Alex Enness-Laporte, from EY, talks to myGwork’s Louise Sinnerton about her role as Unity Co-Chair
Alex Enness-Laporte grew up in Australia – in her words “in an environment that wasn’t designed to help her discover who she was or explore her sexuality”. “It was difficult to be out when I was growing up. There was very little visibility of LGBT+ choices and I didn’t understand why the women around me were attracted to men; I had lots of male friends, but I couldn’t see what was so alluring there! It took me a while to figure out that I was attracted to women.” Alex’s first experience led her to the realisation about who she was, and she talks openly about the moment she did understand. “That first experience was so natural, it made complete sense to me, and, for the first time, I understood what it meant to have an emotional connection. I understood what everyone else was talking about when they said they had a crush on someone. It had become ok for men to be out and gay, but I had no one around me visibility to show that being lesbian was a positive thing, or that it was even safe to explore the idea. That suppression had a blinkering effect.”
This idea of having role models, or someone to look up to, is why Alex speaks out now and makes herself visible. It’s also one of the reasons she took the position of co-chair for EY’s LGBT+ network Unity, alongside her sales operations role.
“I arrived in the UK in 1999 and found London to have such a diverse culture compared to what I was used to. I think that’s why the visibility part is really important to me. It’s a different time and place now, where being LGBT+ is much more accepted, but we are still struggling for tolerance in so many places across the world and even within the community itself. For me, it’s all about creating an environment where it’s normal to be LGBT+ – everyday, all the time and in everyone’s lives. Coming out is difficult when you don’t know if it’s safe or feel uncertain about the reaction you’ll get. It’s exhausting for those hiding it away to be unable to truly be themselves.”
Much of Alex’s drive and passion comes from the idea of removing those blinkers. “From the moment I realised who I am, I began to see a future for myself. I started dating women, going to lesbian events, found a wonderful lesbian house-share. I started to build my own networks”.
When she came out, Alex’s family were wholly supportive, and she met her now wife in 2010. The couple married in 2018 when the marriage equality law was passed in Australia. “I have complete acceptance about who I am, but I know that not everyone does, and I want to help others find it.” From getting married in an incredible backyard wedding with Greek plate smashing and dancing due to her wife’s heritage, to a honeymoon in Canada, Alex was ready to dive into her role of co-chair when she returned.
“I’ve been with EY just over five and a half years, and from the moment I started I was impressed by the inclusive environment of the firm. There’s a really strong culture where, if you see an opportunity or gap for something that needs to be done, we’re actively encouraged to do something about it.” Outside of the network she is on the committee for AltW, a one-day event aimed at building a connected, visible and supportive community of LGBT+ women to bring about social change. In 2018, AltW hosted an event for professional LBTQ+ women and allies with panel discussions, workshops, and speakers, including MP Dawn Butler, the then CEO of Stonewall Ruth Hunt, co-chair of Black Pride’s Chloe Davies, as well as over twenty other accomplished and inspiring women.
Alex shares her Unity co-chair role with her colleague Ben Firth. “Being co-chair is an amazing way to build a network. We have over 17,000 employees across 21 offices in the UK and large number working on client sites. I’ve focused on connecting our members and making them feel part of something more – whether it’s something with purpose, or a safe place to go for support.”
Alex and Ben have had a busy year delivering on their strategy which includes driving Bi inclusion training, launching a reverse mentoring scheme for Partners and campaigns to increase the visibility of LGBT+ role models and intersectionality. “We’re also celebrating 25 years of the network this year which is an exciting achievement. And our focus continues to be on LGBT+ inclusion and ensuring accessibility to all our members across the country – I want us to be present and powerful in the regions too.”
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