It’s not enough for leaders to be supportive of LGBT rights and inclusion without making this widely known, according to Kim Newell Chebator, executive vice president and head of State Street global markets EMEA.
Newell Chebator described the lightbulb moment of attending a Stonewall dinner and realising she needed to make her views much more public and overt. “I’d always been a supporter of inclusion, but what I learned from that dinner was that I needed to be more vocal, to take action and do something. I knew I was open-minded and tolerant but others didn’t. It really was eye-opening for me.”
Newell Chebator said she realised the importance of strong role models and allies for LGBT employees, through likening this to how critical strong female role models were to her. “Maybe about five or six years ago I realised I was in a stalemate with my career and needed to do something different to get recognised,” she told HR magazine. “So I reached out to role models and mentors who gave me great advice around finding my own voice.”
She added: “So I tied that back to thinking about gender diversity. I realised for LGBT employees it was about them having not just strong role models, but vocal and visible senior allies.”
Newell Chebator is now a member of State Street’s diversity council. Making her ally status highly visible involves detailing this on the name plate on her office door, helping organise events with LGBT networks at other companies and, most importantly, regularly speaking on the topic.
She has also helped spread awareness among other senior staff at State Street. “I remember having a conversation with Jeff [Conway, chief executive officer, EMEA] where he said ‘I don’t know what it means to be an ally', so I told him my story,” she said.
Regarding the importance of senior level buy-in, Newell Chebator added: “I think our values, how we behave, is all driven by the role models we see. I think in everything you do there’s some risk to it, and if you’re thinking about coming out and you look up and see people at the top are supportive then you’re more likely to realise the value of your difference, and be confident in challenging other things.”
Newell Chebator explained that a culture of valuing difference and diversity of thought promotes a wider culture of challenge, which is particularly valuable in financial services. In senior team meetings she ensures there is as diverse a spread of people as possible, even if this means calling in people who wouldn’t otherwise be there.
“If the diversity isn’t there you need to bring that in through other expertise,” she said. "Sometimes it might not naturally come but you have to force it.”
State Street strongly encourages all employees, not just senior staff, to be visible LGBT allies. It has enlisted Stonewall to deliver workshops on being an ally, regularly holds socials for both LGBT employees and allies, and encourages colleagues to prominently display LGBT ally stickers.