It’s #PrideMonth and we’re proud to be celebrating and sharing the stories of some of our people.
Sam Lear has worked for Robert Walters Group since 2021, as part of our Resource Solutions business in Manchester in the UK. As an out pansexual woman, Sam shares the importance of Pride Month along with the personal struggles she has faced and overcome on her journey.
Why is Pride important for you?
Pride is a time of reflection for me. I studied history at university and specialised in British colonial history and its legacy, so I am all too aware of the persecution and discrimination that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to across the world throughout history.
The world has come such a long way through the efforts and courage of individuals and groups across the globe and to remember those people during Pride is what it is all about for me. I choose to celebrate Pride without shame or hesitation and with the people who understand me and want me to be my most authentic self.
What were your personal experiences of coming out?
As a teen, I spent a lot of time trying to run from who I was, suffering with an intense feeling of internalised homophobia, worrying about what my friends and family would think and if they would treat me differently if they knew that I was attracted to the same sex. I felt empty, censored and ashamed that so many people before me had been brave enough to be themselves, but I didn’t know how to and I was so afraid.
When I went to university, however, I started to learn more about LGBTQI+ history, becoming inspired by it daily and doing my own research. I finally worked up the courage to explore my attractions and take the shame away from it for myself, something which led to me having my first relationship with a woman and realising that I was, in fact, pansexual.
Gradually, I began to own this part of myself publicly by expressing myself through how I dressed. After a while, I told my parents about my partner; 14-year-old me would have felt like burying my head in the sand but I was so lucky and my family were supportive and curious, even telling me they’d always had an inkling that I wasn’t straight!
This support, alongside an understanding of the lessons LGBTQI+ history teaches, underpins the inclusive philosophy that I live by and which I communicate to everyone in my professional and personal life today and will continue to do so for as long as I am alive.
What advice would you give to anyone who hasn’t come out yet but wants to?
The number one piece of advice I would give is to do whatever you can to ensure you are not dealing with it alone. Even if you are not ready to discuss it with friends or family, you could try to find out about your workplace LGBTQI+ community and if they have any groups that you can join where you might meet other people who have been in a similar position to yourself in the past and can offer support and guidance.
At Robert Walters Group we have our Pride employee resource group for LGBTQI+ colleagues and allies. Everyone’s story is different, and we all carry our own preconceptions and ideas that have been reinforced in our minds through the media, family, friends and politics.
A great place to start is to challenge your own ideas about what it means to be part of the LGBTQI+ community and to actively pursue new ideas and connections with new likeminded people in order to help yourself make sense of your sexuality and self in a more positive way than you may have done previously.
Has being part of the LGBTQI+ community ever impacted your experience in the workplace?
When I was at university, I worked in hospitality and the industry didn't feel very inclusive to LGBTQ+ employees. It felt like some members of staff treated people differently if they weren’t straight, I knew of people in the LGBTQI+ community who had been open about their sexuality and gender identity and were asked to do tedious or disgusting tasks, and there was homophobic language which was then excused as ‘banter.’
Outside of work, I also understand LGBTQI+ discrimination and hate all too well, having been subjected to violent abuse on a bus for holding hands with my girlfriend for a moment unashamedly. I have been spat at, told that I am unnatural and called various slurs for daring to do what a heterosexual couple could do without any hesitation at all.
When I say goodbye to her at the train station (we are currently long distance), I feel unable to kiss her or hold her hand because I want to protect her from persecution. Sadly, I still believe that our safety comes first and we often have to assess the situation and environment before giving each other the okay to be a normal, loving couple in public.
If there is one thing I know, it is that I would never experience something like this at Robert Walters Group and that if I ever did, I would be taken seriously and would I receive every ounce of support available to protect me from it in the future.
How has that changed over the years and have there been any improvements?
There will always be room for improvement and progress when it comes to LGBTQI+ rights, but I feel like, in most workplaces, there is a sincere and real effort to ensure that members of the community feel safe, included, happy and like their voices are heard.
Sexual orientation is a protected characteristic by law but companies like Robert Walters Group don’t just strive to be compliant by law, they actively engage their workforce in conversation and social activity which raises awareness about what Pride is all about.
Their approach towards ED&I and the culture they encourage across the Group is exactly what the world needs in order to be able to continue to progress in a meaningful and positive way.