Leadership in the Workplace, featuring Pips Bunce!

Pink News held a three day conference on the issues faced by the trans and non-binary community.  They called this a Trans Summit, which is just another way of saying Peak Trans when you think about it.  It was a full agenda which mainly revolved around employment in the corporate sphere and was basically corporate activism laid bare.  The main sponsor was IBM, which is an American multinational technology company with operations in over 170 countries.

About the event

Our panelists have paved the way for inclusion in their workplaces, and have a wealth of experience when it comes to navigating the world of work as trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming individuals.

Join us for a chat with experienced leaders in their fields, as we discuss authentic leadership, mentorship, coming out and more!

Blurb from Pink News

The panel and their bios (abridged as we haven’t got all day)

Pips Bunce (she/they)
Head of Global Markets Technology Strategic Programs, Credit Suisse
Pips identifies as gender fluid and non-binary hence both identities within the Trans umbrella. She has always been open and out both personally and professionally. Being gender fluid, they choose to express as either female or male dependent on their preferred gender expression for a given day both at home or at work. Pips has been happily married to her wife for over 25 years and they have been blessed with 2 children who are now 23 and 20, all of whom embrace whatever opportunities possible to help promote the acceptance and celebration of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of life.

Rica Paras (she/her)
Technology Solution Architect Senior Manager, Accenture UK

In her home country The Philippines, they were able to implement LGBT gender-neutral restrooms and gender-neutral dress code policy in Accenture sites across the country. Rica is also the former Chairwoman of Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), and is a National Spokesperson for Ang Ladlad Partylist, an LGBT political organisation. She was the first transgender woman who participated in Pinoy Big Brother.

Scarlet-Marie Morgan (she/her)
Governance Administrator, co-lead of Pride Network, Allianz
Scarlet-Marie is a governance administrator and co-lead of the Allianz Pride Network. She’s worked with HR to create a transitioning support policy, launched awareness events, introduced gender neutral toilets and pioneered transgender awareness globally.
Her blogs offers the opportunity to follow her journey.
(Interview here.)

Susie O’Connor (she/her)
Career Diplomat
Susie O’Connor is a career diplomat who has served overseas in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Africa. She came out in the workplace in 2018, becoming only the third ‘out’ trans employee in the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. In her role as Trans Lead for FLAG (the FCDO’s LGBT+ staff network) she has worked with HR to develop a comprehensive workplace trans inclusion policy. Outside work, Susie campaigns for a greener environment, she works with UK Athletics for LGBT+ inclusion in the sport and is a volunteer with Gendered Intelligence, a charity promoting understanding of gender diversity and improving trans people’s quality of life.

The discussion

It began with the Pink News staffer Ana grovelling to the men that she didn’t deserve to be in the same room as them. The men introduced themselves, notably Pips Bunce said that the LGBT network he has control of has about 5,000 members and that he had also had contact with the UN and other external companies.

What does leadership mean?

Bunce said people should lead with sincerity, humility, courage, using inclusive language, allowing people to be their ‘authentic self’. (My authentic self is to turn up late and take double lunch breaks – is that ok too?) Reverse mentoring was very important because it brings senior management on board through seeing Bunce’s lived experience. Bunce was finding that men were much more receptive to this dynamic. Hold your senior management team (SMT) to account, LGBT stuff needs to be their priority and focus. Bunce commented in the chat that he is currently reverse mentoring the EMEA CEO of Credit Suisse.

O’Connor agreed with Bunce. Civil service is very hierarchical. Vital that the SMT model good behaviour.

Paras reflected that many companies have diversity and inclusion policies/staff but felt they don’t have authenticity. When Paras was hired five years ago the senior director who hired him was proud of his hire being trans and boasted about this internally to LGB staff.

Morgan bemoaned the fact that it was mostly males in leadership. Pride shouldn’t just be one month of the year, it should be all 365 days, because they are ‘living their authentic lives every single day’. You must say your truth, although it sounds like saying his truth recently had been getting him into trouble. A leader has to not be afraid.

Ana wanted to know more the the menteeship programme.

Bunce said that the LGBT and Ally network had come up with the idea and that it had been rolled out against other diversity areas. It was presented to the executive board and approved. Bunce had also done a crib sheet for managers at different levels with appropriate recommendations of things they could do to improve things.

Ana said that it sadly fell on LGBT and Ally network groups to do the work. These were the people who need inclusion most, who had to offer up ‘very easy solutions’.

Bunce loves allyship, because messages are so much more powerful when they come from someone more powerful, rather than from the ‘community’ itself. This is why he loves allyship.

