Careers

What this CEO learned from coming out at work later in life

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When the now chief executive of Lloyd's of London, Inga Beale, was given the opportunity to make an exciting career move to the U.S. early on in her work life, she eagerly took it.

But the "fantastic opportunity" came with a catch.

Beale was in a relationship with a woman, moving to a state in the U.S. which didn't recognize same-sex relationships. Besides this, Beale also wasn't out at work making the visa process a major obstacle.

"I couldn't bring my partner in on her sort of work visa, or partner visa, and also importantly I wasn't out at work so I couldn't get my employer to help me with this move. So we moved without any support independently," she told CNBC in this week's episode of "Life Hacks Live".

"The only way she could get a visa was to come in on a student visa. She basically had to give up her career and go back to college," added Beale.

Beale later moved back to Europe to work at a different company in Zurich. She continued to keep her sexuality a secret, but she soon decided that enough was enough.

"One of my assistants had invited me out to dinner on a Saturday night because I discovered she felt sorry for me because she thought I was on my own and she wanted to comfort me and take me out for dinner. Which is a very nice gesture but I just felt horrified," Beale said.

"I thought 'look at all these people I've been deceiving,' even down to the fact that my assistant doesn't know I'm in a relationship, doesn't know I'm in a very happy relationship with my partner at home at the moment. And I just thought, this can no longer continue. I can't hide part of my life."

Marchers carry a rainbow flag in the LA Pride Parade on June 8, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif.
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Marchers carry a rainbow flag in the LA Pride Parade on June 8, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif.

Beale eventually came out in a job interview in 2008, but she regrets not coming out earlier "big time."

"I think working in a, what felt at that time, a fairly traditional environment, somehow I didn't think it was safe. And I didn't dare ask anybody if it was safe. I kept it secret. I didn't allow my female partner to phone me at work. I said no you can't, nobody must know about this."

"Why did I feel that fear? Maybe because there were no role models around. Nobody was really talking about it. People were using words like gay as criticisms of people. So it just didn't seem like a safe place."

Now married to a man, Beale identifies as bisexual. She is the first female CEO in Lloyd's of London's 328-year history, and doesn't want her fellow colleagues to be closeted at work.

"We know that you lose productivity in work, particularly with the LGBT community, if you're not out at work. Productivity is down because you're so fixated on covering up and using disguising language."

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full episode here.