“It can be a daunting and sometimes overwhelming task to decide whether we should come out to new colleagues”
BY LAURA DEVANEY, CO-FOUNDER OF OPEN&OUT AT JOHNSON & JOHNSON
We all know the feeling when starting a new role. No matter how confident you may be in your abilities, there’s often a small part of you that feels vulnerable about joining a new organisation.
These feelings vary from person to person, but for many of us in the LGBTQI community, they can come with a further layer of uncertainty and hesitation.
Today, many organisations love to highlight their dedication to celebrating diversity and embracing inclusion. This strive for progress is incredibly positive, however, the reality is that when we start in a new organisation we don’t really know how much they truly live into this ethos.
As well as learning about our role and the wider organisation, it can be a daunting and sometimes overwhelming task to decide whether we should come out to our new team members about our sexual orientation or gender identity – sometimes in fear of how we may be received or whether this could actually have a detrimental impact to our future there.
I am incredibly proud of who I am, although it took me some time to show up as my true self at work and to wholeheartedly embrace it. Coming out is an individual experience, whether at work or in our personal lives, and everyone is on their own journey.
Having been there myself I understand that coming out at work can be incredibly daunting and is something that can only really be done when someone feels comfortable enough to do so. Therefore, I believe having an organisational culture that encourages people to be their true selves, creates a sense of belonging and celebrates individuality is imperative to creating this comfort zone.
I’m fortunate to work for Johnson & Johnson, who have always promoted a culture of inclusivity and belonging with zero tolerance of any form of discrimination. As someone who has experienced coming out in the workplace, I embraced the opportunity to advance this culture locally – to ensure colleagues are not just accepted but are celebrated for who they are and what they can bring to the organisation.
Alongside my colleague Anthony Dunn, I co-founded the UK chapter of an employee resource group called Open&Out. At J&J, we celebrate LGBTQI employees, to remind us – and our co-workers – that we are a valued part of our organisation.
Since starting Open&Out, we’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of interest and support across the business. To say it’s snowballed is an understatement – the support is truly overwhelming and it’s amazing to see our non-LGBTQI allies embracing the community and demonstrating such incredible support.
Open&Out also runs in conjunction with a company-wide diversity and inclusion campaign called You Belong, encouraging each and every employee to proudly bring their whole selves to work, without compromise.
Unfortunately, organisations are not always as welcoming as Johnson & Johnson. Although I do believe that there is progress overall, and positive changes are happening, there is always more to be done. For example, there is a double glass ceiling for LGBTQI women that remains. This means that women who identify as LGBTQI are potentially placed at a double disadvantage by having to break through an additional barrier, which further widens the gap and forces us to fight twice as hard for true equality.
Equality to me is reaching a point where we can celebrate diversity in a way where LGBTQI women are able to be themselves without fear of stigma or feeling a need to hide who they are. A point where all women will be celebrated, recognised and rewarded for who we are and what we contribute.
I certainly do not want our identity to be ignored or erased, I just hope that it’s not treated as a determining factor in our ability to provide value.
I’m pleased to say that in my case, we’re constantly making strides in creating and maintaining a positive culture. I feel an immense sense of pride knowing that when new colleagues enter the organisation we clearly demonstrate, through Open&Out and our You Belong campaign, that this is a place free of bias, and we are encouraged and free to bring our whole selves to work every day.
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