Letter to my younger self: Clare Coates

In the latest in our series of letters from Barclays leaders, Clare Coates, Head of Strategy and Planning, Corporate Payments, reflects on choosing her career, finding her voice as an LGBT+ advocate and joining an Employee Resource Group that “changed the course” of her life.

Dear Clare,

When you’re a teenager, you’ll realise you’re a lesbian. Living and attending school in a small town in the Midlands, you’ll exist under the shadow of Section 28 – legislation that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities. The confusion you experience during this time will take years to work through, and you’ll hide away from being open about your sexuality.

Your self-employed parents will commit to achieving the best they can for you and your sister, and you will grow up in an environment of love – you’ll have wonderful memories and fondly remember the quality time you spent together. In your early twenties, you will build up the courage to come out as a lesbian to your family and friends. While this will be challenging and scary, they’ll be incredibly supportive.

You’ll experience love and have a civil partnership – and while the relationship won’t work out as you initially planned, you’ll come to discover how much joy there is in being independent and how confident and comfortable you can be in your own skin.

Clare Coates, with her family, in Norfolk.

Clare, with her sister (Ruth), father (Gordon) and her mother (Margaret), in Norfolk.

You’ll come to discover how much joy there is in being independent and how confident and comfortable you can be in your own skin.

Clare Coates

Head of Strategy and Planning, Corporate Payments, Barclays

As a teenager, you’ll dream of becoming a veterinary nurse and working with animals – a plan that is dashed when, completing a work experience assignment at a local vet clinic, you discover you hate the sight of blood! This will leave you searching for a career path, and eventually, you’ll fall into the banking sector.

You won’t regret entering the workforce straight after graduating school – but you’ll struggle, at first, to find the organisation that’s right for you. Sadly, before joining Barclays, you’ll also experience workplace discrimination. This will teach you that personal resilience is tough to gain but important to have.

When you land a role at Barclays, you’ll be comfortably out in the workplace for the first time. You’ll join and eventually become Co-Chair of Spectrum, the bank’s LGBT+ Employee Resource Group (ERG) – a decision that will change the course of your life.

A photo of Clare Coates and her sister, Ruth, as children.

Clare Coates aged four, with her sister Ruth, at home in Rugby.

Getting involved in an ERG will open up so many opportunities for you – it will build your confidence, enable you to improve your skillset and help you form close relationships with colleagues. It will change how you feel about your job and make you feel like you’re thriving at work. Later on, you’ll move to London and find that sense of belonging you didn’t even know you were missing. You will be part of a wonderful community and find new ways to live authentically.

In your life, you’ll push yourself out of your comfort zone and become a vocal advocate for the LGBT+ community. You will develop a reputation as someone who speaks up in the workplace, and colleagues will come to you for advice on how to handle difficult situations.

You’ll help to make sure others never feel powerless at work – so any new colleagues joining the bank know it’s safe to be themselves. 


A close-up image of Clare Coates writing in a notebook, with photos of her childhood on the desk.

Growing up, Clare wanted to be a veterinary nurse – but, after searching for a career path, decided to work in the banking sector.

Clare Coates attending a Pride event in London, in 2018.

Clare, representing Barclays at a Pride event in London, in 2018. She says after joining the bank she was “comfortably out in the workplace for the first time”.