“I don’t have to hide my true self anymore”
In the run-up to International Women’s Day, we’re profiling some of our colleagues who are making a difference and helping to make sure that ‘everyone’s included’. This week we talk to Elizabeth Rimmington, Data Architect at Barclaycard, who shares her experience of working at the bank as a transgender woman, the importance of male allies – and why “helping others through change” drives her.
“One woman I work with said to me after I transitioned, ‘Before, you blended into the background. Now, you just light up a room’. It made me realise how much of my true self I had been hiding.”
Elizabeth Rimmington, Data Architect at Barclaycard in Hampshire, joined Barclays when her company was acquired by the bank six years ago. Having been initially “terrified” to open up to her colleagues about being transgender, she was overwhelmed by colleagues’ support during her transition.
“On my first day, a colleague came up to me and said, ‘Morning Liz, we’ve got a meeting now.’ And that was really great – the way that people used my name and the correct pronoun straightaway. In the transgender community, there’s a phrase called ‘deadnaming’, which is when people accidentally or deliberately call you by the name you used before your transition. I’ve never had that at Barclays. Everyone accepts me for who I am.”
One woman I work with said to me after I transitioned, ‘Before, you blended into the background. Now, you just light up a room’. It made me realise how much of my true self I had been hiding
Data Architect at Barclaycard
Empowering colleagues to ask for help
In her day-to-day role, Elizabeth is responsible for looking after the bank’s database strategy, including making sure people are trained up and comfortable running with the new technology: “That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed – helping people through change.”
Elizabeth’s dedication to being there for colleagues through periods of change extends beyond her job responsibilities.
“When I transitioned at work, I had so much support. I feel like I’ve given that back through being part of Spectrum – Barclays’ LGBT+ network. There are a few people who have come out as transgender and I’ve reached out to them to offer support and guidance’.”
Reflecting on her life growing up, Elizabeth says: “Obviously, I struggled with who I really was – being born in the 70s and growing up in the 80s, it wasn’t the time to come out. I wasn’t particularly aware of what was going on with myself, so I lived with that shadow for most of my life.”
That’s why she is so passionate about the importance of Barclays’ Spectrum network in empowering and celebrating the diversity of sexuality and gender identity within the bank.
“It’s great that people feel enabled to share their experience. I think that’s really important – breaking down the barriers to allow people to just come out and say, ‘I need help sometimes.’”
As part of her commitment to build transgender awareness at Barclays, Elizabeth recently gave a talk on her journey so far – and was met with applause for her honesty and openness.
“I spoke about my experiences and my journey and the difficulties that I had at home with my family, but also the really great side of it – being able to be myself and being a lot happier,” she says. “I also spoke about the different transgender identities including non-binary people, understanding the importance of pronouns and how to be an ally. Due to popular demand, I ran the session twice.”
Barclays’ Spectrum network has inspired Elizabeth to help a friend start a grassroots project to support transgender people in local communities: “The project is called T&Coffee and we had our first meeting this year. The whole idea is to take alcohol out of the support group picture and just invite people to have a coffee, chat in a public space and find out what resources are available to them and to meet other people like them.
“Coming out as a transgender person can be terrifying and there are so many things we have to deal with, such as the seemingly simple process of changing your name – T&Coffee is there to help people who feel isolated and really don’t know what to do. It’s also a great way to make friends.”
Balance, equality and inspiring the next generation of leaders
From encouraging colleagues to challenge themselves at work to raising awareness about STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) with girls in Fleet – Elizabeth is always ready to pass on the skills and advice she’s garnered from almost two decades in the banking and finance industry.
She recently worked with Barclays’ Diversity and Inclusion committee to run its second annual ‘Girls in Tech’ day, teaching girls from a local school about the payments industry and the different career opportunities available in technology. “I spoke about my role, how data is used in social media apps and how they can protect themselves online – and we had really great feedback,” Elizabeth says.
Helping others – I like to support people who are going through a similar journey as I’ve been through.
Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, a charity that supports transgender children and their families. Susie is passionate about supporting transgender people both young and old and works tirelessly to raise awareness of the issues we face and to encourage education. I’ve met her on several occasions and I find her strength and determination so inspiring.
Everyone can be themselves and have the same opportunities regardless of gender, gender identity, sexuality and race.
Making sure that there are no barriers to progression and that diverse groups are represented – and being willing to address things when they don’t have that representation.
It recognises the achievements of women and the struggles we’ve been through – and I think that’s really important.
Marlaine Dams, a colleague and good friend at Barclaycard, who’s been there when I needed her and helped me learn a lot. Robin Adams, my former line manager at Barclaycard, who gave me the confidence to go for a promotion last year.
As a woman in the bank, Elizabeth emphasises the importance of male allies in promoting and developing female talent through initiatives like the UN HeForShe movement, which “drives male allies to support women in the business and achieve their goals”.
“I’ve actually seen both sides of the fence here,” says Elizabeth. “The way people interacted with me when they perceived me as male was quite different to how they do now. Men are often more courteous, but I do sense that sometimes my voice isn’t heard in the same way as it had been. On the other hand, women are more open and more likely to discuss issues they may have.
“It is really important to allow women to get their voices heard and to progress their careers. And that requires men to understand how they can support women in their workplaces.”
Elizabeth says she’s pleased to work for an organisation where personal development is an integral part of the culture. “I love to help people and support them both emotionally and professionally,” says Elizabeth.
“The managers I’ve had through the years have been really great at helping me achieve what I needed to achieve, guiding me and giving me support in terms of confidence and developing skills – so I can show them, and myself, that I can actually do this role.”