Perspectives: Alison McFayden

Alison McFadyen

Group Head, US Supervisory Remediation Programme at Standard Chartered

 

We truly believe diversity across all dimensions is important. For us, it’s part of our brand promise.

 

I have the role of Sponsor for our Global LGBT and Allies Network at Standard Chartered. As a global company, we operate in places which have a vast range of attitudes and approaches to LGBT inclusion and in some of them it is especially hard to create a safe and welcoming environment for members of the LGBT community.

 

That’s why I think putting our name to Open For Business is helpful: it’s important we support the coalition because it is about building the evidence base for inclusiveness.

 

At the moment, I’m working in the US where you might think would be an easy place to establish an inclusive environment and for people to be open about their sexual orientation at work. But I remember one instance when I had told my own story at a meeting in the bank and it prompted someone to come out to his colleagues and his boss, telling them he is gay. Everyone around him immediately and spontaneously supported him – and it’s made an enormous difference to him, it’s given him a massive new energy just knowing that he can bring his whole self to work. At the time, it really surprised me that even in New York somebody could feel that they hadn’t been able to do that; had felt they may not be welcome at work. Imagine if you were living in a country where your colleagues don’t support you or where the law doesn’t support you. For us as a bank, it may be more difficult in those circumstances – but we have to strive towards creating that environment where all individuals can have that experience, at least in their work place.

 

Places like the UK and the US have seen a dramatic improvement recently – it’s now mainstream to the extent that it’s common for television dramas to involve LGBT characters, so it is becoming normalised within the culture. But that change is not so evident in other parts of the world – and in some cases the situation is even going in reverse and it’s increasingly frightening for LGBT individuals.

 

Of course, we must be sensitive to, and respectful of, the jurisdictions we’re operating in, yet at the same time we also want to make sure that as an employer we are doing all we can to give employees a safe place to work. We’re a thoughtfully diverse organisation and an inclusive organisation. We truly believe diversity across all dimensions is important and we want that to be known about us internally and externally. For us, it’s part of our brand promise.

 

Standard Chartered has a history of not shying away from difficult issues. In war zones, at some points we have been the last bank to remain in place when others have left. We played a significant role in HIV education in the early days, and many people recognise that we put ourselves out there to change attitudes and build support for people with HIV. I think this is another difficult area for a lot of places to take on, but it is one Standard Chartered also wants to speak about.

 

Large, global firms can play a really important role in helping to frame public opinion. We’re often large employers in the countries where we operate and that gives us a voice. On a global stage, I think corporations have a social responsibility to stand up for what we believe is right.