Four current Oxford students and one recent Oxford graduate formed the committee for the first LGBT Leaders Conference, held at the Clifford Chance headquarters in Canary Warf.
Cai Wilshaw, a third-year at St Anne’s, is Director and Founder of LGBT Leaders. Prior to the event, Wilshaw commented: “We really hope that this conference will be an opportunity for LGBT students to meet others similar to them from all across the country, and learn from the incredible line-up of speakers we have.
“We’ve been very lucky to have such support from our host Clifford Chance, as well as a huge array of other sponsors and organisations such as LGBT History Month and the Fulbright Programme who have made this event possible. Students will come away from the conference inspired by the success of our speakers, and empowered to do the same.”
Speakers included MEP Seb Dance, Vice-President of the European Parliament Ulrike Lunacek, and campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Christ Church student and attendee Will Neaverson said: “I was so proud of what Cai and the team managed to do. The speakers were inspirational and everyone I spoke to took away so much from the sessions and talks they attended.”
Serving on the committee alongside Wilshaw were recent graduate Tyrone Steele, fourth-year New College student Adrien Mallevays, second-year Sandy Downs, and Christ Church student Declan Davis.
Sandy Downs, who is also Secretary of Oxford’s LGTBQ Society, added: “The LGBT Leaders conference was an incredible experience, both to help organise and to attend. We had a fantastic turn out, giving students from a wide range of Universities the chance to meet each other and to create networks between themselves and with our incredible speakers.
“Chairing the Women in Business panel was an honour, and seeing some real diversity in the queer community was really exciting. It was hard work to organise, but I’m really proud of everyone on the committee for pulling together something that we should be really happy with.”
Davis added: “There are two things I will always remember from the day itself. Firstly, I will remember the willingness of speakers to speak openly. It was the contributions of speakers who were willing to openly confront personal struggles they had faced over the course of their life that really created impact for attendees.
“Secondly, I will remember watching an attendee hug a speaker and telling them that their words had inspired them. As an organiser these are the moments you strive to create, and to see it happen in front of me was truly special.”
Also present was LGBTQ Society President Otamere Guobadia, who tweeted: “As a BME President of @OULGBTQ meeting @MsLadyPhyll of @ukblackpride @LGBTLeaders was an absolutely intersectional dream! <3”
One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Lord Browne, the first Fortune 500 businessman to come out openly as gay. He said: “Too many LGBT students re-enter the closet when they start their careers.
“Gatherings like this demonstrate why that is the wrong thing to do, and why authentic leadership from the very beginning is the route to success.”