'You worry that people will look at you differently somehow'

Out in Business Co-President Cameron Martin MBA2023 on coming out as LGBTQ+, the importance of education and looking forward to EUROUT 2022


Cameron Martin was, in his own words, a “hyper curious” child who wanted to succeed from a young age, and he has had an impressive professional career to date. Nevertheless, the MBA student at London Business School is keen to stress that luck as well as hard work has played a pivotal role in his success, and he now hopes to help people from less advantaged backgrounds like his own to succeed. 

As co-president of LBS’s Out in Business Club, Cameron is also committed to helping the school’s LGBTQ+ community achieve all that they can, and to feel valued and accepted in the workplace. As the club’s annual, ambitious EUROUT conference (Europe's leading LGBTQ+ business event), approaches, Cameron reflects on his journey so far; the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in education and the workplace; and “giving people the tools to build on their own success”. 

Defying expectations

Cameron excelled at his state secondary school in Motherwell, Scotland, becoming its first ever pupil to attend St Andrews University before going on to work in finance for JP Morgan and earning a scholarship to study an MBA at LBS. His drive and determination helped him to break the mould in his working class town, and increasingly his focus is on giving back and helping others to reach their full potential.

Cameron and his sister were raised by their single mum in Motherwell, a suburban area of Glasgow. “It was normal for me at the time, but then as you grow up, you realise that you’re pretty poor compared to most people. I went to the local Catholic school where most people go on to work in a trade. Very few people go to universityor if they do, they go to one nearby and commute”.

For his peers and teachers, it was an unusual move for Cameron to apply to St Andrews — the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world, with a prestigious reputation, and the only University to break the ‘Oxbridge’ duopoly. However, the value of education had long been instilled into him by his mum, who also encouraged him to have a wide range of interests, ranging from piano to rugby. “She was my role model,” says Cameron. “Not everyone has that. I can think of people I went to school with who despite being happy in their lives, didn’t reach their potential in the traditional sense that I did, and who didn’t consider university or graduate jobs because of financial or societal barriersThat’s why I’m really passionate about social mobility”.

Accepted into St Andrews in 2012 to study management, he found his love of sport proved to be a great leveller, helping him to fit in. “The typical rugby lad might be someone from a really good private school, who is very upper middle class,” he explains. “But when you’re on the pitch all that stuff goes away — no one cares about your social class. With rugby — and especially with athletics — I always felt welcome, and at home".

“I would have definitely been bullied, so I decided I would be ‘straight’ - I just flipped a switch and didn’t think about it again until I was in my second year at university” 

A new identity

Cameron knew he was gay during secondary school, but he felt it wasn’t the right environment in which to come out. “I would have definitely been bullied, so I decided I would be ‘straight’ — I just flipped a switch and didn’t think about it again until I was in my second year at university”. It was only at the age of 19, when he observed his openly gay flatmate living what he describes as a “normal” life that he began to reconsider. “I realised that my sexuality wouldn’t have to define my identity. I could be gay as well as Cameron.So I started dating, and eventually I said to my mum ‘what would you say if I told you I had a boyfriend?’ It turned out that she had known for a while, and she was totally fine with it, as were my grandparents. 

Cameron feels a little bit guilty about having a comparatively “easy” coming out story, especially since meeting people at LBS who have grown up in countries where they experienced significant prejudice and adversity. Even so, he acknowledges that coming out was a nerve wracking process, and one which forces people to be at their most vulnerable. “You don’t know what’s going to happen next. You’ve had this identity — people have known you all your life as something — and then all of a sudden you’re something else. You worry that people will look at you differently somehow. Although with the benefit of hindsight, I entirely agree with Ian McKellen when he said no one has ever regretted coming out as gay. I can absolutely attest to that”.

Finding purpose 

After graduating with a degree in management, Cameron landed a job with JP Morgan, working in private wealth management. As a working class graduate who had struggled financially during his studies, he wanted financial independence, as well as something intellectually stimulating with room for growth. After two years managing hedge funds, he moved into a team that looked after ultra high net worth portfolios. And, although he learned much through his roles, Cameron decided he wanted to move away from finance and do something with a wider impact. Securing a CAP Social Impact scholarship – which aligned with his long term goal of wanting to start a business focused on social mobility — meant Cameron was able to study an MBA at LBS.

