Dr Neil Bentley – Stonewall

Neil BentleyIntroducing Dr Neil Bentley

Former deputy chair of Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality charity. Currently I am CEO of OUTstanding a social enterprise supporting LGBT leaders in business and Head of Board Practice for Audeliss, helping achieve diverse boards in private, public and third sectors. I was formerly Deputy Director-General and Chief Operating Officer for CBI, the business lobby and was the first openly gay deputy head of the organisation.

Tell us about your organisation?

Stonewall is the charity campaigning for LGBT equality in communities, workplaces, schools, public services, sport and internationally. Last Stonewall logoyear it celebrated its 25th anniversary with some major campaign successes under its belt, including helping achieve the equalisation of the age of consent, lifting the ban on LGB people serving in the military, securing legislation allowing same-sex couples to adopt and the repeal of Section 28. More recently Stonewall has helped secure civil partnerships and then equal marriage and ensured the recent Equality Act protected lesbian, gay and bisexual people in terms of goods and services.

When and why did you become a Chair?

I joined as a trustee in 2012 because of my personal passion for equality agenda and became deputy chair in 2013 because I thought I could bring specific skills and insights around good governance gained from previous non-executive roles and executive board roles gained in the private sector. It was also a great opportunity for me to learn new skills and insights about charity governance and third sector challenges.

What do you most enjoy about chairing?

I enjoy working with people form diverse backgrounds particularly – in terms of outlook, sector, background and experience. The ability to bring people together around new ways of working and exploring synergies for making innovative decisions I found very rewarding, as well as challenging. I was deputy chair at time of significant change as we appointed a new chair and new CEO and during this time I led a board effectiveness review to help ensure the executive team and trustees were joined up in their approaches in terms of getting the best out of each other.

Do you have a key tip or lesson to share with your fellow Chairs?

Chairing and decision-making in a diverse environment is hard work and requires real leadership skill to embrace the differences of opinion and then get to effective decisions that all can support. As I heard at a recent AoC event – decision making in a diverse environment should not be easy if you are doing it right!

Why did you join AoC?

AoC represents a great opportunity to share experiences with other chairs and to learn from their experiences too. Events I have attended have been incredibly useful and thought provoking – a very rewarding network for making connections and gathering intelligence.