My day job is with a major global company. A company that by all intents and purposes is very conservative. Twenty years ago, when I started working for my firm, outward discrimination against homosexual employees was very real. I personally knew of two people who had suffered from it – one wasn’t hired because being gay would be an embarrassment for his boss; the other lost her job because she was gay, and I was told had probably been blacklisted from getting a similar job at another major firm. I was always so frustrated and angry every year when we’d participate in the annual anti-discrimination training: not only was sexual orientation not one of the protected groups, it wasn’t even mentioned.
Really? I’d venture to guess that in the late ‘90’s, the gay population suffered more discrimination than any other group.
But now, everything has changed. Finally.
One of our global leaders came-out in 2011, and was married in 2014. For six years, she’s been voted by Forbes Magazine as one of the most 100 powerful women in the world. She is now championing diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace. Not only for gay people, but for everyone. No matter what their differences are, people should feel safe to be themselves at work. Being allowed to be genuine about your life is not only the right thing to do, but this acceptance unleashes one’s creativity. If you’re holding back your true self, how can you be truly inspired and passionate in your job?
Keeping It Real was the name of the panel discussion I participated in last week. The main message of the campaign is that everyone should be able to be themselves at work, to feel safe at work and respected for who they are. Many huge global companies like mine are mentoring and advocating this position from the top down, their Out-Executives personally demonstrating the importance of everyone being true to themselves. Not only is it the right thing to do, but many businesses have realized that it also makes great business sense: their employees are happier when they can be themselves, they are more creative and passionate, the retention rate is higher, and their employee loyalty is stronger.
Finally companies are beginning to value their employees for their differences, not just for their similarities. We should all remember to not only embrace the message of letting people be themselves, but also actively advocate for it. It’s not enough to just sit back and watch.
No one should have to hide who they are.