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Isabella Segal on transition: "I'm a role model for diversity within our firm"

Posted on by from Changeboard

As part of our exclusive series on LGBT, transgender employee Isabella Segal opens up about her transition journey and how this has affected her career.

My transition journey

After a long struggle, in 2011 I decided to take advice on my gender dysphoria. In August 2012, I told the partners at my firm, Nymon Libson Paul, of my intention to transition. 

The partners were surprised but supportive of my decision and wanted to retain me within the firm. We worked to create a strategy to manage the process with clients, staff and outside contacts, to ensure there was a smooth transition. 

I’d planned to transition in May 2013. Unfortunately, in April, someone was indiscreet within the business which led to rumours circulating, so I decided to deal with it there and then. I sent an email to 300 staff, contacts and friends to explain that the following week I would be Isabella. I followed up with some information about gender dysphoria. 

On the whole, the reaction was very good within the firm. Out of 100 colleagues, maybe two or three weren’t supportive – along with one or two clients, who we moved to other partners in the practice. Younger staff were incredible. I think it’s helped that I am senior within the practice; had I been more junior I don’t think it would have been as easy. 

Support in the workplace

When you transition, you have to live for two years in your chosen gender before surgery, which I had in May 2015. I’ve been fortunate that it’s been a straightforward easy transition on a professional level, as we are an open, inclusive firm – like a family. I think my journey has helped to create an environment where people feel comfortable to be who they truly are. I’d urge employers to be open and welcoming to all staff. 

Through this journey I’ve had to be determined and focused. I knew I had supportive people working around me and a supportive client base. I found a mentor within the firm – a female partner; when you change gender it’s like living in a foreign land, there are certain etiquettes you don’t realise until you are living the life. So it was important for me to have a buddy within the firm.

I now feel settled and accepted – and colleagues are very protective of me. If someone calls and asks for my old name, for example, they will tell the caller that person doesn’t work here, but we have Isabella. 

If you are trans, you wear a badge and people can notice that you look different. If you are gay, you have a choice whether to tell people.

In the wider world, I do struggle with being misgendered. I don’t get it face to face, but I do get it on the phone a lot. If you are trans, you know you’re making the best of what you’ve got, you weren’t born with a female body – you do the best you can. If society were more accepting that would be great.

 

Love this article?
You can read more stories from LGBT role models, as part of our exclusive series:

Angela Darlington, group chief risk officer, Aviva: "My biggest career barrier was my own reticence to be completely out at work”

Arjan Dijk, vice president of growth marketing, Google: "You need to be authentic for people to understand who you are and to be able to fully trust you" 

Cory Valente, R&D director, The Dow Chemical Company: "Everyone tackles the challenge of being an 'outsider' in their own way"

We will be showcasing more insights from LGBT leaders over the next few weeks.

Changeboard digital magazine

This article was featured in the November 2016-January 2017 issue of Changeboard magazine.

To read this article plus many more inspiring stories around the career, talent and leadership agenda; click here and open our digital edition straight on your desktop.

Mary Appleton

By Mary Appleton

Changeboard

Mary is Changeboard's editor in chief.

Changeboard

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