Bobbi Pickard talks through supporting trans awareness, taking an active approach to embedding diversity and how her manager saved her life.
Now approaching her fifth year as a Senior Project Manager for energy giant BP, Bobbi Pickard emphasises how, when it comes to boosting inclusivity and representation within such large corporations “people aspire to what they can see”.
“Especially in the trans community, but in LGB as well, it’s so important to see trans people succeeding in their careers and in their lives because trans is always seen as the ‘bad option, something that means your career is over’”.
After being named as the number one Future Leader in INvolve’s OUTstanding LGBT+ Role Model Lists 2019, Bobbi has already taken steps in demonstrating her dedication, commitment and understanding of the importance of providing opportunities for individuals within the LGBT+ community and taking chances in order to succeed in business.
The first openly transgender person in BP, she believes that visibility is vital in boosting opportunities for success amongst the LGBT+ community. She outlined how, “We can’t forget that we don’t just have L, G and B and you don’t just have T. We actually have a brilliant intersectionality of people and such a wide range of diversity across all races, abilities, religions, genders and sexualities and it’s so important for people to see that all of these mixes of diversities are a success and are welcome in our organisations.”
Bobbi champions diversity across multiple channels, from establishing trans networks and Co-chairing the Transgender Group at BP, to speaking at events and negotiating trans issues on a national level. But Bobbi also acknowledges that it is not her voice that will see change actioned and driven forwards in the future, “My voice is only relevant for the now; the future direction that organisations take now shouldn’t always be up to people my age”
She continues, “We need to look to the people starting their early careers, they’re the people we need to listen to for BLM, for LGBT+ issues and beyond. My role is to listen and use my experience to get them heard, to amplify their voices and create real change that they need to happen.”
Part of this conversation centres around celebrating these voices, and role models within organisations, with Bobbi pinpointing the need to create inclusive environments in which they can succeed. She highlights that, “It is so important if you’re a member of a minority group, especially if you’re trans to know that there are people you can speak to and there are people that you can see doing positive action and that those role models bring everyone along with them. Role models can give organisations a much-needed kick to make their environment trans-friendly and that’s why they are just so important.”
Bobbi has been instrumental in creating an open and safe space at BP for the trans community and developing resources on a wider scale to educate others on some of the issues faced by this community. The value of having a workplace that is inclusive and allows individuals to bring their whole selves to work is key to celebrating and welcoming diverse talent. Bobbi explains, “It is important for people to reach a point where they feel successful, confident and able to share their stories and in turn become role models to others, adding to the voices for change.”
Today, businesses are facing the pull of different, competing priorities as they navigate the public health crisis. Yet, Bobbi recognises that despite conflicting opinions, businesses are currently being presented with a huge opportunity to action change. Bobbi explains, “So many businesses, BP included, are going through re-organisations and are really looking at themselves and re-defining themselves. There shouldn’t be anyone that doubts the value that diversity of thought and diversity of workforce provides.
She continues, “We are being handed a real opportunity to build in diversity into those new organisations. I think organisations that aren’t viewing this as an opportunity and don’t put diversity at the core of those re-structures and the way they think then they will find themselves struggling.”
“Companies that grasp diversity and really work to embrace it will come out a lot stronger.”
Bobbi also recalls a period in her life of incredible significance to her career, involving her former boss, Simon Hodgkinson, at a time when BP was inclusive, but not necessarily trans-friendly, “Everyone who has come across Simon will say that he is the most inspirational man they have ever met.”
“I told Simon I was transgender, and was going to start transitioning, and I told him that I appreciated that that meant I was going to have to leave and find another job. He simply said, “I believe people are at their best when they bring their whole selves to work, be who you need to be, and I’ll be there to help you”. He has been an incredible support; he gave me hope and direction personally and professionally and helped me to transform BP into the most amazing place for trans people. We now have 12 trans people in the business.”
“If I had received a different response from him, I may not be here today. He undoubtedly saved my career, but he also saved my life.”
The impact of role models and inspirational figures through the course of a professional career should not be underestimated. Having support from colleagues and creating a network of inclusive, forward-thinking individuals, groups and organisations is essential. Bobbi is the co-founder of Trans in the City a network that has brought over 65 organisations together for Transgender Day of Remembrance, has provided free trans awareness training sessions and to organisations across the globe.
The impact of appearing on the INvolve OUTstanding Future Leaders List 2019 for Bobbi, and her work through Trans in the City was beyond anything she could have imagined, “It grew from seven organisations before the announcement, to two months after the lists were announced, Trans in the City having over 65 organisations signed up and active”.
She has also created training programmes for several of BP’s international offices as well as delivering BP Pride’s first reverse mentoring programme. Bobbi refers to this array of initiatives, programmes and schemes as “pieces of the jigsaw puzzle” that “when implemented together build up a whole.” Pulling this together and encouraging leadership teams to adopt such schemes to boost diversity, inclusivity and representation of underrepresented individuals is key too. Bobbi explains, “The real thing that makes the difference in an organisation is properly having a senior leadership team that understands – not just buying into the concept, but deeply understanding and empathising. It is key to not take the easy option; have the difficult conversations, confront and change the established norms.”
Most importantly, Bobbi highlights how real change can only be implemented by taking steps to improve LGBT+ representation within organisations, boosting diversity and ensuring that teams are inclusive. She said, “You don’t get workforce diversity by accident. You have to actively make it happen. Inclusion isn’t a single sized pie, where if you give a bigger slice to some people, you take from others. It always expands more rights; more inclusion just makes the pie bigger for everyone.”
“There is the tendency to take the easy route; but that’s rarely the right one. As with everything, the more you give, the better the results and the more you get in return.”