Claire Skinner, co-chair of Mercer Pride and Head of UK Fiduciary Content and Delivery, talks to myGwork’s Louise Sinnerton about her experience in the classroom
Claire started working at Mercer straight after graduating, and was always out at work. She’d bring her partner to social events, although she wasn’t someone that shouted about her sexuality: “I would say I was out in a soft way.”
After a lustrous career, Claire decided it was time to follow one of her passions, as she’d always thought about teaching and wanted to inspire the next generation with her fascination for maths. “Maybe that was a bit naive!” Far from being a stimulating experience, Claire had a total culture shock and encountered bullying in the classroom. Once she had qualified as a teacher, a group of pupils in her form kept asking why she had short hair and saying short hair wasn’t attractive, and expressed skewed views about gay women. Throughout her teaching she experienced pupils continually asking, insinuating and commenting on her sexuality – something she hadn’t anticipated. On one occasion Claire was even surrounded by a group of girls in the playground who asked her if she was gay. Disheartened by what she had seen at school, she decided to return to Mercer with a renewed dedication to making a change.
Last year she became co-chair of Mercer Pride and is explicitly involved in promoting visibility and consistency across the world for LGBT+ rights. “We now have Pride badges, which I wish I had had in the classroom to show externally that a school or teacher is inclusive”.
This idea of looking outside of Mercer is one that’s important to Claire and she’s dedicated to changing external culture, clients’ attitudes as well as the next generation.
“I went back to my old uni [Birmingham], where I’d been too scared to go to the LGBT+ network. I was expecting to see all these young people who were out and proud, but they all had concerns, particularly about being open and out when going into the workforce.”
And it’s not just millennials and the future of work that Claire is working towards, one key area that she and global co-chair Mohammad Abdul-Rahim are working on is “global expansion”. They want to ensure all employee benefits are globally consistent at Mercer. In other words no matter if you’re transitioning in UK or Mexico, and want to work out how you balance internal cultures with external cultures that may not have the same policies, eg. in Dubai. How to deal with cultures outside of Mercer is a challenge for the year ahead and something Claire wants to crack and be able to share with clients going forward.
Claire is also Midland Ambassador for LBWomen and a regular contribution to The Alliance Network, a Midland based network of LGBT organisations. She is a Diversity Role Model, talking about her experience of being LGBT+ and a parent within schools and is on the Midlands steering group for Creating Inclusive Cultures.