UK Pride month 2024: Chris Cullen, EY, United Kingdom

UK Pride month 2024: Chris Cullen, EY, United Kingdom  We’re celebrating UK Pride month and 10 years since the legalisation of same-sex marriage in England, Wales, and Scotland. Andrew Gaskell, from our Diversity Action Group, invited 3 IFoA members who are also members of the LGBTQ+ community to join him in sharing their thoughts. The UK Pride Month 2024 series continues with Chris Cullen's insights.

Why do you think Pride festivals are still important?

Firstly, they are an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community to show society we are proud to be who we are, that we shouldn’t have to hide away, and that we want an equal part in this world and to contribute to society. Secondly, they are an opportunity for others to join in with us, to walk in the Pride festival marches and show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. I personally don’t feel Pride Festival marches are or should be exclusive to LGBTQ+ people, I see them as one of the most inclusive events, where anyone can be whatever they like, be colourful and express themselves and show a bit more love to others.

I have proudly taken part in several Pride festival marches. My first ever was in London in 2015 when I worked at an actuarial employer in London, and I had the opportunity to carry our company’s flag. London is one of the biggest Pride events in the world and I found the experience exhilarating and welcoming. I have also since walked in the Cardiff and Bristol Pride festival marches both as an individual and with companies I worked for at the time.

I still to this day encourage anyone that has never done one to join in! The LGBTQ+ community are so welcoming and it’s a great day out, for all ages. In my role as head of actuarial DE&I in my current employer I have encouraged our teams to take their families to Pride marches and it’s been great to see so many team photos where this has happened. I’ve even taken my grandmother to a Pride march in the past and she loved it.

With Pride season upon us, I highly recommend you looking for your closest Pride event and getting involved!

Whilst a lot has been achieved particularly in the legalisation of same-sex marriage in many countries are there other changes you would like to see in your country to promote equality, support and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ communities in wider society?

I would like LGBTQ+ people to be discussed more in schools to normalise the idea that children can have LGBTQ+ parents, relatives and friends. I know there has been lots of resistance to this in recent years, but I think educating children about LGBTQ+ people in a safe, simple way is the best way to reduce misconceptions and promote inclusion from an age where it will shape beliefs for life.

How important is it that employers supports diversity, equity and inclusion?

DE&I is very important and an employer’s stance on the topic would be a significant influence on whether I could work for that firm. My husband was once told by a previous employer, “You’ll never make it to the top”, referring to the fact he was gay. And it is opinions like this that can shape your career and others like you.

Behind closed doors, it’s important you feel that fair decisions are being made about you and others that identify as a minority group. If you don’t feel that is the case, I know speaking up can be hard, especially if the issue is cultural. In those situations, sometimes the only option is to leave, as only then can those firms reflect and change course.

My current employer is a massive advocate for DE&I both at work but also working with our communities and society to promote these values.

In work, we run initiatives to support minority groups’ careers but more importantly, leaders show an active interest in learning and a real focus on fairness during appraisals. Outside of work, we also have a charitable foundation part of the business that works with communities to support minority groups and improve career opportunities. I’m really proud to work for my current employer.

How should the actuarial profession support and promote DEI and attract and support those from diverse communities including the LGBTQ+ community?

Training programmes can be a great way to make actuarial employers more inclusive. The training could include topics such as gender (particularly around the rise in individuals that identify as trans or non-binary), microaggressions (which can apply to race but also a variety of angles), and neurodiversity (and awareness of various conditions and how you can support individuals to succeed).

For the LGBTQ+ community, we have seen fantastic diversity in individuals that have held the IFoA president position over the last decade including gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic diversity. I would be excited to see an out LGBTQ+ IFoA president and for them to speak about their experiences, raise awareness about what it can be like to work in a very straight environment and to be able to bring their authentic self to work. I think that could really help to demonstrate you can be LGBTQ+ and still get to the highest levels in the profession.

Read more in our Pride series

Chris Cullen, EY, James Smalley, RGA Reinsurance, Sophia Davies, LCP, and Andrew Gaskell, RGA Reinsurance, share what Pride means to them and their experiences in the actuarial profession.

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