His time at LBS has also allowed him to access a variety of different clubs, through which he has found a greater sense of purpose and belonging. As well as Out in Business, he is also co-president of the Social Impact Club, and has looked to join the dots between both groups.

“As well as thinking about things like social mobility, the Social Impact Club has ignited a passion for environmentalism in me” he says. “For EUROUT this year, we’re collaborating with Ocean Bottle to remove the equivalent of 60,000 plastic bottles from the oceans. We’re also working with the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development, and bringing in panellists to discuss sustainability”.

“Companies come and actively recruit - it’s not just pinkwashing where you promote LGBTQ+ rights to make a profit”

The importance of community

Cameron didn’t feel ready to get involved with the university’s LGBTQ+ society while at St Andrews, preferring to “discover who I was on my own terms at my own pace”. However, at LBS, his participation in Out in Business has proved a cornerstone of his student experience, as he seeks to make the school’s LGBTQ+ community feel both seen and at ease. He and his co-president, Julia Hamilton, are keen to get more visible pronouns onto lanyards, nameplates and email signatures at LBS, for example, and to continue the sense of everyday inclusion which already exists. It is, he says, about “education, and convincing people slowly — no one is going to assume, for example, if you’re a straight man that you’re gay because you use he/him pronouns. But these things take time, and you have to start somewhere”. 

Of paramount importance to Out in Business at present is the EUROUT conference this November. The conference brings together world-class speakers (this year these include Amber Hikes of the American Civil Liberties Union) and graduate students and alumni from top business schools“It's a business conference at the end of the day, but we also want to show that there is wider impact to be had about bigger issues that affect everyone in the community,” says Cameron. “We’re always looking for new people to speak, but we’re also lucky to have our board, with previous OIB presidents and business leaders who can share their experiences, and whose networks we can tap into”. 

These strong connections have meant that for the first time, OIB is in the privileged position of being able to launch the EUROUT scholarship, which will allow a LGBTQ+ student to pursue an MBA at LBS, which they would not otherwise have been able to afford to. It’s a rare initiative which brings together many interests for Cameron, and of which he is extremely proud. It also set the tone for this year’s conference, and the idea for this year’s conference theme of Laying the Foundations for Success. “For me, the theme is about giving people the tools they need to build their own success,” says Cameron. “We themed the panels around the foundations that we need — like, allyship for example, because we rely on our allies in the business world. We want people to look at things from a more ethical perspective, and to see that you should have diversity, say, not for the sake of optics but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s about shifting the dial”. 

Having the backing and presence of major firms at the conference — be that McKinsey or BCG — also means more opportunities for students. “Companies come and actively recruit — it’s not just pinkwashing where you promote LGBTQ+ rights to make a profit”. Many of these companies are at the forefront of queer rights in the workplace, offering support around gender reassignment for transgender employees, Cameron explains, or offering queer-inclusive parental leave — again leading to increased success and progression for their employees. 

Cameron has accepted a job offer from McKinsey, and wants to pursue consultancy projects which fit with his interest in making the world a fairer, and greener, place, before ultimately returning to entrepreneurship in the future. “People might be sceptical, but I genuinely think that consulting does give you a platform to make a significant impact. There is not necessarily a conflict between profit making and positive social impact. During my internship with McKinsey this summer, I was on a big project to decarbonize the finances of a major UK retail bank, looking at the loan book and trying to make sure we can get to net zero by 2050, by changing what they invest in, and changing what criteria they have for loans - it's very comprehensive”.

Cameron’s dedication to making change in the wider world will, he says, still always be linked back to LBS. “Hopefully when I become an alum, I’ll be in a position to help by giving back and supporting the next generation of students with mentoring and accessing connections,” he says. “After all, you’re an LBS alumnus for far longer than you are a student”.

This year’s EUROUT conference takes place at London Business School from 17-19 November. Find out who is speaking and register to attend here.



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