Think at London Business School
Belonging begins by ending self-censorship, says Gautam Sreekumar MFA2022
By Rosie Parry
In a sentence, Satouka Basso describes herself as a “mixed race cis women who is bi”, but of course, she is much more than that. She is both French and Indonesian and she grew up travelling the world with her parents, living in corners of the globe including Asia, Europe, South America and North Africa. She currently calls Margate in Kent her home.
While Satouka works full-time as the Executive MBA London Recruitment and Admissions Manager for LBS, she is also studying for a second bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. “After meeting so many people from so many different cultures and lifestyles throughout my life, it’s great to now be able to study that, rather than simply experiencing it”.
Over the course of her degree, Satouka has been particularly interested in understanding how gender roles and sexuality are perceived in different cultures. “We have a very American and Eurocentric point of view of what LGBTQ+ is, but you need to take into consideration that other cultures might not view things as we do,” she says. “Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of different cultures where LGBTQ+ people are still not perceived as equal.”
For example, she has spent time in Indonesia, where in some parts of the country it is illegal for two people of the same sex to engage in sexual activities. In comparison, she describes London as a “great hub for the LGBTQ+ community”, and it is the city in which she came out as bi. “I came out quite late in life, around my mid to late twenties,” she says. “At the time I was working in the hospitality industry in London in a community of people where everyone was just who they were, whether that was gay, bi, pan, straight, trans and so on. Everyone was open about their sexuality, and everyone accepted it.”
She describes the community as giving her a feeling of safety that enabled her to come out. “I accepted I was attracted to men and women, and that that could mean whatever I wanted it to mean,” she explains. “So that’s how my journey started. I wish everyone had that kind of experience; if I hadn’t met those people, I might not have had the bravery to come out and be who I am.”
Satouka has been working at LBS for almost three years and says that her colleagues are one of her favourite things about her role. “I genuinely enjoy coming in to work to see them; it’s a great environment and it keeps me motivated,” she says. Her immediate team is made up of three people, and she loves the diversity. She also appreciates that her role allows her to meet so many different people. “We get to meet all these extraordinary people; for example, I recently got to interview one of the scientists at the CERN,” she adds.
When it comes to inclusion and belonging, she says that there are positives and areas for improvement at the School. She describes attending an Executive Education course in leadership and sustainability, which split approaches into passive, reactive and active. She says that in an ideal world, the School would be fully active in implementing inclusion and belonging, but that it is currently slightly more reactive As an example she points towards the Head of Diversity and Inclusion Role being created, and the school-wide meeting addressing diversity and inclusion, as a result of the impact of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests shaping movements around the world.
She is also keen to emphasise that the School is now very ‘open’ when it comes to approaches towards inclusion and belonging. She describes the appointment of Hannah Millard, the School’s first Head of Diversity and Inclusion, as a positive move that led to a lot of change happening rapidly, such as the launch of diversity networks including the Black Employee Network.
Satouka has been part of the Proud@LBS staff network since its inception just over a year ago, when co-founder Matthew Foster, who is also one of her close friends, asked if she wanted to join. The other co-founder of the network was Peter Johnson, who also co-founded the Out in Business Conference, Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ student-led business conference, described as an “institution” by Satouka.
“The Proud@LBS network is great, and I’m so proud of the work my colleagues have done,” she says. “It’s definitely an inclusive space where we’re safe to say what we want, with no judgment.” Satouka particularly likes that the network has made it a priority to shine a light on all members of the LGBTQ+ community, and build that representation. She adds that the network has a lot of support from within LBS, including from the diversity and inclusion team.
The network has certainly started to have a tangible impact on representation within the School. For example, it’s encouraged a lot of employees to start using their pronouns in their titles. Satouka explains that the network also acts as a consultancy with LBS, offering opinions on plans for upcoming events such as those planned for Pride month. “It makes sense for them to have our input, and being able to have direct impact is amazing,” she says. “Also we’re able to tie in what we’re doing to the rest of the School, and it’s almost given our cause more weight.”
Satouka was also one of the network’s first speakers. “I gave the first storytelling talk, which was nerve-wracking because while I was out, not everyone knew about it. So it was a big deal for me to do that, but I think we needed to have that conversation around bi people,” she recalls.
Sharing her story so publicly had a real impact on Satouka. “Telling my story was cathartic,” she says. “People reached out to me afterwards too, and I was able to share some advice, which was really nice.” Crucially, Satouka adds that the experience gave her the courage to formally come out to her colleagues during a virtual team meeting last year. “I could see people’s faces and some were happy and proud, and some were surprised. It’s been really liberating now that everyone knows.”
“I had a safe space when I was younger, so now I want to provide that for other people too”
Satouka explains that her role within the Proud@LBS network also encompasses being a champion for providing a safe space, a role she was elected into two months ago. The champions are a recent addition to the network, with one assigned to each of six pillars: data monitoring, building a strong network, learning from others, raising awareness, school policies, and providing a safe space.
“I had a safe space myself when I was younger, and it was important to me, so I wanted to provide that for everyone else,” she explains. She adds that the role can be tricky, as providing a safe space that works for everyone can be a vague concept, but she’s really excited to get started.
Being a part of the Proud@LBS network has also given Satouka the courage to push forward with a new scholarship for the LGBTQ+ community. She proposed the Out in Business Scholarship for the leadership portfolio and devised a business plan; it’s now due to launch this September. “Having the courage to share my story really gave me the momentum I needed to push it through,” she says. “I approached my director, which is something I would never have done in the past, and said, ‘we need this scholarship’. It’s quite a big thing to do, and I’m so happy it’s happening.”
So what does Satouka want to see from the Proud@LBS network in the future? “I really want it to grow,” she says. “There are over 600 employees at LBS and we have about 70 people who are members of the network and around 30 who are actively taking part. This is a great start but I like to aim high. So I’d love for us to increase in size and just keep building that network.”
Think at London Business School
Ina Liu MBA2021 is convinced that society is changing for the better in terms of diversity and inclusivity
By Ina Liu MBA2021