“I was amazed by the support of people outside of the LGBT+ community at Beazley” says Marc Martin from specialist insurer Beazley, who sits down with Louise Sinnerton from myGwork to talk about starting a network from scratch.
After looking around him a year and a half ago, he spoke up and helped Beazley to create their first ever LGBT+ network: “The insurance industry is slightly behind some of the other industries like finance and tech when it comes to LGBT+ diversity, inclusivity and networks, even though it is becoming more global, inclusive and diverse with great initiatives.
"Beazley is so committed to diversity and inclusion that I knew we had to set up a network.”
Marc raised his hand in a meeting to talk about why he thought they needed a network, and after seeking help from Beazley’s D&I committee, Stonewall and LINK (LGBT Insurance Network), setting up the business plan, and getting the executive sponsor support, he presented the new network to the entire company a few months later.
Marc remembers how he felt when it all started, saying: “I was so impressed by the support from the non-LGBT+ colleagues, and I can’t stress the importance of allies enough.
"Allies are some of our most important members because just joining the network says they accept us, and that it’s ok for me to be myself.”
Marc grew up in Barcelona and moved to London to study in 2002. He took a job in a theatre in the West End to help pay for his studies and was part of a diverse workforce; he felt represented and safe there.
After graduating he found a job in the City and went from feeling totally included to feeling like he had to be in the closet all over again.
Although this was all well over a decade ago, and both diversity and inclusion have improved in the City, Marc points out that there are still many improvements to make.
The stress of looking for jobs as a gay man and entering an unknown environment is something that sticks with him: “Every time I would start a job I had to check the environment and check out my colleagues.
"It’s a huge extra stress having to second guess whether I could be myself in a new job. I don’t want anyone to ever experience that stress, and that’s why we need a network.”
This year the network is marching with LINK at Pride London, including Pride in its email signature (which was popular with clients and employees last year), hosting a competition for employees to design their new logo as well as Pride celebrations in each office.
Beazley and Marc are very excited to take part in Pride, and he talks about how education and visibility are so important: “In the traditional insurance industry we need more LGBT+ role models at senior levels to really change things. Having this visibility means we can demonstrate support and create a safe environment and a diverse and inclusive industry.
"For example, Inga Beale [the former CEO of Lloyd’s] was such a powerful role model and helped the insurance industry by championing diversity and inclusion within the insurance industry. We need much more of this”.
Marc is proud that Beazley is such an inclusive company and tells me, “look at this; I’m a Spanish guy, with an accent, I’m gay, working in an English company and living in New York.
"I head a team located in the US and London that’s made up of seven women, four men, six different nationalities and various sexual orientations and ethnicities. You just need to look at my team to understand the company culture.”
Working across Europe and the US has given Marc a unique insight into the importance of networks and he is now focused on helping people tell their personal stories regarding LGBT+ rights, as well as hosting educational events within Beazley, such as on transgender people’s rights.
Marc’s experience at Beazley has reiterated to him why networks are so important: “some of our most active members are in states in the US where the LGBT+ community is discriminated against, and our rights aren’t fully recognised.
New LGBT+ Beazley employees called me when they found out that we were setting up the network and told me how happy they were to be working for a company that actively supports LGBT+ employees.
"Clients emailed us during Pride month to tell us how happy they were with our Beazley Pride email signature, knowing they were insured by a company that respects everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
"For anyone that asks why we need a network and why we need policies - this is a strong indicator why.”
Beazley is a corporate member of myGwork, the LGBT+ Business Community