How coming out at work can unlock your potential: 'That layer of stress falls away'

In partnership with myGwork.


Pictures: Pixabay and Enterprise

Ashley Hever, Director of Talent Acquisition at Enterprise, tells Louise Sinnerton from myGwork about diversity in the automotive industry and why he feels it is important to speak up.

Ashley Hever was the first in his family to go to university and joined a bank straight after graduating. Two years later he started on the Management Training Programme at Enterprise, where he's since had a varied and rich career. He's experienced first-hand being in the closet and out in the workplace and wants to be open to show others it's okay to speak up.

“For me being gay hasn’t hampered my career in any way - so it’s important for me to share that with others. I would hate for students to go back into the closet when they join the workplace. People might go to university to be themselves, so it’s important to show diversity in business - particularly in this industry - and that they can continue being themselves”.

When he first started work Ashley wasn’t out to anybody and he felt a lot of guilt. He would invent a girlfriend if they were invited to stag dos or weddings. He was a closed book. “I’m not even sure if I had acknowledged my own sexuality to myself really. I would see somebody in a gay bar and be absolutely petrified that they might out me at work," he says.

Ash Hever

"I would spend the whole time telling people white lies about what I would do at the weekend and then Monday was spent desperately trying to remember what I said I was going to do on Friday. At the time you don't realise the impact it can have on you, but I don't want others to have those experiences."

Ashley decided to come out about fourteen years into his career with Enterprise. “Whether people would find out or not always played a part in my day-to-day and I was always worried about what people thought of me.” He decided it was the right time and meeting his partner also pushed him to want to be open, although they share that it wasn’t easy.

“I had that thing that many people have about will people trust me as I’ve been presenting myself as a different person all this time. It was a struggle at the time. I came out at work, actually before I did to my friends which says a lot about Enterprise and the culture here. I had spent fourteen years here, so it was about telling all my friends at work. It was hugely important.”

Thankfully everyone at Enterprise was accepting and supportive of Ashley. Since coming out he's been promoted to Director level within the business. “I don’t have that additional worry weighing me down about being careful of what I say all the time. That layer of stress falls away”.

His decision to come out to his Enterprise family shows how at ease Ashley felt. He also explains that after working in a bank, Enterprise’s culture just suited him far better.

“The two years in a bank before working here I spent having everything stamped and approved. When I joined Enterprise, I was asked what I think, allowed to make my own decisions, and any mistakes I made weren’t frowned upon. The ethos here is that if you make a mistake you learn from it and move on and that’s a really unique atmosphere to work in”.

A few years ago, Ashely got together with four other employees and decided to pull an employee network together, this turned into EnterPride. “At first it was more about a space where we could get together and talk about our experiences, then it grew from there.

Ashley and Adam

"Over the past few years, it has broadened and become a European network and it’s more about how we can actually affect change in the business, update policies, and the like. Another thing that is really important to me is how we support National Student Pride.”

It is inside Enterprise as well as outside that Ashley is making his mark. “We’ve actually just set up a network for the automotive sector with companies like Arnold Clarke, Ford, Jardine Motor Group, Autotrader to all share our best practices with the wider industry. That’s a big move and important to make sure employees who might be drivers or engineers can also be reached, and that an LGBTQ network isn’t just something for people in the Head Office. We’ve got to reach everyone within the LGBTQ communities.”

Over the next 18 months Ashley would love to hand over being the chair of the network to someone else; giving them the opportunity that he's had and continue his work supporting students and graduates in his community. Ashley maintains that if you get the right training and development you can grow within a company.

“I joined the graduate scheme and have been here ever since. I've been able to work in operations, training, and development... I’ve been a store manager, area manager, and now worked in recruitment for over 12 years. I’ve stayed here so long because I really enjoy it.”

Take a look at Enterprise’s current career opportunities.

Enterprise is a proud partner of myGwork, the LGBTQ+ business community.

The Attitude October issue is out now.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £1 each, or subscribe digitally and get 50% off until 26/9/2021.