Authentic and empathetic leaders are vital to a company. 

Mark Gossington is a regulatory and risk management advisor to the leading global financial services firms. He is responsible for leading PwC’s business conduct and compliance advisory services.  Mark talks to Rob Harkavy about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Rob: How do you think things have changed for LGBTIs in the workplace during the course of your career?

Mark: I’ve been very lucky to have worked for inclusive companies and had the support of some amazing managers over my career, irrespective of my sexual orientation. The financial services sector in the last 5 years has improved its focus on the LGBT+ community. Barclays was always ahead of the pack and remains a leader on its inclusive work environment and support for LGBT+, for example with its overall sponsorship of Pride in London. At PwC we were really proud to have made it to number 11 on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index this year.
Rob: Have you ever experienced direct or indirect homophobia in the workplace?

Mark: Not to my knowledge. In fact I have been recognised both within my firm and externally for the work we have done to make PwC a more inclusive workplace. However, LGBT+ people do face a high risk of discrimination in the workplace. It’s believed that over half of LGBT+ employees hide their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, and over 20% remain closeted because they believe they will not be considered for promotion or other development opportunities.

Rob: What advice would you give to young LGBTIs just starting out? Is it possible to be both ‘in the closet’ and successful at work?

Mark: Be proud of who you are and you will be more successful and happier by being yourself at work, with friends and family. Join an inclusive business network, like we have at PwC, to broaden your opportunities and identify role models. Being able to be ‘authentic’ at work improves productivity; employees who feel closeted at work are 30% less productive than those that are able to be themselves. Organisational cultures that are supportive of LGBTI people get the best out of their teams.

Rob: What part do network groups play in embedding diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Mark: Ours is called GLEE@PwC – Gays, Lesbians and Everyone Else – and we made it deliberately open to everyone in PwC and externally to join so it could be totally inclusive. We provide extraordinary opportunities for business networking, knowledge sharing and personal and professional development all with a deep value and respect for the diversity of views, needs and aspirations of our members. It’s gone from strength to strength with over 1000 members. We won Stonewall’s highly commended Network award in 2016.

Rob: You’re the brains behind the LGBTI Leaders and Influencers Power List. What benefit do you think lists like these give to the wider LGBTI community?

Mark: I saw that there were lots of lists and awards for celebrities and senior people decided by independent judges. I thought it would be great to find a way of measuring the impact of our community on social media and so we have expanded it from LGBTI executives to all. There is a gamification platform called Rise which tracks your success on social media such as Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. We have nearly 500 “players” as we call them and people compete each week to increase their social media reach and popularity. It’s been a fun way to connect with people and see their progress up the charts each week!

Rob: Looking at LGBTI equality in the workplace, what battles still need to be fought?

Mark: There’s been a lot of focus on gender and ethnicity and the “glass” ceiling and many organisations still have a way to go on this. I’ve been talking about the “rainbow” ceiling recently. LGBTI representation in senior roles is the key to this opportunity. The boardroom is where significant decisions that affect employees’ lives are made and unfortunately there is still poor representation at board level and in more senior roles. In my view change must come from the top and this means corporate leadership making it clear that it is OK to LGBTI to set targets and to promote LGBT+ leaders to ensure representation in the boardroom. That said there is also an onus on all of us to be proud and visible and push for the opportunities and equality in the workplace.

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