Farfetch’s Autumn Pray on the importance of visibility and community in the workplace
BY LOUISE SINNERTON AT MYGWORK
A thorough understanding of how networks work and an experience of coming out in different workplaces are just some of the attributes Autumn Pray brought to the table when helping to set up Farfetch’s LGBTQI+ network.
Before working as a director of product management at Farfetch, Autumn worked at Gap in San Francisco, which provided her with experience working in one of the most liberal companies in one of the world’s most progressive cities.
“That was truly an amazing experience and a great example of a company that has always been at the forefront of LGBTQI+ rights, same-sex partner benefits and fundraising for HIV causes,” Autumn says of her experience.
It wasn’t always rosy though, as Autumn’s first job out of college was at a strategy consultancy and she wasn’t out at work. She wasn’t out to her client or her boss, but did become part of an LGBTQI+ network that helped her create some strong friendships – and to start to see the importance of visibility. After this job, Autumn worked at a natural gas company in Southern California.
“I was surrounded mostly by older, conservative men, and I certainly wasn’t out at the start,” she explains.
“When I started to come out to people, I realised that when you do, it gives a face to something that people could have misunderstood. They had to reconcile that it was just me and part of who I was.”
Surprisingly, this was the biggest turning point for Autumn and her decision to always be out at work. “There was this Texan oilman who was staunchly Catholic and of all the people, he was someone I expected to not be okay with me. When I came out to him he was so accepting. It was just no big deal to him. That was so empowering and made me realise I should be authentic.”
“Later when I interviewed for the job at Gap, I just said straight away, ‘my partner got a job, and I’m coming to San Francisco with her.'”
Now it’s fundamental to Autumn that everyone can be authentic at work. After an incredible fourteen years working at Gap and participating in Pride and a multitude of LGBTQI+ events, Autumn decided it was time for something new…
She was able to relocate to London with her partner of 16 years, who serendipitously found a job at the same time, allowing them both to continue their careers in the UK. “I only had three days in London before I decided to come here – we both wanted to be in a new country. You do get homesick for your country and friends, but you can get amazing opportunities abroad. I have a different role here at Farfetch and I have a great team. More than anything I’m so proud of being able to join and build the LGBTQI+ community and network here.”
Autumn helped to start up and establish the LGBTQI+ group at Farfetch, driven by her passion to improve visibility worldwide for the community.
“We started organising the network at Farfetch informally before Pride and then used Pride In London in June as a kick-off point. We are now beginning to grow the group and set up work policies.”
Since launching the LGBTQI+ group at Farfetch, other Employee Networks Groups have been established. These communities are an important part of our mission to create a consciously inclusive environment for everyone and a reflection of our company culture and values.
Although the network is in the nascent stages, it has had a big impact on employees. Building on the momentum of the first year and establishing a network in offices across the world is high on Autumn’s priority list.
“Portugal, London, New York and LA participated in Pride this year, but to see that grow and have established communities in other offices would be great. I was so passionate about starting the group and it’s important you shouldn’t assume that just because you are in a cosmopolitan city, or a progressive company – or even a liberal country – that it’s not needed. People are at all different stages of their journey.”
The impact of the network shows. Autumn has already met somebody who came out at the company who wasn’t out before Pride, but came out because of Pride and the activities surrounding it.
“That happened in a tech/fashion company in London, that just shows you there are people everywhere that can benefit from visibility and support. If you want to create a community, you can start it yourself, and you can take the first step.
“I knew how important it was early in my career to see myself represented in the rest of the company and to know I was accepted and safe. So it’s really important to me that Farfetch’s culture creates a diverse and inclusive environment for everyone.”
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