When the message is coming from someone else, rather from someone within that community, in a way it can be even more powerful, that’s one of the things I love about allyship, it amplifies that message and importance.

Philip Bunce on allyship

O’Connor said that the civil service was slow to change and claimed it wasn’t until the 90s that people could be openly gay without losing their security clearance. Over 300,000 people work in the civil service so it has the power to change society as a whole.

Is the tech sector more preferable for transgender people to work in?

Paras works for Accenture (having pizza flashbacks) which is a technology company with 104 locations worldwide and that trans people were in many different roles. He said that there was a lot of diversity, but went on to explain that it was comprised of millennials at the start of their careers and that senior managers who were trans-identified were middle aged men. There had to be awareness of the different needs of people; some ‘transition’, others don’t.

Morgan applauded Allianz. Although he is not the first trans person in the company, he is apparently the first visible one. Morgan only recently ‘came out’ and was then asked to be ‘Pride leader’. It had been a boost to his career, previously as a gay man but had been given no platform and was not regarded as ‘the on-trend thing’ as there are gay managers at Allianz so it is not regarded as unusual, but when he came out as ‘transgender’ he says it was a ‘case of we can use this, and they really have’. Allianz have no ‘gender neutral’ people working for them, but by the end of 2022 every Allianz office will have a ‘gender neutral facility’. Allianz also have a policy which will allow trans-identified people time off for cosmetic surgery yet still be paid in full. People had pointed out that operations for medical reasons might not be treated with such full generosity and Morgan had responded that ‘it’s an investment in someone’s life’. This would make the company more attractive for trans people to work for.

Career defining moments?

Bunce told us that shifting the focus onto allyship had been a major achievement. He was the first non-binary person at his company. He has double pass cards. It had served as a catalyst for others to come out, and now it is company policy to give monetary support for ‘gender affirmation surgery’ and ‘gender neutral’ restrooms. He has produced videos for the company and it has allowed him to have engagement with the SMT that he wouldn’t have otherwise had.

O’Connor came out shortly after the Foreign Office published its trans inclusion policy and that it was very important that organisations do this, otherwise people might stay closeted. He was the first visible trans person (i.e. insinuating there many who were ‘stealth’). He believes that out of a staff of 17,000 he can’t be the only one and it was his ‘mission’ to help them ‘come out’. For a long while it was just him in the group who was trans, but there are now three others.

Ana asked Paras what it was like in the Philippines.

Paras had grown up in the Philippines and was very clear that the UK is a far better place to live. He also lived for a while in France. I suspect that Paras is attracted to men and that the Philippines is a difficult place to live if you are a gay man, although same sex relations are not illegal there. In the Philippines you are not allowed to change your name or sex on paper.

Paras said there are no gender identity clinics or support like that. Many are forced into the sex industry and subjected to violence and often murders are not investigated. Paras is appreciative of the support and safety that the UK has provided to him. He pointed out that the UK has the GRA, treatment on the NHS and that private insurance companies also pay out for health provision.

(Recently a US Marine got early release for the murder of a Filipino trans-identified man for what seems a political reason, despite it being cold blooded murder.)

Question and Answer session with audience

What if you don’t have the time to be the organisation’s ‘visible trans person’?

Morgan reported that at his recent mid-year review his line manager commented that his role as network lead was like a full time job. He was happy to continue in that role for the time being. Morgan has only recently come out whilst working at home during lockdown and had become a hero in doing so. Morgan feels like a minor celebrity and make jokes about not being available to sign autographs.

Bunce felt it was a moot point, that not everyone wanted to be a role model, but those who did needed official recognition for their work in their job plans.

Paras reflected on all those trans people who had successfully ‘transitioned’ and that no one knew they had done so. He believed that there are a lot of ‘invisible’ people in this situation.

O’Connor agreed no one should be forced into being a role model. It was an exciting prospect that there may be a first transgender ambassador. A non-binary colleague was working abroad currently, so it appeared to be a possibility.

If you are the only trans role model, how do you cope with that?

Bunce described that life had been like a whirlwind but had to step back and only accept the events which would have the most impact.

Paras talked about loss of privacy, but he was happy to give this up for greater good.

My Reflections

It was difficult to know which sessions to sign up to because so little information was given by Pink News until the very last minute. I signed up for Pips Bunce, however it was Morgan who really surprised me. An adult gay man who had transitioned simply because he felt it had got him the attention he needed and it seems that Stonewall policy (Allianz is a Stonewall Diversity Champion) may have assisted this.

The recording of the webinar is available on youtube.

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One comment

  1. Interesting.
    STRAP seems familiar from somewhere – the ILGA so called Feminist Declaration / Outright lot?
    Will keep an eye out for – UN?


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