My Experiences at the Stonewall Leadership Training aka ‘how to be a better gay’
Back in November 2016, I was privileged to attend the Stonewall Leadership Training organised by Accenture. For those who maybe aren’t aware, Accenture is a corporate leader in supporting the LGBT community. Local offices drive initiatives and programs to support our LGBT community and allies and help them build strong networks, both within Accenture/Fjord and with the broader community. This group is called the LGBT Network and the LGBT Network is the reason I had the privilege of attending the Stonewall Leadership Training.
The training itself took place over two packed days. It consisted of learning sets and insights with focus on authenticity a.k.a. ‘how to be a better gay’. But what makes a better gay I hear you ask? Well, the answer to that question is quite difficult to explain. Prior to the training, I was under the impression that as a confident gay man, I was already living my life as an “authentic” gay. I also had the pleasure of being a part of Fjord and Accenture, a place where my sexuality was unequivocally accepted and I never felt the need to hide who I was. However, during those two days, I learnt many personal lessons that I will carry forward for many years to come. Not only is it important for me to be authentic in regards to my sexuality, I learnt that I should be using this confidence across all areas of my life. I should also be inspiring and supporting others to do the same.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― C.G. Jung
On the first day, we were introduced to insights that opened my eyes to the difference workplace authenticity can make for an LGBT person. Someone who is out in the workplace is 67% more likely to be satisfied with their sense of achievement and 65% more likely to be satisfied with their job security. These figures will perhaps be expected by most of you; we spend most our week in work, so being able to comfortably express one’s sexuality would make a huge difference in job satisfaction. But what surprised me was the fact that 80% of millennials consider an organisations’ Diversity & Inclusion policies when applying for jobs. 80%. That figure obviously includes a lot of straight, white men who traditionally D&I policies don’t focus on. Yet in 2017, they are making career decisions based on a company’s D&I policies. This is fantastic and a sign of even greater things to come.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” ― May Sarton
Over the remainder of day one, we broke into smaller groups and shared personal stories from coming out, to being LGBT in the workplace. It was a massive privilege to be witness to such bravery and such honesty from people who have had difficult times because of their sexuality. I came out at the age of 12 and overall I have been extremely lucky in the response I received from others and developing confidence to be a proud gay man. Others were not so lucky, but they have managed to find their way to a happier and content life. Therefore, LGBT groups in the workplace do matter. People need a place to feel safe. They need to know they will be accepted and given the chance to gain that confidence in being LGBT, which they may have been denied previously. Perhaps the most common theme amongst the stories was the effect the Accenture LGBT group has had. For many, it was the catalyst to be more authentic at work and to get involved in LGBT activities they wouldn’t normally have.
Throughout Day two, we examined authentic inclusive leadership theory i.e. what makes an authentic inclusive leader and what actions we can take to become more authentic. To become authentic in the work place, we learnt key areas must be focused on – self-awareness, balanced processing, relational transparency and internal moral perspective. At the end of the day, we split into smaller groups and we had the opportunity to reflect and synthesise. It was an emotional experience and some of the groups had tears. But the common finding was that everyone was in a better, more authentic frame of mind. The learnings we experienced together will be carried with us for many years, and hopefully something we can use to inspire others.
“To thine own self be true.” ― William Shakespeare
From a personal perspective, the training has inspired me to take the confidence in being LGBT and apply it to all areas of my life. It has inspired me to be more open and honest about my mental health, something I have struggled with my most of my adult life. I have learnt to share my daily ups and downs with friends, families and co-workers and to stop making false excuses for the days when I cannot cope. By being more transparent, I have found those around me are more patient and can offer the support I need and in turn those days are much easier to survive. It has also inspired me to be more pro-active in pushing for diversity and inclusion. It’s one thing to sign up to an LGBT group, but it’s another to engage with it on a regular basis and encourage others to do the same. I have set a goal for the Fjord office to join Accenture in the 2017 London Gay Pride march and show solidarity with LGBT diversity.
Fjord is a diverse company. Our family consists of many different races, cultures, religions, genders and sexualities. But one thing I have learnt from this experience, is that just saying we are diverse is no longer enough. In these uneasy times, we need to be vigilant and we need to be pro-active. I have my own goals this year, so my challenge to you is to seek out and get involved with a D&I group. Challenge how authentic you are in the workplace. Challenge how you can inspire others to do the same.
By setting you this challenge and leading by example, I hope to inspire at least one other person. If I do, then I truly am being a better gay.
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