Jane Steed, Business Operations Manager at Capgemini, talks about visibility and why it is still so key in and outside of the workplace
BY MYGWORK, IMAGES BY JANE STEED
Jane founded Capgemini’s LGBTQ+ network, OUTfront, back in 2009 and has been at the forefront of pushing the group forwards, both in the UK and across the world. She has worked at Capgemini since 2005 and was inspired to start an employee resource group when she was walking through her hometown in the Midlands.
“There were posters about Stonewall’s workplace equality index all over the town and I couldn’t help thinking to myself why aren’t we there? I spoke to HR and said we should be on that list – and we need to start a group to help us get there”. HR told Jane that there needed to be a real desire for the group and, after an article was published on the intranet and gained a positive response, she was given the green light.
“The head of HR was happy to support it, supported by Capgemini, but ‘off the side of your desk’”. The group began because of a desire to be one of the top 100 companies on the Stonewall list rather than because there was a problem to address. However, it was not an overnight change, and it took nine years for Capgemini to reach the top 100.
“It was hard to progress when it was all done off the side of your desk. When we got a Senior Executive sponsor at the end of 2016 […] things really changed. The visibility within the organisation as well as visibility in front of the CEO who approved my funding requests – that was the real gamechanger”.
With the injection of a senior figure and money to get things done, Jane steered the company to reach a top 100 spot by 2018. The huge difference that Jane witnessed is why she is so passionate about visibility.
“Visibility is so key. I was the face of the articles repeatedly during this time, but what was great is that more and more people joined up and people slowly became visible to one another at work. We had people who were out at work who weren’t out at home. They really valued that support, and it was a really important time for us at Capgemini”. The network made really good progress with things like monitoring, training and awareness sessions. Jane started these with Stonewall and then travelled around the country delivering them herself.
“It was a time of learning. From wanting to be on the list to starting surveys and then having the data that said, ‘Yes, this documentation needs to be more inclusive.’ We became very aware that there were some things that needed to change, and this could be a catalyst for that change”.
The year that Jane began the group, 2009, was also a big year for her personally. She celebrated a civil partnership with 120 guests. “We then ‘upgraded’ that to being married in 2017. We took the opportunity that was there, and we are very lucky”. Jane describes herself as an open book and maintains that her story also has an impact on why visibility is so important to her.
“I came out at the age of 32 when I was married. After never feeling that incredible love that you hear about in songs all the time, I fell in love with a woman and realised that I could feel like that. I had always thought I just wasn’t a person that felt emotions intensely in that way”.
At the time, Jane was married to a man and pregnant and people questioned her a lot. “It was not the best time to realise, but I had no option other than to leave. When that happens you can’t be in the closet – you have to face it and have to explain what is happening to the people around you. Although people did say to me, ‘Are you sure it isn’t because you are pregnant? Can’t you put it on the back burner?” There were lots of comments about whether Jane was hormonal and she just responded that no, she was not happy and so she had to be honest with everyone.
“I was in such a privileged position […] I had a home, a way of earning money and I was able to step away. As an adult of independent means, I had that choice. That might be why I am so keen for others to be visible if they can be”.
Now the group she started 13 years ago, OUTfront UK, has 350 members and there are groups in over 22 regions globally. Jane is focused on guiding the younger people running the groups and helping mentor them. “I can help them think which battles to pick or not bother with, as well as how to get senior engagement. I’m also spending more time with the global team as global engagement is key. I may even move into a more formal role in the global network in a few years’ time”.
OUTfront is also focusing on more training around the trans and non-binary community and pushing things forwards. “We are in a positive place and we need to really focus on keeping the momentum as that can be hard. For me, it is about continuing, continuing, continuing. We can help other countries come on board too and grow our community. Recently on a call, a straight, white middle-class man spoke up and said, ‘I need to stand up and use my position of privilege to stand up and say things that that affords.’ For me, it is important that people with no inherent advantages to gain do speak up and that all of the work doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the rest of the community. I prefer the word coalition rather than allyship in the sense that it centres ‘I will work with you’ rather than ‘I will help you’.”
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