5 minutes with… Steven Copsey

Who are the people that make inclusion an everyday reality? This feature gives you the chance to find out more about the team behind Inclusive Employers - our values, stories, motivations and inspirations.

This month, Steven Copsey, tells us what led him to leave his career in the finance industry and shares his key inclusion moments. Steven is a Senior Inclusion & Diversity Consultant at Inclusive Employers, Programme Director of Inclusive Employers’ CMI qualifications and host of our ‘Talking inclusion with..’ podcasts.

1. Can you tell us how you came to be in your role

Prior to coming to work for Inclusive Employers in Jan 2019, I spent 12 years in the insurance industry. I’d worked for local, regional, national and global insurance brokerages in that period, the last six years of which were spent in corporate insurance.

For the first half of my career in finance, I was definitely not comfortable being “out” in the workplace but I figured I’d just have to get used to it. It wasn’t until I moved down to London to work with a brokerage in the City that I realised that there was something very unsettling about the insurance industry.

Hiring managers throwing CVs in the bin because candidates had “African names.” Directors looking on social media to see whether someone was black because their name was “too generic” – and once they’d seen a picture proving they were black, the CV went straight in the bin.  I thought, if these people are racist, they could very well be homophobic, misogynistic and any other number of “isms” and “ists.” This really scared me.

I decided to move back to Yorkshire, where I grew up, where I could feel “safe” and tried to get a new job. Eventually, I succeeded and whilst there ended up getting involved in a few LGBT+ groups in Leeds. I ended up joining the committee of Link, the LGBT+ Insurance Network, and after a couple of years became one of its national chairs.

During my volunteer work with Link, I was writing international I&D strategy and presenting the business case to various exec boards, on top of my demanding day job as a broker. I eventually decided that inclusion was something I could look into doing full time. I ended up self-funding my place on the Level 6 Certificate in Inclusion course and after passing, decided to take the plunge and quit my job. Thankfully I had a lot of time to find something as I was put on garden leave and this just so happened to coincide with Inclusive Employers deciding to open their Leeds office. The rest is history!

2. Can you share an ‘inclusion moment’ with us – a time when you have felt included either at work or in your personal life?

For me the most powerful moment was when I worked at Aon. I’d felt comfortable enough to talk about my personal life with my team and they were all lovely and accepting. But that was as far as it went. It wasn’t until our CEO at the time, Jim Herbert, came up to the Leeds office on his national roadshow that I suddenly felt included. He addressed the whole branch in the way that senior leaders do, and as part of that address he casually talked about the Pride Alliance network, meeting with them, having drinks with them, discussing everyday topics that he’d never thought about. He then gave an open invitation “if anyone wants to ask me any questions about the pride alliance feel free to do so, either now, or reach out to me separately, my email is…”

A white, straight, cisgender man with power and privilege causally slipping that into a conversation was one of the most powerful moments of inclusion I’ve ever experienced.  I reached out to him via email later that day (I was VERY shy and quiet), he put me in touch with the pride alliance directly and that’s how my inclusion passion began.

3. What do you love most about your role?

Creating a safe space for people. As Programme Director for our Chartered Management Institute (CMI) accredited qualifications, the most important thing for me is giving our students the ability to trust each other implicitly.

I do this by setting the scene. Sharing some of my vulnerabilities. Allowing them to see that these things that have happened in my work life and home life have shaped who I am today. That it’s 100% okay to talk about these things. And by talking about it, I’m empowering them to share their experiences too.  Everyone has a story.

Also, I love working on our podcast. It’s a dream to work with our incredible team, Jilly, Lindsay and our producer Karl. They make everything so fun and easy!

4. What is a typical day like for you?

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical day here. Sometimes I’ll be head down, all day writing a blog or a package or notes for a new slide deck and not speak to a single other person.

On the days when I’m delivering the Level 4 and Level 6 programmes, it’s a full day of training and often intense conversation. Sometimes there are days of just admin and email catch up (one of the disadvantages of not spending a quarter of my week on trains across the country – I no longer have designated “admin only” time!).

5. What’s been your most memorable moment in your inclusion career?

Taking the jump from my previous career. Making the sacrifice to work in inclusion. And I don’t always think we talk about that individual sacrifice. Yes I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community, but I’m still a white cisgender man.

A white gay cisgender man can still have a heck of a lot of privilege. Recognising that and being at that crossroads of “do I do something about this? Do I do the right thing?” or “do I just bury my head in the sand and focus on my own personal future/success?” was actually a really complicated decision. And it’s still one that I reflect on even to this day.

No matter who we are, working in inclusion can take a toll. Whether that’s emotionally, economically, politically, professionally, socially – it’s important to recognise this as part of our journeys too.

To meet more people that make inclusion an everyday reality, see our full series of “5 minutes with…”