Stonewall recently reported that about only 31% of LGBT people in London feel comfortable being out at work. 77% of trans and one in five LGB people reported they have experienced bullying
Coming out is not just a one time thing, yes you might tell your family and friends at the same time, but you are constantly meeting people, starting new jobs, doing your daily stuff where you find yourself coming out in a range of different ways. The simple “how was your weekend” conversation at work, can make you do a sense check in your head of “how much do I reveal”, do I mention my partner and if I do, do I give them a non gender pro noun.? Experiences growing up can make you hesitant to be open and whether we do this consciously or not, we listen, we listen to how people describe and discuss people like us, and then we decide whether to step up and be open or whether to shut down and get on with our work. Workplaces have the power to be inclusive and equally exclusive. Prejudice disguised as casual banter can make us less willing to be our authentic selves. We throw ourselves into our work, with a prove them wrong mentality and many people succeed and become successful but at what cost to our mental health, isn’t it exhausting pretending to be something you are not or hiding a big part of your life. In some companies this might not be a problem as they have the culture of no one talks about their private lives, it’s all work, but if you are surrounded by people living authentically and talking openly about their straight lives, you not being authentic can be damaging.
So how do you find a company where you can be happy, and be your most authentic and productive self?
Do your research, find out as much as you can about the company and work out whether it’s the right company for you. In the field that you work in there may be a limited number of places that you can work in. You may always want to go and work with the biggest brand as that will enhance your CV and open doors. I totally get that, but look at that company, look at their website, do you see people like yourself on there? Do they talk about inclusion, do they talk about culture, when you read the information do you feel in your gut that this is a place that you want to work in? What are people saying about the company, do you know people that have worked there? Now everyone has their own experiences of working in a place and other people’s experiences don’t always mirror what your experiences would be. However look for common themes but don’t let them totally cloud your judgement.
Do the companies pride themselves on diversity, do they have an LGBT group and do they publicly praise this. Do they partake in pride events, have talks and speakers and celebrate diversity? Are they in the stonewall index of best companies to work for? These may not seem significant but they genuinely reflect how the company feels about their LGBT staff.
When you get to the interview stage this can be a real indicator of the company. When waiting in reception have a look around, see how people are, are they stressed? Do they look unhappy what is the general vibe of the office.? Listen to office banter if you get the chance, how are people with each other?
In the interview itself, questions can often veer towards family and I’ve been in interviews where people want to know what your hobbies are? What you do in your spare time.. You can feel the need to lie to tell them what you think you want to hear, like awkward conversations with taxi drivers where you talk about politics or football to be polite and then try and wing it to get credibility.. Just do you, just be authentic. Employers should not be asking about your marital or parental status in an interview.. Although some do. Often in interviews people want to validate that the interviewee is similar to them and has the same interests. They may think they are looking for cultural fit, but whether or not you have kids, whether you like gardening or ballet, rugby or crown green bowling.. It’s itrelvant these things will not make you better at your job. When it comes to your turn to ask questions, ask questions around diversity in the company? Around how staff are developed, what is the culture of the company? How would they describe that and how would they describe someone who succeeds in that company.. It’s fine to ask those questions and it will give you a real understanding of the company and help you to make a decision as to whether the company is right for you.
People who are allowed to be authentic in work without shame or judgement perform better, they have greater loyalty to the company and are likely to stay longer. If you feel that authentic and valued then you will enjoy work more, it’s as simple as that.
Happy job hunting and just remember that you’re fantastic and there is only one you.. So just do you…