Having been nominated for my contributions in the diversity space I’m excited and honoured to feature at number 8 in their Top 30 OUTstanding & FT Future Leaders list. OUTstanding, a not-for profit professional network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) executives and their allies, together with the FT have published this one-to-watch list to recognise cross-industry role models who are making a significant contribution to LGBT inclusion wherever they are placed in a company.
The listing represents a host of LGBT focused diversity and inclusion activities I’ve driven over the last few years – including most recently organising Deutsche Bank’s internal Wear Purple IDAHOT campaign, leading the Bank’s internal LGBT online social collaboration community, coaching LGBT colleagues and allies and speaking externally.
Below I explain why this recognition is so important to myself and to the wider society as a whole.
Why are these recognition lists still important to society?
In the UK, LGBT people already have equality in terms of most legal rights and recognition – so the job is done, right? True, the rights exist, and yet everyday people across the country hear about or witness homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools, sports and health care – to name a few. LGBT (and questioning) people are still subject to hate crime, discrimination and higher suicide rates. On a global scale:
- Persecuted LGBT individuals can face the death penalty in 6 countries, whilst in a further 75 countries they could face imprisonment [See map right from Ilga, May 2015]
- Whilst LGBT people can now marry in every state in the USA, 28 states (31 if trans) still lack protections for LGBT workers – meaning more than 51% of LGBT Americans live in states where they can be fired from a job, denied housing or refused service at businesses or governmental entities just for being who they are [The Fairness Project]
These figures highlight that for many people who are LGBT, their rights are lesser than those of a heterosexual person. Not only does this devalue individuals, but in some cases it can endanger their lives – for lesbian, gay or bisexual people simply because of being attracted to someone of the same gender, or in the case of transgender people simply because their self-identity does not conform to conventional notions of gender. For people in the UK this can impact where they choose to travel or work. For global organisations this also poses questions with regards where they conduct business, recruiting and retaining the best talent, and fostering an inclusive workplace.
Within the workplace:
- LGBT employees who are in the closet are 70% more likely to leave the company within the first three years [FT, 2014]
- 62% of Generation Y graduates who were out at university go back in the closet when they start their first job [Human Rights Campaign survey, 2012]
The OUTstanding and FT lists recognise individuals who have made significant contributions to furthering diversity within and beyond the workplace. Many of the individuals work within or manage large diverse teams across multiple countries. They share a social responsibility to advance inclusion in all locations they work in – both for society and for their businesses. 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.
Why is this important to me?
I’m motivated by fostering an inclusive workplace whereby people can bring their whole selves to work without fear of it impacting their own success. This motivation comes from my own experiences, and wanting to give back. In my early career being LGBT and not out at work consumed a lot of personal energy. I was constantly covering what I did outside of work – for example by gender neutralising pro-nouns and being vague about my whereabouts. This led to distancing myself from colleagues, impacting trust and forcing me to remember who I had told what to. Think of this experience like the loss of productivity that is brought about by task switching, except one of the tasks is a constant. If you have never had to cover, then try spending an hour or a day where you actively hide the gender of friends and love ones when talking about them to friends and colleagues.
Coming out for me has never been about standing on a soap box and saying “Hello I’m Darren and I’m bisexual and I should be treated different because of it”, but rather about not having to hold back if someone asks me if I have a partner, or what I did at the weekend. I’m keen not to let my sexual orientation define me, but instead to weave my experiences brought about by this into my day job and to normalise the stigmas and stereotypes attached with being ‘different’. Indeed it is these differences and experiences that contribute a fresh perspectives to my work in technology: increasing cognitive diversity in the teams I work in to form stronger ideas and deliver better results.
Since I’ve allowed myself to talk openly about my boyfriend, I’ve spent less energy covering and been able to focus more on fostering closer working relationships, being productive and delivering more value. 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. 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.
If this has inspired you or you’ve learnt something new about the topic of LGBT diversity and inclusion, then please do share the post (and the list) with friends and colleagues, or leave a comment below to continue the conversation.
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.