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Maryse Gordon has been stepping up for a long time.
“The first time I really got involved with voluntary stuff was in the UK where I saw on the tube this advert from the Royal London Society for the Blind,” Gordon told Yahoo Finance UK. “It said something like: this young teenager couldn’t live a normal life because life wasn’t catered for him having non-sight.
"I was horrified. I just couldn’t believe that. I joined the volunteering network and did that for a couple of years.”
Gordon’s spirit of generosity and her ethical compass have remained true since then. Today, she is being recognised in the EMpower Future Leaders list. Gordon has topped the 2021 list, which celebrates up-and-coming ethnic minority leaders in workplaces around the world. The list was put together by INvolve, a global network and consultancy championing diversity and inclusion, with support from Yahoo Finance UK.
“To be placed number one is just very surreal,” Gordon said. “To see that I was number one — I read it twice. You just sit back and say thank you.”
Gordon’s leadership takes the form of championing underrepresented groups in the workplace. Gordon is a business development manager for the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) in New York. She has helped to launch and run LSEG’s women's network — Women’s Inspired Network (WIN) — and its Black network — Black Employee Inspired Network Group (BEING) — in the Americas.
Londoner Gordon helped bring WIN to the Americas when she moved to New York in 2015 and helped set up BEING last year as the Black Lives Matter movement swept the United States.
“That wasn’t something that existed until last May when we had the murder of George Floyd be the catalyst to open the conversation around race throughout the world,” she said. “It entered into spaces where race was never discussed — the office.”
The establishment of BEING was part of a wider reckoning across the corporate world, as businesses came to terms with deep-seated racial issues that had existed in societies around the world for decades.
A discussion of race in the workplace was “100% overdue”, Gordon said.
“Whatever’s going on in the workplace will definitely affect what happens at a dinner table,” she said. “If we’re now having these conversations, it broadens people’s perspectives."
BEING was about pushing those conversations and helping open more peoples' eyes to the challenges faced by African Americans and Black people around the world.
“To me, I just think: how could so many people get this far without experiencing or understanding this? I don’t understand how that could be omitted from their lives but it has," she said. "But I’m grateful that people are taking some sort of accountability.”Re
Many businesses have made public pledges to improve diversity or donated funding to groups helping underrepresented peoples. Gordon hopes this momentum continues.
“Making those public statements means that eyes are now going to be on you,” she said. “They’re going to be watching and they want to see results. Internally, people will expect to see change. And if it doesn’t, you’ll lose talent.”
Gordon has been in financial services for 15 years and at LSEG for 10. She studied performing arts & computer sciences at Oxford Brookes University — a combination she readily admits was unusual.
She credits her parents with instilling in her an awareness of those in different circumstances.
“I talk about this with my family all the time: why are we like this? We’re just a group of people who take great issue with people who are outcasted,” she said. “To all of the kids, success isn’t just making good money, it’s what change have you made to other people’s lives? They are the most rewarding things.”
Gordon’s father is a research scientist and her mother is a deputy headteacher. As well as pushing her to give back, they allowed her to take risks which Gordon thinks has helped her step up and lead.
“I came home on a motorbike one day and as terrifying as that was to my family — my mother said she didn’t sleep for days — they didn’t talk me out of it,” Gordon said. “I learned so much riding this motorcycle around London.”
Fearlessness helped Gordon to step up and speak up. Her advice to others looking to emulate her success is to do the same.
“If you have an idea and you want to explore it: speak up and take on the responsibility yourself — that’s what I’ve done,” she said.
“Say 'yes' as much as you can, provided you have the capacity to do it. Always look for gaps that you can potentially fill. There’s a lot of hidden opportunities within firms that people don’t necessarily think about.”
Gordon continues to look for new ways to give back and recently joined the advisory board of Defy Ventures in their Tri-State Chapter. The organisation helps people outcasted by society find opportunity for growth and success.
She continues to live without fear too: a memorable recent holiday was a solo expedition to Antarctica.
“Part of the trip, they asked: who wants to jump into the ocean?” she recalled. “It’s not like you can jump on a plane and head back down. You gotta do it while you’re there. I just decided I was going to jump into that sea regardless of what was underneath it.
“I don’t believe in living with regrets or walking away from a situation. You should just do it.”
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