Three months after winning the British LGBT Awards’ Diversity Champion, we interview Samantha Nelson from Marsh.
There was some strong competition, how did it feel to win the British LGBT Awards?
I can honestly say it was a truly wonderful experience, even now, three months later I still can’t quite believe it.
When I was told I had been nominated, I was surprised and thought wow, that’s lovely, and then to be shortlisted was truly amazing but to win, when you look at all the wonderful, passionate people on the shortlist, that was almost too much for me to cope with. It was so emotional.
Keep in mind from an early age I was taught that just being me was unacceptable and if anyone found out I’d be rejected and lose everything.
Well look at me now, I am me, relatively successful, extremely happy, and loving life.
Has the awards inspired you to do more in diversity and inclusion? What are your plans?
I always said, if I only managed to prevent one single person from feeling as unacceptable, for whatever reason, as I once felt then my life would mean something.
The awards have certainly inspired me to continue with the work I do in this space. The awards increase the awareness of the Diversity and Inclusion agenda in a really positive matter, spurring discussions and engagement. It is a lovely feeling to be recognised as a role model, although with that comes a degree of additional responsibility. It is so important to show that you can be successful whilst being true to yourself, to visibily demonstrate to those members of society who are still questioning their own identity that it is more than acceptable for everyone to be themselves.
Of course a celebration of achievements is lovely but there is still so much to do, events like the British LGBT Awards bring people together in unity to further the goal of ensuring equality for all is achieved.
With that in mind, in Marsh & McLennan we have focused our attention on bringing together our sister operating companies, Marsh, Mercer, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman to make a positive statement, furthering the engagement, education and empowerment of colleagues, clients and contacts by means of presenting a full day of Intersectional Diversity at the Tower of London on the 1st September 2017, titled #InThisTogether.
Tell us about #InThisTogether?
Going beyond the four Ops Cos, just working together we felt that we wished to bring representation from as many sections of the diversity steam together as possible, to start the conversations that we as a society tend to shy away from.
We are fortunate to have been given the historical Tower of London Armouries Banqueting Suite for a day and are planning a free event which aims to raise awareness around intersectionality with an LGBT+ focus, through discussions between expert panellists, speakers and open and honest audience Q&A sessions.
#InThisTogether is going to be a day of informative sessions focused around Race, Disability, Mental Health, Allies, Role Models, Diverse Customers & Clients and HR as inclusion driver aimed to engage, educate and empower attendees on LGBT topics with a strong intersectionality theme. It going to be a great opportunity to learn, share and build empathy. We may not cure all ills but we can encourage the conversations that, if we work together, just might.
We have opened nominations for next year’s awards, what would you tell those hoping to scoop an award in the future?
I’d say good luck and enjoy the process, the very fact that someone has taken the time and value your contribution enough to nominate you for recognition means you are already a winner.
I have come across so many so many inspirational people during the last few years whilst I have been participating in the D&I arena, people who give so freely and have a desire to change the world for the better, sharing their story and listening to the experiences of others. Of course not everyone will experience the magical moment that their name is announced as the winner of an award but there is so much more to the process. Those lucky enough to make it to the shortlist I can tell you the positive energy in the room is palpable and energising.
Great speech at the awards, you have become a spokeswoman for the Trans community, what advice would you give others out there who often feel isolated?
I speak from the heart; I lived my life for far too long behind a self-constructed wall, wearing a mask, playing a part because that’s what I was encouraged to believe that I had to do to survive in this life.
Let me tell you there is a huge difference between surviving and actually living.
I am now living my truth and that is so rewarding, it also comes with a duty though as it breaks my heart to think there are others out there still searching for the strength to be recognised and accepted as themselves. If I can help anyone to overcome prejudice, whether real or perceived, it’s the least I can do. It is my way of thanking the people, the allies, the true friends that stood up and helped me to finally find myself.
I hope the visibility I have achieved through the work we have been doing and especially since the award helps people who are still fighting their personal struggles, living in shadows, being who they are told to be instead of who they actually are.
What is your main ambition over the next year?
I plan to continue to engage, educate and empower. To start conversations; to listen, learn and take small steps every single day towards equality for all. I might squeeze in a holiday too, after all life is for living.