LGBT Great Internship 2022: Introducing Vivienne Leech
In August 2022, LGBT Great launched our first internship program with an overarching aim to introduce a new wave of talent to financial services. Below, Alex Hoare (AH), LGBT Great’s Global Insights and Content Manager chats with Vivienne Leech (VL) about joining as one of the first two interns as part of this program.
AH: Vivienne, welcome! We are delighted to have you as part of LGBT Great’s first internship program. Could you share a little about yourself and your studies?
VL: I’m so excited to be joining the LGBT Great team as an intern for the next two months. My background is in Mathematics, having studied it at university for the past six years. I did an integrated Master’s and am currently working towards a PhD in Mathematical Biology, using mathematical modelling to try and understand more about biological observations made when looking at cells under microscopes.
AH: That’s amazing! LGBT+ DE&I must be a little bit of a departure from your day-to-day. Is this an area you’ve always been interested in?
VL: Throughout my time at university, I have been very involved in DE&I work. I came out at university and felt quite isolated due to a lack of any conversations around being LGBT+ in my field and a lack of visible, relatable role models. This is, of course, with the exception of Alan Turing. He is a very important figure and did a lot of amazing work across various fields, including mathematical modelling of how animals got their stripes and spots, which is closely related to what I do in my PhD. This is all significant work, but he is often the only obvious choice when the intersection of LGBT+ and maths is brought up. We need more role models, and we need to start the conversation.
To combat this a little, I organised the first-ever LGBT+ maths event for the department just before COVID-19, at the start of 2020. Though a small turnout, it was appreciated by everyone who attended, and we ensured we were as visible as possible by putting rainbow flags up around the department, as well as posters with information about LGBT+ role models. It was really impactful to be able to be visibly queer in a space where the topic of LGBT+ had never really come up before.
Since starting my PhD, I have been involved in the departmental EDI committee and the newly formed LGBTQ+ STEM Network @UCL. The network aims to celebrate diversity and excellence at all career stages through broadening perceptions and fostering supportive research environments. This year, we achieved this by hosting social events in addition to an LGBT+ STEM conference and a role model exhibition, which sought to profile current LGBT+ people working and studying in STEM fields across UCL.
AH: We are trying to do the same thing across financial services. I can imagine you’ve seen first-hand the importance of this! I know you found out about this internship through your connection to Just Like Us. Could you speak a little around that?
VL: I started volunteering for the LGBT+ young people’s charity Just Like Us as an ambassador a couple of years ago. As part of this, we go into schools to deliver presentations to educate and inform students about how to foster LGBT+ inclusive environments through the lens of our stories of growing up LGBT+. These talks could be thought of as parallel to the awareness training sessions that LGBT Great offers, while the role model exhibition that I organised at university has a similar purpose to LGBT Great’s Project 1000 Role Models initiative. It is great to see that LGBT Great is bringing together all these different aspects of DE&I that I have worked on separately in the past just on a much bigger scale.
AH: It’s brilliant what far-reaching DE&I work you have already been part of. Is there anything specific you are excited about in joining LGBT Great for this internship program?
VL: As part of this internship, I’m excited to delve into everything straight away: meet clients, understand the breadth of work that LGBT Great does, and start taking ownership of projects, particularly from the research and data analysis side.
I also hope to be able to offer a useful perspective on things as a recent maths graduate. The amazing work that LGBT Great does is an essential (and natural) next step on the journey from the work that I’ve been involved in at university. Most people in a university setting will go on to get jobs, while a lot of people studying maths will go into the financial services industry. LGBT Great is offering support and practical solutions to help companies be the best they can in terms of LGBT+ DE&I. This is really important as it will enable everyone to bring their whole selves to work, and it will hopefully not feel like a step back if someone moves into this industry from university. Rather, it should feel like a step in the right direction.