Cathy Denyer O'Leary, Client Distribution Support Senior Manager & Co-Chair at InterInvest - UK
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Cathy is a Client Distribution Support Senior Manager with Vanguard Asset Management, where she’s worked for over 5 years. She specialises in Vendor operational & AML oversight, Client Services, outsourced vendor negotiations and distribution change management. She has held previous roles with Fidelity and Invesco. Cathy is originally from Cork in Ireland and holds a degree and Masters in Economics from University College Cork. She is openly gay and lives in Brighton with her wife Lucy.
"Had I been brought up somewhere like Brighton, where I now live, I think I would have been out much earlier as I would have been exposed to the possibility of it being ok to be ‘other’.
When did you have that “a-ha” moment and realise you were different?
I had always known I was somewhat different but didn’t really get how. Gay women didn’t exist in Cork, Ireland in the ‘80s and ‘90s so I didn’t realise I was gay until I was in my early 20s and met a gay woman at work. The rest is history!
How would you describe your experience of coming out?
My parents were quite shocked, but supportive, some of my friends weren’t that surprised. One or two didn’t have a great reaction but eventually came around. Coming out is part of my life, it happens every time I meet someone new as they always assume that I’m straight. On the whole I’ve been very lucky and haven’t experienced much homophobia.
How did your childhood and family background impact both the timing and the way you came out?
Had I been brought up somewhere like Brighton, where I now live, I think I would have been out much earlier as I would have been exposed to the possibility of it being ok to be ‘other’.
What would your advice be to anyone trying to come out?
Take your time and do what feels right for you. Don’t let others push or pull you out. Whenever it works for you is best. Choose someone you are close to and that you trust to tell first.
What was the most difficult experience you faced in your life because of your sexual orientation / gender identity? How did you handle it?
I’ve been really lucky and never have had to handle any one major difficult experience because of being gay, however, it’s the constant micro-aggressions that are tough, the fact that I have to ‘come out’ every time I meet someone new and the look of surprise on their face when I tell them. It would also be really great to be able to walk down the road and hold my wife’s hand without being stared at. Luckily in Brighton I can do that, but nowhere else.
Who is the most important role model in your life and why?
My parents, as they taught me that the key to a good life is to do whatever you can to be happy, to surround yourself with good people and to make them happy! They also showed me that if you’re not fulfilled in a job or even industry that it’s not difficult to change that. They both changed careers midlife from a teacher to a psychotherapist and a head teacher to a barrister.
Now broadening our horizon, describe your experience being a member of the LGBTQ community at work? In your industry?
I’m lucky to work in an environment like Vanguard, as it’s a really inclusive place to work. As an industry there is more to be done for our community especially in the BTQ+ space, we need to do a lot more for our trans community.
And, what could make the biggest positive impact for the LGBTQ community?
Data collection so that we can measure where we are, and D&I leaders getting a senior seat at the table.
Finally, and on a less serious note, what stereotype do you love the most about the LGBTQ community?
That we love to party and have a good time. It’s true for me anyway (or was pre-covid!)
More about Cathy
Cathy was involved in launching Vanguard’s European LGBT+ network, OPEN, which she started and chairs, and is part of their Diversity & Inclusion Committee. She also helped to create and is chair of Inter-Invest, an LGBT+ network for the investment management industry. She hopes to grow this network to involve all investment management companies in London to ensure they collectively build an inclusive environment for LGBT+ employees. Vanguard takes an active role in broader inclusion initiatives in the industry and is a member of the Diversity Project, of which InterInvest is part as the LGBT+ work stream.