Warren Stapley is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Responsible Business Manager at Montagu Evans

What is your professional background?

Prior to my dedicated roles in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), I was a senior corporate finance solicitor with 10-plus years’ elite “magic circle” and US firm experience in advising sponsors, lenders, credit funds and corporate borrowers on a range of cross-border finance and M&A (mergers and acquisition) matters. I’m still a qualified lawyer, but now focus on pro bono /voluntary and anti-discrimination matters in connection with my DEI work.

You are the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Responsible Business Manager at Montagu Evans. What does that role involve?

Montagu Evans is a London-based property consultancy supporting its clients to create inspiring places to live, work, communicate and connect. My role was created as a result of the firm’s increased focus on DEI and I lead inclusion within the firm, supported by a steering committee and volunteers who kindly donate their time to assist with this important work. I also facilitate the various employee inclusion networks, including ME: Pride, which advocates for LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality within the firm and celebrates the identities of the LGBTQ+ community everywhere. It’s a real pleasure to be doing DEI work for an organisation that is committed to doing the work in the right way.

How important is a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, for both the individual and the wider workforce?

It’s always been important, but the most progressive businesses are coming to realise it is critical for long term success. The need for such work, at the individual, institutional and systemic level, transcends the concept of “business case” and goes to the heart of why we must recognise the validity of a person’s identity and their lived experience. DEI is very much here to stay.

Among other roles, you recently became a Director of Freehold LGBTQ+. What does that role involve?

Freehold is a networking and support forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer real estate professionals working within the property sector. With over 1,000 members and expanding, it’s a privilege to be part of an experienced board that is so driven to make positive change. We’re not just about events and networking, incredible though these are. We’re about visibility, advocacy representation – and providing a safe space and community for those just starting out in the industry to find advice and mentorship. And of course, you’ll see us at the Pride March in London on Saturday 1 July!

You are also qualified as a mental health first-aider. Do you think there are mental health issues which disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ people more than their heterosexual friends and allies?

Being LGBTQ+ certainly doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to suffer mental health problems, but being outside the heteronormative paradigm does all too often mean being more exposed to discrimination, homophobia or transphobia and even suicidal ideation. I remember reading in a Stonewall study about how one in eight LGBTQ+ people aged 18 to 24 had attempted to end their life, while almost half of trans people had thought about taking their own lives, too. The more positive side is that embracing one’s identity as LGBTQ+ is very often a key step to enhancing overall wellbeing.

It can be argued that in the past years there has been a remarkable advance in LGBTQ+ rights. What more needs to be done?

We could write a whole book on this… But I echo the sentiment of many within the LGBTQ+ community that “we’re not safe yet”. More vigilance is needed within our own community, especially as the rights of our trans and non-binary siblings are continually subjected to attack. More advocacy is needed from our allies, especially because without them, LGBTQ+ equality can never be achieved. For me, I welcome a return to “Pride as Protest” just as much I recognise “Pride as Celebration”. Now, more than ever, neither the rainbow community nor its allies can afford complacency.

On either a personal or a professional level what has been your proudest achievement to date?

Until recently I was most proud of prevailing over my disability (severe hearing impairment since birth) to study law at Oxford, then becoming a corporate lawyer. To me, this signified success, having “made it” – and, of course, many do still define success according to status and their perception of prestige. Today, I’m most proud of redefining what success means to me – which meant having the courage to leave the law (and its salary!) behind and pursue DE’ work full-time. And I’m pleased to say, definitely no regrets.

What are your preferred pronouns?

I now use “he/ they” pronouns, having previously identified with “he/ him”. Many (including myself) believe gender is a social construct, and I use “rolling “pronouns as I find using only one set unduly restrictive. I consider myself gender non-conforming, in so far as masculinity tells a part of my story, but certainly not all of it. He/ they pronouns, to me, convey the fluidity of my gender identity more authentically than he/ him ones ever could.