#PoweringPridePotential - meet Junny Foo
Junny was born and raised in Malaysia and is now based in our Tokyo office, working in our learning and development team. He talks about why Pride celebrations are an opportunity for affirmation and acceptance, the importance of education, and the challenges that can face transgender people during the recruitment process.
Why is Pride important for you and how do you celebrate the movement yourself?
Pride is important to me because I am part of the LGBTQ+ community and to me, this annual celebration is a reminder of self-love, our identity affirmation and acceptance. I don’t personally celebrate in any special way, but I’m hoping to educate more colleagues and get the dialogue going by hosting another internal LGBTQ+ educational webinar this year!
What were your personal experiences of coming out?
I guess my first ever official public coming out was at Robert Walters Japan during an internal educational webinar I hosted for our “Transgender Day of Visibility” celebrations.
I was very hesitant in the lead up to the webinar about whether I should put myself out there as a transgender man – I was worried about how things at work might change afterwards.
But in the end I took up the courage to give it a go for the purpose of representation and visibility, and all turned out alright. Once you do it once, it gets easier each time.
However, I must share that the need to come out repeatedly over time (like when it is relevant in a conversation or when meeting new friends), it is quite tiring mentally. For me, I am neither publicly out nor in the closet, instead there are people who know and who don’t in the company, but I don’t think it is necessary for everyone to know or for me to announce my own identity.
What is Robert Walters like to work for as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? Does the company feel diverse and inclusive and if so, in what ways?
Robert Walters Japan is definitely LGBTQ+ friendly! The day I received an email about onboarding from the Robert Walters HR team using the correct pronouns, I immediately knew I was joining the right company.
Our Tokyo office is very diverse in terms of nationalities (representing 44 nationalities), ethnicities, backgrounds and personalities. The North East Asia Equity Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Council is also constantly putting in effort to make sure everyone feels like they belong and can find their own community within the Group.
What advice would you give to anyone who hasn’t come out yet but wants to? And what advice would you give about coming out in the workplace?
If you WANT to come out but haven’t then JUST. DO. IT!
It is going to be scary and full of anxiety for the first time, but people who love you and accept you will still love and accept you, and if some leave you or put distance between you after learning about that part of you, respect their choice and understand it – it is always better to surround yourself with people where can be yourself.
As for coming out in the workplace, we spend a big part of our daily life at work and interacting with colleagues at work can be stressful, so coming out will certainly remove a stressor of having to pretend to be someone else or hiding a part of you.
Has being part of the LGBTQ+ community ever impacted your experience in the workplace?
Being a transgender man with Malaysian citizenship means that even though I live as a man, the birth sex on my official documents remains as “female.” This is because LGBTQ+ isn’t an accepted concept or existence in an Islamic country.
It certainly caused me a lot of anxiety and worry when I was job hunting, especially when I showed up for interviews and they expected a feminine presenting individual. Not many people take it well. I had some pretty awful experiences. However, joining Robert Walters Japan has taken all the anxiety and worries away, I am just me here doing my job every day without any issue and I certainly don’t take it for granted how respectful and great all my colleagues are.
How has that changed over the years and have there been any improvements?
Nothing changed too much for me after coming out publicly to the company during the webinar session mentioned above. Colleagues around me have always treated me for who I am as a whole person, rather than one part of my identity, which is exactly what makes me feel comfortable. It was never about special treatment, it was all about treating LGBTQ+ folks like you would any other people you know.
When I first joined the company, we only had Joshua, our publicly out gay Senior Director, as representation, but today we have many LGBTQ+ colleagues who just feel comfortable being themselves.
It is amazing to see that even some of our new starters are comfortable talking about their LGBTQ+ identity at work because the work culture we’ve built means that there is no longer a need for the “coming out” process.