Last week at EurOUT (Europe’s leading LGBT graduate and business networking conference) Gareth Williams, global HR director and executive committee Member of Travelex, the world’s leading foreign exchange specialist, asked the question: what does being gay have to do with anything in the workplace? He now shares his thoughts with Attitude’s readers.
I’m a senior executive, I work in financial services and I’m gay – so what? Yes that’s right, so what? Sure being gay has shaped my identity but it has not determined the success of my career.
Good work will speak for itself. You shouldn’t see being homosexual, bisexual, lesbian or transgender as an obstacle to achieving your career goals. If you are, then you – not others – are potentially setting yourself up to fail.
I’m tired of prominent LGBT business people speaking out about how their sexuality has helped or hindered their career. At the end of the day, it should really have nothing to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that the LGBT community support each other through the tough times and collectively celebrate the good times, but tying our career highs and lows to our sexuality will only set the wrong precedent for everyone else.
Equally, businesses have a role to play here too. It’s vital that they provide the right and authentic environment to enable people to be their true selves in the workplace. Appointing minorities to the board or executive committee for the sake of being seen to be an ‘equal opportunity employer’ isn’t the right way to do it. They should simply be appointing the right person for the job.
I’d also argue that businesses shouldn’t need to have separate policies in place to protect minority workers as this puts them into an isolated category and in doing so you’re making them more vulnerable to being treated differently. In an ideal world we’d all just treat each other with mutual respect and courtesy but I realise we still have some way before this can become a reality.
At last week’s EurOUT conference I urged LGBT graduates to positively prepare themselves for the workforce by tempering their concerns about being treated differently in the workplace because of their sexuality. I advised them to start their career on the front foot by entering the workforce being proud of who they are and confident about what they can achieve. This advice shouldn’t be limited to graduates though; it’s relevant to all LGBT workers. Worrying about what others might think will only fuel anxiety and steer your career on the wrong track.
My own experience could have been very different if I let my sexuality dictate my career path. Sure, like many in the LGBT community I’ve had some challenging times during my career, and I’m sure there will be challenging times ahead but no matter what, I always rise above it and stay focused on doing a good job.
Words by GARETH WILLIAMS.