Two London-based transgender executives have been named on a list of 100 leading LGBT business leaders, headed by Burberry’s Christopher Bailey — the first openly gay FTSE 100 chief executive.
Isabella Segal, a partner at north London-based accountancy firm Nyman Libson Paul, and Antonia Belcher, a founding partner at City-based building consultants MHBC, are the first British transgender bosses to make the list.
It was compiled by LGBT professional networking body OUTstanding.
Bailey, who was appointed chief executive and chief creative officer of fashion house Burberry in May this year, said: “I am honoured to be chosen as the recipient of this year’s OUTstanding business leader award.
“At Burberry we pride ourselves on being an equal opportunities employer and we work hard to ensure that an individual’s talent and potential are the only criteria we look at when considering who should be working with us.”
Second after Bailey on the list is Antonio Simoes, UK chief executive of banking giant HSBC.
The list was published as a survey conducted for OUTstanding revealed that 90 per cent of transgender employees have experienced harassment at work, while 41 per cent of LGBT staff are not comfortable coming out at work.
In addition, almost two thirds of graduates who have been out about their sexuality at university stop being open when they start work.
Ms Segal, 58, who began living full-time as a woman in May last year, said the vast majority of her colleagues and clients had been hugely supportive of her transition, which had helped her career overall.
She added, though, that a tiny handful “have not been receptive as others and did not understand what I’m trying to go through”.
“There was no outright hostility but two or three of my colleagues were using body language and attitudes that said ‘I don’t want to speak to you’,” she said. “In the early days it did hurt but now I just regard them as people I prefer not to have a coffee with and vice versa.”
Former BP boss Lord Browne, author of The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out is Good for Business and an adviser to OUTstanding, said: “If closeted employees can identify with someone who has been through the closet door and succeeded, then they are more likely to let go of the fears that hold them back.
“OUTstanding and the Top 100 list provide the role models that demonstrate that coming out at work is both possible and worthwhile. They play a critical role in encouraging employees to dream bigger, aim higher, and to bring their whole selves to work.”
For the first time, OUTstanding has also drawn up a top 20 list of “straight allies” who have gone “above and beyond” to promote diversity and counter workplace prejudice.
Top-placed Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said: “I passionately believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to create an environment where all people can thrive — not in spite of who they are, but because of it.”
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive of investment bank Goldman Sachs, came second.
OUTstanding founder Suki Sandhu said: “We need visible role models in business to show that the workplace welcomes all talented people, regardless of backgrounds or identities.
“This is a human rather than an LGBT issue, which is why we’re also celebrating those trailblazers outside the LGBT community who promote the issue of diversity within their businesses.”