At the Robert Walters Group we are proud to be celebrating Pride Month across our global offices, and sharing some of the stories of our people.
Beth is based in Manchester and her role as a researcher has been complemented by her passion for ED&I. Working in the technology department, but with a keen interest in diversity within the work environment, Beth’s role has grown to incorporate inclusion activities within the technology and recruitment sectors. Beth has worked on multiple projects such as external events dedicated to building diverse industry networks, internal liaison with our EDI council, management of our ‘LGBTQ+ community and allies employee resource group’ and much more.
Here, Beth answers some question about her experience of identifying as a part of the LGBTQ+ community:
Why is Pride Month important to you?
Being bisexual and figuring that out was a really big stressor for me when I was growing up. I think I knew from a pretty early age but was in denial for quite a long time. Even though I had supportive parents and people around me, it still took a lot for me to become okay with the identity and come to terms with in within myself, let alone outwardly speaking about it.
Pride has been a really big part of me coming out in general as the LGBTQ+ community is so supportive and accepting. It was a lot easier for me to come out when I found a space that had a lot of queer people in it. I suppose the community normalised and accepted everyone’s different and unique identities. I didn’t know many other people that were gay, bisexual or trans growing up, so in school I was always quite stressed about it. Today, it feels very liberating to be able to speak about myself being bisexual so openly while feeling safe, supported, and understood.
Pride is also so important to highlight queer culture, especially when it comes the media. Pride is a celebration of everything we identify with all year round, it is just more prominent during this time of year.
Why is it important for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate Pride Month within the workplace?
A lot of the times, queer identities are invisible and so you can't look at someone and know how they identify. This means that things such as microaggressions get thrown around which can be very harmful. You don't really know how someone identifies until they tell you themselves. Given that disclosure is so important, it makes it necessary to be able to discuss these topics.
For example, I think my presence makes a difference in the office as I'm quite open about being bisexual and because people are aware of that it means they don’t say anything offensive. I don't think they would anyway, but I think it makes people think twice before saying something which could be misconstrued to be offensive. Its important for people to always be inclusive and aware of their language. Not everyone wants to be out at work, but they should still feel able to be included and comfortable to come out or speak about topics related to Pride if they wanted to.
What was your experience of coming out?
I know a few people who were out at school, but not very many. It was only once I went to university that I began feeling okay with the process of coming out. I joined my university’s rugby club where I met more people who were part of the LGBTQ+ community. The rugby team made it a safer space to hold one of these identities and eventually I got to the point where I knew as many queer people, if not more, than straight people in the club which made being bisexual more normalized and accepted. It made me a lot more open to understanding that just because I am bisexual doesn’t mean I had to fit into a certain stereotype. So the label of ‘bisexual’ became easier to adopt and much less restrictive. I then started dating my current girlfriend which is when I came out to my family and friends and I’ve been pretty open about it since then.
I was actually very open being bisexual in my first interviews with Robert Walters and once I began working here I was equally as open about it, and asked if we had employee resource groups I could join for being either a women or being queer. I wanted to find out what kind of support the company had in those areas, and I wanted to get it out in the open rather feeling like it a secret I was holding on to. It was the first time I've done that at a job, and looking back I’m very glad that I’ve been very open about it. The directors at Robert Walters were very supportive, introduced me to all the types of support the company has and enabled me to work on ED&I initiatives as part of my role. It’s been really great support to have. Everyone else in my team was also really lovely and supportive about me coming out.
What advice would you give to anyone who hasn’t come out yet but wants to?
I don't feel like there's any need to rush anything. I mean, I probably could have come out sooner than I did, but I would have felt very uncomfortable and stressed about it. So give yourself space to explore and understand that side of you. Come out in your own time and enjoy exploring queer culture whether that be in the media, TV, books, music, shows and that sort of content. I don't think I did enough of that when I was younger as I stressed about what it meant about me. I think I really tried to ignore this side of me and avoid it for a long time which didn't help at all. Be kind to yourself, be curious, take your time and embrace the journey!
In the workplace, I think if you're open and positive about how you identify and seek out other people who have a similar experience, it makes you feel less alone. When I first started at Robert Walters, as far as I'm aware, I was the only person on my team who openly identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community. I reached out in the company’s ‘LGBTQ+ and allies employee resource group’ which made me feel a lot more understood and like I wasn’t the only one having this experience.