On February 21st, 2015, we hosted the first LGBT Leaders Conference in the Clifford Chance headquarters in Canary Wharf. Over 120 students from 39 different universities descended on London to hear from business leaders and politicians about their careers, and to be inspired by their success.
The conference kicked off with a video message from Conchita Wurst, the winner of Eurovision 2014, who wished all our attendees luck for the day and for their future careers. We then hosted our first session of the day, an ‘In Conversation’ session between Anthony Watson, the then-CIO of Nike, and Cai Wilshaw, the founder of LGBT Leaders.
Following the first session, the audience broke out into the first panel sessions of the day. Declan Davis, one of our committee members, held a session with Dennis Layton of McKinsey, discussing his own career as well as the management consulting industry more generally.
Over lunch, our attendees had the opportunity to network over lunch with their peers, as well as many speakers and sponsors who stayed the whole day to discuss with the students.
Our afternoon sessions kicked off with more panel sessions, about issues as wide ranging as professional LGBT networks, gay marriage and commercial law. Clifford Chance and Freshfields, two of our sponsors, held interactive sessions on how to prepare for interviews about commercial law during the application process for vacation schemes and training contracts.
All our attendees came together after these panel sessions for a highlight of the conference, an ‘In Conversation’ session between Lord Browne, the former CEO of BP, and Evan Davis of Newsnight. Evan quizzed Lord Browne about his tenure at BP as well as his work with Glass Closet afterwards, and there was even some time for questions from the audience at the end!
Following this, we had two hours more of panel sessions. Sandy Downs, our business speakers officer, held a panel on Women in Business, a panel which we are repeating in our second conference due to its runaway success. Before we broke away for our drinks reception to end the evening, we heard from Sanjay Sood-Smith of The Apprentice fame and Ben Cohen of PinkNews about being LGBT in the media. At the same time, the co-director of the conference, Tyrone Steele, held a session with Lord Smith about coming out in politics. As one of the first openly gay MPs in Parliament, Lord Smith reflected on his early career as one of the only gay parliamentarians, as well as his later accomplishments as a Labour peer.
We finished the conference with an incredible drinks reception hosted by Slaughter and May on the 30th floor of Clifford Chance, overlooking the City of London. Again, this was a wonderful opportunity for attendees to mingle with speakers and sponsors alike, and gain an invaluable insight into the realities of being an LGBT professional in the UK.