Marion Bentata, Chief Administrative Officer at State Street talks about the process of having to come out
Marion started her career in 2008 working for a French bank in Paris, the city where she was raised. As an only child, she had a good start in life with a loving upbringing. Despite this caring environment, she still found herself unable to admit that she was gay for a long time. “My coming out journey was quite a long one as I was in denial for quite a long time,” Marion says.
Following business school and a degree in finance, Marion worked as an Internal Auditor and quickly became a Credit Analyst, after which she decided to move to London and started covering hedge funds. It was in 2014 that her career at State Street began, where she now runs strategic initiatives on the technology side of the business.
As her professional life flourished so did her confidence and her ability to share more about herself, although to this day this is not something she finds altogether straightforward. “You could argue that now that I live in London, I’m in a bubble in terms of LGBTQ+ rights and the way my community is represented, but actually the financial services environment is still dominated by a strong heteronormative culture.”
After joining State Street, Marion became heavily involved in their Pride network, and was quickly asked to accept the position of Co-chair, which she held for five years.
“Whenever I have started at a new company, I’ve joined the Pride network as I felt it gave me a psychological safety net. So, I jumped at the chance of becoming Co-chair after being so engaged and invested in the network. As an organisation, we encourage a sense of belonging and empower our employees, and really try to embed it in our culture both internally and with clients. We strive to choose to own it, break through silos and deliver results with integrity and speed. Our clients do business in more than 100 global markets, so we all need to feel supported to ensure we feel our identities and experiences are celebrated.”
All this work and ambition reflects Marion’s drive for equality, however, standing up and being visible about her identity is still not always easy. Coming out to co-workers or clients, Marion says, remains a challenge and she tends to find the process stressful.
“I’m more of an introvert. The first question people always seem to ask upon meeting is whether I have a boyfriend or a husband. I never know whether I should share that I’m gay in case it impacts my everyday work relationships. It is a risk that repeats itself again and again.”
This is partly why the work of the Pride network is so important to Marion and she has been heavily involved in education around language. The network, as well as the culture at State Street is encouraging this dialogue between employees, which has then further helped to build community.
“This is our core objective with the 24 employee networks with over 110 chapters. I can see the virtuous circle where employee resource groups are making a real impact and make you feel safer to come out. The more people that come out, the more visible we become, and the easier it becomes for others.”
Marion is also the founder of Women of Interbank, the LGBTQ+ forum of the UK’s financial services firms. There were very few women in the room when she first arrived to work in the city, and she has made it her mission to change that.
“Interbank has been an amazingly powerful tool to move the dial on the representation of LGBTQ+ women in finance. We have held conversations that helped men realise their duty in making women feel welcome at events and to champion them within the industry. The number of women increased 15-fold at the interbank events, and it keeps growing every month. I’m really proud of the sense of community we have created there.”
Looking to the future, Marion hopes that the workplace can continue to be a safe place and will evolve to be a level playing field for everyone, not just for women or LGBTQ+ people, but truly everyone.
“History is rarely linear and things can go backwards. There has been a 41% increase in homophobic and biphobic crimes in the UK and we’ve seen how hate towards the trans community is increasing far too rapidly. It is also shocking to see that there are still violent attacks carried out against members of the trans community globally in this day and age. My thoughts go to our trans brothers, sisters, and siblings, who don’t benefit from the strides made by other members of the community.”
“I have been harassed when holding hands with a date in the streets of London, and a friend of mine has recently been assaulted in Soho. Physical safety and tolerance cannot be taken for granted.”
With this in mind, Marion shares her story with others, truly embodying the adage of “you can’t be what you can’t see” and acts as a role model so her community can feel represented and visible – all with the hope that queer women have perhaps one less barrier to feeling safe and supported.