The following is taken from an interview I gave to the FT as part of being featured in OUTstanding and FT 2015 Future Leaders lists . I have reproduced my answers here for your interest.
Why do you feel these lists are so important?
|These lists help highlight visible role models and advocates who work tirelessly, often in their own time, to ensure all colleagues, clients and society can be successful by being their true self|
|Often the thing that held me back the most was my own personal fear that people’s opinions of me would change if I let them in to my personal life. In reality, this was all in my own head, and being open has given me more confidence to be who I am. I guess this motivation, together with my diversity achievements and being a visible, out role model, is what OUTstanding and the FT have recognised.|
These are a couple of quotes taken from my blog post about the OUTstanding and FT lists being published. To see the quotes in context together with the full background for why these lists are so important, please read here.
What is covering?
Kenji Yoshiko defines covering as
In his book “Stigma”, the sociologist Erving Goffman describes covering as
1. In what way has being an LGBT-identifying executive impacted your career?
In my early career being LGBT and not out at work consumed a lot of personal energy. The activities I got involved in as a result of being out at work have helped raise my personal profile and develop soft skills tangential to my day job. Through openly sharing my personal story and encouraging discussion, both in person, at events and on social media, I’ve been able to connect with new people, build a strong personal brand and ultimately create opportunities through unlocking more of my own potential. I achieved my current role at Deutsche Bank through my hiring manager having visibility of my work and my internal reputation – which I don’t believe I’d have had the confidence or energy to develop had I still been covering who I was 6 years on from coming out.
2. Have you been out since day 1? If not, has coming out changed your working relationships?
When applying for graduates jobs the diversity and inclusion policies and practices of organisations was not on my radar, and played no part in my decision to select my first employer. That said, I did look for organisations where I could identify with the interviewers, and felt able to be myself. I came out to myself and close friends only weeks before starting my first job at Deutsche Bank, and spent the first 6 months of my graduate job actively hiding who I was outside of the office. I used Deutsche Bank’s LGBT employee resource group to explore if it was safe to be out in the workplace, and quickly came to the conclusion it was only my own internal fears holding me back. Since I’ve allowed myself to talk openly about my boyfriend, I’ve spent less personal energy covering (e.g. gender neutralising pro-nouns) and been able to focus more on fostering closer working relationships, being productive and delivering more value at work. Being out has enabled me to be more authentic and to inspire those around me – either that it’s okay to be themselves, or to empower friends and colleagues to be active allies for others.
3. Do you believe LGBT leaders have an obligation to be open about their sexuality in the workforce?
No. I do however believe that all LGBT individuals have a basic human right to be able to be themselves and be open about their gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace (or indeed anywhere) if they choose to. I’m motivated by fostering an open and inclusive environment with authentic role models at all levels of the organisation – that show you can bring your whole self to work and not encounter barriers to success as a result.
4. What future steps do you believe companies should take to facilitate greater LGBT diversity in the workplace?
More individuals and companies need to recognise the value of active allies in the workplace, and the cost that covering has on individuals that want to be open about their gender identity or sexual orientation in the workplace. With 62%* of LGBT graduates going back in the closet when starting their first job, companies need to ensure they have out visible role models at all levels of the organisation, and that bringing your whole self to work is an enabler, not barrier, to success. This is particularly true for out role models who identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender – which I see as under-represented in most companies.
I’d like to see companies raise greater awareness of what it means to identify as transgender, foster more visible transgender allies and ultimately greater inclusivity for transgender employees in the workplace. Often this can be as simple as subtle environmental and policy changes and creating discussion about the subject.
* according to the US’ Human Resource Campaign HRC
5. Did you have any role models in the workplace?
My role models in business have not necessarily identified as LGBT – but instead have been authentic, high achieving leaders who recognise the differences people bring to a team and can harness the value diversity of thought brings to deliver stronger ideas and better results. My role models are people I know and I aspire to replicate the success of. Like LGBT individuals, my role models often don’t conform to environmental stereotypes – for example the expectation that you have to be seen to be considered working, or that you can’t dress appropriate to your diary – such as wearing jeans in banking on non-client facing days.
6. Any additional comments?
I’m proud to be recognised by OUTstanding and the FT in the 2015 LGBT Future Leaders list, and hope it inspires those that are LGBT and not out that they can be themselves at work – and often the main barrier to being out is one’s own internal fear of not wanting to impact a personal brand they’ve built up having covered who they are . For those that don’t feel comfortable being out, I’d encourage them to seek out employee networks, cross-industry LGBT networking forums such as InterBank or InterTech, or find an Ally to talk to. For senior closeted LGBT leaders I’d encourage them to consider the positive influence and inspiration being an out LGBT leader could have on those working around them.
For companies that have newer, or no, employee resource groups, start with a clear business case for being an inclusive organisation and focus on setting up an LGBT Allies programme if you don’t have one already. In my experience Ally programmes have moved the dial for everyone on furthering inclusion for all and in fostering an environment where more people can be themselves.
Darren is a creative tech geek with a passion for user experience, collaboration (both tools and behaviours) and cognitive diversity. He currently works as a technology solution architect within Investment Banking in London. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and via this website.
Darren is open to volunteering opportunities that utilise any of the above skills to aid not for profit organisations – particularly in the LGBT and diversity space.