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A rising star at HSBC on how embracing change 'feeds our hunger for inclusivity'

1) Leigh F. Capule, Migrations Manager I GSC Philippines, HSBC. Photo: HSBC
Leigh F. Capule, Migrations Manager I GSC Philippines, HSBC. Photo: HSBC

Leigh F. Capule is a change agent within HSBC (HSBA.L), as well as for her wider community.

While her day job is as Migrations Manager I GSC Philippines for the the banking giant, Capule has been instrumental in championing diversity and inclusion (D&I) at the company as well as externally.

Capule is a pioneer member of the HSBC Pride + Ally Network in GSC Philippines and under her leadership a number of significant initiatives and company policy changes have been made, including: the establishment of both gender neutral and gender preference restrooms; the inclusion of same sex and domestic partners in insurance coverage; and inclusion of treatment of HIV/AIDS in HMO coverage (Health maintenance organizations, which provide health insurance coverage for a monthly or annual fee).

Capule also took the lead in the D&I forum held in India, where she shared Philippines' Pride best practices and initiatives, and established an annual PAN GSC SOGIE Awareness session, which she personally facilitates.

It’s for this reason she has topped the OUTstanding Top 100 LGBT+ Future Leaders 2020 list, supported by Yahoo Finance.

We caught up with her about the importance of embracing change, how to lead by example, and what’s next in the evolution of gaining greater equality and equity for the LGBT+ community.

How does it feel to be the winner of the Future Leaders lists and what does being a role model mean to you?

Leigh F. Capule: Being nominated as an LGBT+ role model is already a win in itself. Being selected as the winner of 2020’s OUTstanding Future Leaders List is a validation that my identity as a Transgender Woman is being recognized, valued and celebrated.

My personal and professional journeys have been difficult. I've been subject to catcalls, prejudices and ridicule almost everyday of my life just by simply living my authentic self. These challenges have been my fuel that revved up my passion to continuously advocate for Diversity and Inclusion, in and out of the workplace.

To be considered a role model is a gift that will definitely fire up my drive to further educate people on SOGIESC [sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristic], inspire members of the LGBT+ community to stand up for their right to live and celebrate their authentic selves and to influence more people to stand with us and become active allies.

Why are lists like these so important?

LC: These recognition platforms serve as gateways to a progressive community by broadening our network and helping us amplify our call for equality and acceptance.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career and how have you overcome them?

LC: 14 years ago, I had been reprimanded for using the traditional women’s restroom in our workplace. That experience resulted in the increase of my daily expenses as I needed to go to the nearest store that had a single use restroom everyday just for me to pee. It also took a toll on my health as I needed to hold my bladder multiple times so as not to subject myself to sanctions.

People will always have personal biases, much more so towards members of the LGBT+ community. It is an on-going and exhausting struggle to overcome as we need to prove day in day out that we deserve the roles we hold and work harder to earn the respect of the majority. Worse still, denial of access to safe spaces for the sole reason that one does not conform to what is perceived as normal still remains a top concern, especially for transgender people like me.

Experiencing the aforementioned challenges first hand was pivotal in my drive to lead at the forefront. It took years for changes in policies and the establishment of safe spaces that are inclusive of all genders to materialize but it was all worth it. Today, the majority of HSBC offices around the world have “All Gender Restrooms.” In GSC Philippines, where I work, expectations were exceeded because on top of the “All Gender Restrooms,” our sites also converted some traditional female and male restrooms to “Gender Preference Restrooms” which can be utilized by anyone depending on the gender they identify with.

Annual SOGIESC staff training is also being conducted to further establish an environment that understands the diverse gender spectrum. Furthermore, the inclusion of domestic and same-sex partners in the group’s life and medical insurance are a big win for the community.

HSBC’s embracing of Diversity and Inclusion as an integral part of the business, as well as establishing strong relationships and managing people’s perception of me, have been key ingredients in transcending my career obstacles.

At your company, how do you pave the way and help elevate those around you?

LC: Being an outspoken advocate of Diversity and Inclusion, I have been leading SOGIE sessions and forums at different HSBC entities that focus on the different strands of the gender spectrum.

These sessions resulted in some colleagues becoming allies and helped members of the LGBT+ community develop a sense of belonging and security at HSBC.

As the Pride + Ally Network Lead in GSC Philippines, there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of providing career development opportunities to LGBT+ members of the community as well as influencing them to become active members of PRIDE and getting more visible support from allies.

What does success to you look like and how do you measure it?

LC: Success is having a sense of fulfilment in achieving something that I have worked for and feel really passionate about. Feeling good about it is definitely my key metric.

Why are allies and advocates so important and what advice would you give to executives that want to do more but don't know how?

LC: Allies and Advocates are the legs we stand on. They amplify our call for acceptance and help drive progress.

To our Dear Organization Executives, I have three asks.

  1. Listen to what the minority groups in your respective companies have to say. Heeding their needs is not tantamount to giving them special rights but just keep your eyes open to subtle disparities in privileges that the majority are usually afforded with.

  2. Participate in reverse mentoring programs where you meet with a member of a minority group for an informal discussion of his/her needs, views on existing company policies and safe spaces.

  3. Be an active ally. Signing up is not enough. Be visible and set the tone from the top.

How do you influence executive teams to take action on D&I and not leave it up to the People team?

LC: Consistency and follow through will always be key to driving action, while having an executive sponsor who believes in what you’re advocating for and serves as your voice in senior leadership meetings is what solidifies it.

How has 2020 shaped your future leadership and company strategy?

LC: 2020 has been a rough year for everyone. A lot of our plans were canceled but if there’s one thing that this pandemic has taught me, it is the navigability of change.

It’s not easy but learning to embrace changes to how we do things opens a lot of doors to explore that will enhance our creativity, test our flexibility, and feed our hunger for inclusivity.

As a future leader, this year gave me the opportunity to better understand how technology will play a critical role in our new normal.

What would be the one piece of advice you'd give to your younger self?

LC: You are a star in your own authentic way. Continue strutting in your high heels with your head held high.

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