Joined in: 2018
Job title: Talent Partner
February marks LGBT History Month, a celebration of the strides we have made as a society, and an opportunity to reflect on what more needs to be done. Aaron writes here about his experiences.
Sitting down to write about LGBTQ+ History Month a number of topics crossed my mind – none of which I felt I could do justice at this time. Just because I am a part of this community does not mean I speak for all of us, so I looked for a way to speak about myself. And then I heard the question, “do I see myself represented in this business?”. Hearing this caused me to stop and get lost in thought. Taken at face value, it is a simple question. It isn’t. It shouldn’t be seen to be.
I have moments where I feel like a fraud when it comes to being involved in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). This comes from an awareness of my own privilege: the colour of my skin and my sex at birth. As a white male at Advanced, answering this question about representation should be easy. Why then do I have this overwhelming sense that I don’t fit in here? That I don’t feel represented?
A Different Level of Honesty
To answer the question I posed above requires a level of honesty that we don’t give every day at work. There are many studies about how much we should be able to be our authentic selves, or the right time to present information about yourself to those you work with. From what I can understand of these studies, there is no one idea. So, let me take a leap of faith and tell you more about me than I’ve ever felt the need to tell in such a public manner.
There are things you can’t know about me just by looking at me. Things that make me who I am. My sexuality, my gender-identity, the history of events that have shaped my personality, my interests and my beliefs. Now I won’t write it all here, but there are a few things however, that I believe are important.
The Section Where I “Come Out” – Again
Some of my colleagues will know that I am a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. I am a proud pansexual human being. I wouldn’t really say I feel overly “male” – I am in the process of figuring out quite how I feel about my gender-identity – but for now I’m happy with the pronouns he/him. Now, for some of you, I just came out. *Surprise*. This is something that I have got used to doing every single day; when I meet new people, when I start working with someone new, when I challenge someone for their use of particular language. Coming out never seems to end. Or in some cases, it’s something that never happens. A quick look a recent study tells us why.
Research from the CIPD found in a study of more than 15,000 workers that:
- Two in five (40 per cent) LGB+ employees and more than half (55 per cent) of trans workers experienced conflict in the workplace over the last 12 months, compared to just three in 10 (29 per cent) heterosexual and cisgender employees
- 16 per cent of LGB+ workers and 18 per cent of trans employees felt psychologically unsafe in the workplace, compared with just 10 per cent of heterosexual workers.
- LGBT+ employees were more likely to report that work had a negative impact on their health. Only a quarter (26 per cent) of trans employees and a third (35 per cent) of LGB+ employees said work had a positive impact on their health, compared to almost two in five (38 per cent) heterosexual workers.
When I see these figures written out, my heart breaks a little. Knowing that we are in a world where people feel like they have to hide who they are shows clearly why we still need events like LGBTQ+ History Month. These events are not just held because we want to shout about ourselves. We use them to share experiences, to remember those we have lost and to celebrate the beauty in being who we are. We have them because people still feel like they can’t be who they are, not just at work but in life. LGBTQ+ History Month is a time to look back, reflect on the now and dream of a more inclusive future.
The march for equality is not over. Not for anyone.
Just another statistic
Now when I think back on the journey I have been on so far as a working adult, I am not ashamed to admit that I have fallen into some of these statistical categories. I have been told to keep my sexual identity secret by managers in previous roles. I have been referred to as “queer”, “puff” and “faggot” by colleagues on work nights out in the past. There have even been times where my sexuality is turned into a recurring joke – “so you fancy pans? Do you prefer woks or frying pans?” Outside of work I have been both verbally and physically assaulted in the street. I used to brush these kinds of things off. I’m sure there are lots of people who still do. But here’s the thing – LGBTQ+ identifying people should never have to deal with these things in the first place. Never mind be resilient enough to “just” brush them off.
Did I do anything about this? No. I very rarely reported anyone for what they did, or what they said. I didn’t want to feel like just another statistic. I didn’t want to cause a fuss and, if I’m being honest, I have never felt wholly represented by anywhere I have worked. I have never trusted that my point of view would be trusted and followed up. I have never worked in a business where a senior member of the business, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, stands at the forefront of the drive for equality and equity.
Be the leader you wish you had
I won’t lie. I have struggled with the idea of being represented here at this business and looking back at previous companies. But then I think about it in a different way. I think of all the opportunities I’ve had to work with amazing LGBTQ+ colleagues across different businesses. I think about how I now work for a business where it doesn’t matter where you started in life. I think about how I have been encouraged to bring who I am to work by my manager. I consider the fact that I am now in a position to speak to you all. To start a conversation. To be visible. To lead.
This LGBTQ+ History Month, I want to look back at those who have led before me. Those who have made the world we live in gradually more accepting. I am also using this time - and the months that follow – to work with my colleagues to see how we can make a difference here at Advanced. This blog is step one. If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or you’re questioning who you are, I want you to know one thing. You are not alone. I’m here and our Team Rainbow Inclusion Network is taking it’s first steps to providing a safe space for anyone who wants to join. Together we can be the leaders we want to see.
Do you see yourself represented in your business?
Feeling like you are represented is important. There are numerous studies that show that. It’s important for feeling happy at work, for feeling connected. There are lots of routes to creating greater representation in a business and we should - and will be - focusing on the diversity we can see. This blog has been an opportunity for me to stand up and shout about the diversity we can’t see. To talk to you, not about a study, but to change expectations. We should expect to find out more about who we work with, we should expect our leaders to show us who they are.
I want to return to how we began, with a question: “what do you represent?”