Check-In with Deon Pillay

CHECK-IN WITH DEON PILLAY

Deon is not only the Head of Marketing operations at Legal and General Investments, but is also Co-Founder of InterInvest, a network of investment professionals working for LGBT+ inclusion. Deon reguarlyly uses his platforms and personal experiences to discuss intersectional LGBT+ issues, and is co-chair of the L&GBT+ allies network, steerco member of the Diversity Project’s LGBT+ stream, supporter of Pride in the City and Queer Britain to name just a few. In 2021, Deon won our British LGBT Diversity Hero award, so we thought we would catch up with him a year later to see how he’s getting along.

 

We have a responsibility to share our lived experience with young LGBT+ people so that they may learn from our successes, failures, struggles and achievements.

 


 

How has it been since winning the British LGBT Awards, Diversity Hero award last year? How has it helped?

Since winning the award, It’s been a crazy few months as I have been given many more platforms and opportunities to champion Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It’s strengthened the existing platforms that I had, whilst increasing the visibility for ethnic minorities from the LGBTQ community. I have had many opportunities to share my lived experience, participate on panels and a deliver a number of keynotes. 


 

The work you’ve done really inspired the judges. How can we help young LGBT+ people in navigating careers?

I think giving back is so important hence my passion for making a difference for all marginalised communities, We have a responsibility to share our lived experience with young LGBT+ people so that they may learn from our successes, failures, struggles and achievements, support them through mentorship, coaching and sponsorship. Another great way to connect is through insight days and working with great charity partners like Just Like Us which empowers young LGBT people to go into schools and share their stories, break down barriers and reduce bullying. 


 

What areas around LGBT+ campaigning and issues faced are you really passionate about?

I am passionate about trans rights, discrimination on the basis of race and sexuality or Gender identity. The sad reality is that the instances of homophobic and racial abuse is on the up and sadly it’s no longer just a generational issue, in the past two months I have personally experienced two instances of racial and homophobic abuse by young people. 


 

How have you had to change what you’re doing during the pandemic?

The pandemic has brought with it many challenges but equally opportunities; the pivot to online events and now hybrid events, podcasts, vlogs etc, means that we get to reach more people and can also make the resources on demand. A key highlight for me was starting a cooking channel on Facebook for friends and using the opportunity to talk about diversity issues, kindness, compassion and mental health/wellbeing which proved to be very popular.

 


 

Has there been a turning point or “a-ha moment” in your career? What was that like?

Yes, having been outed at work a good 6 years ago, my a-ha moment came when a manager asked me what was I going to do to make a difference for the LGBTQ community following me sharing a Stonewall paper. It was that question that led me to taking up the Co-Chair role of our L&GBT+Allies network and then working with industry peers to co-found InterInvest to make a meaningful difference both internally and in the wider asset management and savings industry. 


 

What is your life motto?

Now it’s – “unless you are supporting me financially, you don’t get a say in how I live my life!” I used to spend my life worrying about what other people thought of me, now I live an authentic life, free of the baggage, shame and guilt that I carried, I am proud of the man that I have become and the value I create!


 

Who/what inspires you?

I am inspired by the many great people working collectively to drive inclusion for all marginalised communities, the hugely inspirational Lady Phyll (aka Queen Bee!), Shukhi Sandhu, Matt Cameron, Bobbi Pickard, and Peter Tatchell all spring to mind alongside a whole new inspiring cohort of individuals like Tim Ramsey, Scarlet Marie Davey Morgan and many others that really excite me with their passion and dedication.