Emily (Em) Scott is the current CEO of GiveOUT Australia, a national LGBTQIA+ not-for-profit. During her time at St Andrew’s College, Em received the E&M Grainger Scholarship from St Andrew’s for academic achievement and was part of the Sydney University Elite Athlete Program whilst playing for the Australian U20 Waterpolo Team. She has many fond memories of College and even started a rock band called the ‘Four Llamas’ with fellow Androvians! Em began her career after university in corporate law and moved into management consulting, and in this profile, she highlighted how her early career experiences have helped shape how she works in her current role. In talking about her journey to be where she is now, Em also shared some of the personal struggles she has faced and how they led her to work towards creating change in the lives of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Could you please tell us a bit about where you are originally from and where you grew up?
I grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and was always a water kid. I loved surfing, nippers, swimming, and water polo. I was a busy and restless kid who hated sitting still. My dad worked in technology at Qantas and my mum was a primary school teacher at the local school. Our house was full of music, with my brother who is now a jazz musician always playing piano and saxophone. I grew up with my cousin Susan living directly across the road. She went to Women’s College in the same fresher year as me.
Why did you decide to reside at St Andrew’s College?
I went to high school with fellow Androvian Hannah Buckling. We were the unbearable pseudo-sisters (including the bickering and rivalry) who did everything together: 5am and evening water polo training, electives, social groups, and boy crushes. So of course, I followed her to St Andrew’s College (along with other school friends Lana Bushell and Beatrix Greenhalgh). I also knew living on campus would make juggling law studies, water polo training, and having a social life easier. I was fortunate to receive an academic E&M Grainger Scholarship from St Andrew’s, which made this possible.
What was your favourite part of College?
Definitely the friendships; I have the best memories hanging out in our dorm corridor or running ‘Buffet’ (the late-night canteen) with Nikki Holmes A Court, Hannah Buckling, Annabel Deans, Tort Stanham, Kate Williams, Hannah Reid, and Abbie Bryant. James Nugent, Jono Selby, Fin Blacket, and I created a rock band called the ‘Four Llamas’ and played many out-of-time Red Hot Chilli Peppers covers at Band Night. As an ‘easily bored person’, I also loved the constant activities and events.
While at College, you were also part of the Sydney University Elite Athlete Program and a member of the Australian U20 Waterpolo Team. How did St Andrew’s College help you achieve your goals in sport?
Living on campus meant that Hannah and I shared driving duties to Homebush for 5am training sessions (Hannah would probably [definitely] say she carried the load when I stayed out too late on Wednesday college nights – one of the many reasons why she’s the Olympian!). The celebration and support that St Andrew’s gave their athletes was also motivating – we wanted to make College and our university proud! It was really special for Hannah and me to play together for Australia in the U20 World Championships in Italy during our second year at College. St Andrew’s also supported me in taking six months off in my third year to play for the University of Hawaii in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Over a decade on from College, you are the CEO of GiveOUT Australia. Can you tell us a bit about GiveOUT Australia and what work your organisation does?
GiveOUT is a national LGBTQIA+ not-for-profit, focused on increasing philanthropic funding to LGBTQIA+ not-for-profits and community organisations. We achieve this through sector capacity building to increase financial resiliency, research, advocacy around LGBTQIA+ giving, and the distribution of funds to LGBTQIA+ community organisations through GiveOUT Day and the Amplify Pride Fund (our large grants program). Over the past six years, GiveOUT has distributed over $1.5 million to over 100 LGBTQIA+ organisations. We work closely with our institutional philanthropic partners, including the Paul Ramsay Foundation, the Sidney Myer Fund, Perpetual, and the Snow Foundation, to make this happen.
You were previously CEO of Out for Australia, another organisation that supports members of the LGBTIQ+ community. What was your journey like to take up these roles?
