undergraduates learn about internships in the investment banking industry.  This targeted event is for first and second year students – each of whom has to apply in writing to attend.  This year the event saw 50-60 students attend from universities across the country (as far as Exeter, Cork and my very own York University) to learn more about the opportunities to work within investment banking and ask the questions that really mattered to them.

Format of event

The four hour event began with opening remarks from host bank Citi and was followed by a 20 minute talk from guest speaker Ruth Hunt – Director of Current Affairs at Stonewall.  Ruth provided an inspiring and entertaining discussion around her journey as an out Lesbian in the workplace, her choice of career paths, why Banking was a great opportunity and questions she would ask an employer if she was at the beginning of her career.  Next up Rob Woods, of 7City Learning, gave a 30 minute introduction to Investment Banking – which even I found myself taking refresher notes from.

Out of sight I was being prepped for the panel discussion.  With all dbPride senior sponsors and allys attending the Bank’s dbPride Ally launch event, I volunteered to take up the baton and represent the bank on the panel session.  This aligned with one of my personal development goals to improve my confidence of delivery when presenting material by provided a professional development opportunity for me to support this goal    Alongside me were 5 out senior representatives (3 MD’s, an ED and a VP) from BAML, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS.  While this was my first panel discussion, let alone my first to a large audience amongst much more senior colleagues, I was atleast confident that my passion for diversity should shine through.  The panel lasted an hour, with a wide variety of questions from the audience – including “with recent news of the industry shedding 30,000 jobs, is it not a bad time to join a bank?”, “is London still a good place to work in banking” and “if there was one thing you know now that you wish you knew then, what would it be?”.  My particular favourite question was “does being LGBT and out help you at work?”.  I do not believe in positive discrimination, so turned this question around and responded with whether being LGBT and not out at work hinders you at work – calling on personal examples as detailed in Diversity networks: Are they still needed? A personal journey to explore the topic….  The response was echoed by Ruth Hunt and those on the panel and warmly received by the audience.  Reoccurring themes from the session were “to be yourself” and “to bring your whole self to work”.

The event closed with a 90 minute networking event and mini careers fair.  Here representatives from graduate recruitment, employee networks and network allys represented the banks and provided an informal opportunity to meet attendees and answer questions.  Stonewall were also represented at this part of the evening – with their ‘Starting Out‘ LGB careers guide (starring yours truly) available.

Reaction from the event

When we realised this event clashed with our Bank’s dbPride Ally launch event and we would lack a senior management panelist at the event we were left with two options – find an alternative panelist or the Bank could drop out of the panel completely.  Putting myself forward for the panel was not an obvious solution.  The previous two year’s panels were represented by 4-5 senior gay men who could speak about their years of experience – I would buck this trend.  We agreed my passion for diversity would shine through.  The most refreshing thing for me was to see real diversity on the panel – with a good mix of gender, corporate titles, experience and org functions.  Indeed the panel was represented by lesbian, gay and bisexual out employees.  What was most interesting was to hear that all panelists shared the same views and similar experiences.  This resonated with the students too – one of whom approached me afterwards to personally thank me for being on the panel – as he felt it easier to relate to the messages when re-enforced by my junior experiences.

From the event organiser we got the following feedback:

I promised Darren I would forward the photos of the event on to him as he wants to use 1 or 2 to showcase activities. Can you please forward him this link?  He was a great panel member and rep overall so I wanted to do it before I forget!

This goes to show that having taken a risk in me sitting on the panel, our employee network’s confidence in me has been repaid.  I’ld encourage other orgnaisation’s to consider sending junior employees to represent them on diversity panels – providing a complimentary perspective for attendees, and a professional development opportunity for panelists.  You can read about the impact of this event in my write-up of the Inside and Out 2013 event.

While some attendees at the event were not sure what investment banking was and if they were suitable, I think the major success of this event was in dispelling the myths surrounding being gay in banking and highlighting the opportunities available to those who want them – irrelevant of different diversity strands and backgrounds.

Event gallery

(Click image to enlarge)

 

Pictures copyright of Stafford Long and Partners, and reproduced here with permission.

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