Meet Chloe. She’s a software engineer working alongside investment bankers, 2 to 3 days a-week, comes to work as a man.
Two years ago, on March 31, on International Transgender Day of Visibility, she participated in an event that brought people together to talk about trans awareness.
The event got her thinking: how can I talk about visibility of transgender people, when I am not visible myself? Although with friends and family she felt she could present as Chloe, she was still coming to work every day as a man, finding in the need to be more “professional” – in her words – a reason to “normalize”.
As time went by, she realized that living a double life was exhausting and unsustainable. So, she took the lead and (not without fear) took to UBS's internal social media platform. She wrote a blog post on her journey and on what it means for her to be transitioning. She wrote: “In coming out, I wanted two things. Firstly to free myself of lies and half-truths. It's about being authentic. Secondly, I want to be a visible role model. […]Visibility is the path to openness and acceptance.” Chloe is now active in the UBS Pride Network in London, helping to promote visibility of transgender employees at UBS.
For any human being, the path to discovering one’s identity can be complicated, and it's always a very personal experience. Chloe says, as a transgender person “you are never done coming out”: on one hand there are always more people to inform. On the other hand, transitioning is often not a binary experience - people don’t just “switch” from male to female (or vice versa) from one day to the other.
She wants to bring awareness to this particular aspect of her experience, where people in the office know her presenting in both genders, depending on how she decides to present as on that day.
She explains, "Being trans is already uncommon, but it's even more unusual for people to have a dual identity and present as both, even though this is generally the reality prior to fully transitioning."
Having an honest conversation about her experience, she hopes, is going to encourage others to feel more comfortable.
"There is this pool of people who aren't able to express themselves in the workplace, who live a secret life, who aren't happy or mentally healthy as a result. That's got to change and I think it will. I hope more people are going to come out and discover that it's fine. We build these things up to be more scary than they are and we don't give people enough credit. I said: 'this is what's going on and it's really important to me. You might not understand it, but it is'. People were actually quite cool about it, though it's hard to expect that from a society [where gender non-conformity is repressed since the early school years]".
A culture of collaboration makes all the difference
Talking about her coming-out experience at UBS, Chloe told us:
“The culture here is incredible. People have been very accepting of me. Honestly, five years ago I wouldn't have thought this would be possible on the trading floor. […] I haven’t had any negative response or problem. It’s just been a non-issue. More than that, everyone has been incredibly supportive. […]
A lot of my friends are trans outside of work and they are amazed that it’s been so easy and so possible here. So I do think we have something to celebrate. We don’t even realize how tolerant and gentle our culture is, and everyone is completely against the [negative] stereotype of an investment bank. […]
Even disregarding the trans issue, it’s my experience working on the trading floor that most people are more thoughtful, considered, even introverted than the stereotype and even at other places I've worked. And I think the culture has contributed. There is a culture of thoughtful mindfulness that it has made it much easier."
In Chloe's opinion, UBS is one of the few firms in the industry leading the way into a more accepting workplace for the LGBTQ+ community.
"The workplace can become the safe place where actually there is no problem, as opposed to the outside world where it could be a lot more challenging. Just get on with the job, forget about it."
Chloe's role at UBS
Chloe is a software engineer, works with the Investment Bank on an exciting new big data platform and is head of a small team.
"I have been working on the trading floor for eight years now. I like working here, I like the people and the fact that we work on a range of interesting and complex strategic projects. […]
My team is responsible for the storage and processing of risk results, so once we have them calculated, we warehouse and process them, eventually we will facilitate advanced processing such as machine learning. It's interesting because we are using new technologies in the cloud."
What's your advice to allies on getting it right?
"Don't make assumptions based on gender stereotypes - don’t ask Mr. Smith what his wife does, his husband might not appreciate. And don't assume someone's gender based on a name: we live in a multicultural society, and someone with a name like Andrea for example, could be either genders, depending on their country of origin."
What was your dream job when you were growing up?
"First I wanted to be a vet, which wouldn't have worked out considering I can't even get cats to take a pill. Then an artist. I do go to art classes, draw and paint. One day, I'd like to teach physics. I already tutor kids as a volunteer through a UBS volunteering initiative."
Suit or smart casual?
"Smart casual. Chloe cares a lot more about clothes."
What advice would you give to yourself at the beginning of your career?
"Don't be afraid. You can have a career and you can be who you are, and it's all cool."