Around 2014, I suffered from quite severe anxiety and depression, which meant I had to stop water polo and university and move in with my parents to focus on my recovery. I was also dealing with internalised homophobia and a fear of coming out. It was an extremely painful time, having gone from being a bubbly, active person to being unable to get out of bed. I was lucky to get the support I needed, finish my degree, get back into the pool, and come out to my friends and family who accepted me with open arms. I think this experience enabled a lot of self-reflection and a deeper sense of empathy and appreciation for difference. I pivoted away from corporate law (having done a summer clerkship at Freehills) and into management consulting at Nous Group, working on health strategy projects for government and not-for-profits. I then became CEO of Out for Australia, supporting young queer professionals to thrive in the workplace. Ever since my career has been focused on enabling the pursuit of an authentic and meaningful life for everyone.
As CEO of GiveOUT, what does your day-to-day look like as the head of a national not-for-profit?
I love working with so many different stakeholders in our mission to affect systems-level change for LGBTQIA+ communities. My day might involve determining grant recipients with our philanthropic funders, supporting the GiveOUT team to run our national day of giving (GiveOUT Day on 26 October 2023), preparing papers on our strategic progress and financial position for our Board, having conversations with LGBTQIA+ organisations about their capacity needs, and advocating on behalf of the sector at funding events.
How did your previous work experience working in law and management consulting transfer to your current role?
Consulting taught me how to tackle big, complex problems, while law taught me how to focus on the details.
Every day, I draw on my experience from consulting. This is done through understanding how to define problems and break them down into solvable parts, engaging meaningfully with stakeholders and impacted communities, managing a team against tight client deadlines, structuring my thoughts and communicating them compellingly, and working hard.
What are your aspirations for GiveOUT? And where would you like to see things progress not only in your organisation and those you work with, but also in wider society in the next 5-10 years?
Around 11% of Australians identify as LGBTQIA+. However, despite significant progress (including marriage equality), our communities are far from equal. Due to ongoing stigma and discrimination, LGBTQIA+ communities experience poorer health and economic outcomes than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. For example, less than 50% of LGBTQIA+ students feel safe at school and LGBTQIA+ people are almost 6 times more likely to have depression than the general population.
We know from the research that LGBTQIA+ led solutions can improve outcomes, and that queer people are best placed to deliver services to queer communities. Despite this, only 5 cents in every 100 philanthropic dollars flows to our communities.
I’d like to see an Australia where everyone feels included, accepted, supported and safe. GiveOUT can play a role in creating this future by ensuring LGBTQIA+ organisations on the front lines have the resources they need to support their own communities.
(See more in our ‘Where are the Rainbow Resources‘ report.)
How can we get involved or support GiveOUT?
GiveOUT Day – our flagship program – is Australia’s only national day of giving to rainbow communities, with 90+ participating not-for-profits and community groups of all sizes, regions and focus areas, working on the frontlines to increase access to healthcare, safety in our schools and universities, and greater equality for all people.
GiveOUT Day provides community organisations the opportunity to raise funds for their vital causes by including access to institutional philanthropy via our matched giving mechanism, where donations by the public are matched by GiveOUT’s partners, dollar-for-dollar. It is also a great opportunity for the LGBTQIA+ community sector to come together, celebrate and raise awareness of the incredible work that they do.
You can help by heading to giveoutday.org.au, browsing the participating projects, and donating to a cause close to your heart! You can also donate to my personal fundraising page (giveoutday.org.au/em-scott) and your donation will get spread across the entire rainbow via matched funding.
What do you like to do outside of work? How do you switch off?
I’m back playing water polo socially with a LGBTQIA+ inclusive team, the Sydney Stingers. I’m excited to be travelling to Mexico with them in November 2023 to compete in the Gay Games. I also like dancing and supporting my talented friends in the Arts (whether in comedy, burlesque, or jazz!).
Do you have any life or career advice you would like to share with younger Androvians and current students?
- Don’t worry too much about planning or predicting your perfect career (you can’t), just focus on learning and reflecting on what you like and what you are good at
- Don’t worry about what others are doing or what you’re ‘supposed to do’
- DO worry about looking after yourself – your mental wellbeing, loving your body (for everyone but particularly for women), and making time for the things that bring you joy.