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You don't have to hide who you are to succeed

Book open Reading time: 2 mins

It can be daunting being yourself at work, especially at the start of your career. You want to be liked by your colleagues and fit in with the company’s culture.

It’s all too easy to put on a bit of an act or hide certain parts of your life, especially if you feel they may set you apart for the wrong reasons.

However, being open about who you are can be the key to career success - as Inga Beale, CEO of global insurance firm Lloyd’s of London discovered.

Inga is openly bisexual, one of very few LGBTQ business leaders in the world. After years of pretending to be someone she wasn’t for fear of how it might impact her career, she came out during an interview for a senior role in 2008. And her sexuality wasn’t the issue she thought it would be. In fact the interviewer wasn’t fazed by her admission and welcomed her honesty – and she got the job.

Today, many firms run inclusion programmes to ensure all their employees feel comfortable in the workplace. However, when Inga started her career in insurance during the eighties, macho culture prevailed in the City. She admits to behaving like a man to try to fit in with her colleagues, which helped her work her way up the corporate ladder. She was so concerned someone might find out about her sexuality she banned her partner from calling the office.

However the secrecy ultimately had a detrimental impact on her professional life (as well as personally). All the energy she spent lying, keeping secrets and making excuses detracted from her focus at work. Similarly, analysis shows those who have not come out at work can be 30 per cent less productive. As soon as Inga opened up about her sexuality, she no longer had to worry about keeping a part of her life secret during her nine to five and she could pour her energy into forging a brilliant career in insurance.

Ultimately, it’s your choice how much you share about your private life at work. The most important thing is that you're comfortable wherever you choose to build your career. Make sure you look for an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity in all its forms and welcomes you for your talents, no matter who you are.


Find out more about Inga and her career - check her out on Desert Island Discs with Kirsty Young.