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Posted on Thursday, Aug 2, 2018
While LGBTQ acceptance has become widespread in the last decade, coming out at work isn’t easy. A workplace that’s open, accepting, and diverse can make that process more comfortable.
An environment where everyone can thrive
“At Hays I want everyone to be able to bring their whole selves to work, so they’re not spending energy hiding who they are and can instead fully embrace being part of our team, working towards their goals, and bringing creative new ideas to the table,” says Hays Canada President Rowan O’Grady. “I’m proud to lead a company that embraces diversity and inclusion every day and at every level.”
The upcoming Vancouver Pride festival is a chance to celebrate with the community. “People are at the heart of everything we do, and we want to ensure our activities support fairness, equality, and access for all – clients, candidates and our employees – representative of the city in which we live and work,” says Hays Americas Director of People and Culture Jackie Burns. “More than just diversity, we believe in promoting a fair, authentic and genuine workplace.”
The culture at Hays Canada reflects the country’s openness and liberal attitude, says VP of the GTA Louisa Benedicto.
“My team are super supportive and loving of my relationship with my wife. Most of them came to our wedding!” she says. “I’ve lived in other countries where it isn't as easy to express that side of your life in a professional environment, although the people that work at Hays are pretty much the same (diverse and inclusive) all across the world.”
This acceptance encourages Louisa to be open about events in her personal life, from dual weddings in England and Canada, to buying a home, and now expecting their first child.
“It’s important to be able to talk freely at work about things like this. I’m grateful for such an open and diverse work environment where I can be myself,” Louisa says.
Bringing all the parts of your life together
For Property Team Lead Mazen Fegali it’s been a lifetime process overcoming obstacles as he grew up and entered the workforce, but today he says all the pillars in his life come together.
“I had to work on myself, accept and love myself. Hays matched that confidence with an environment that is inclusive, supportive, and welcoming,” he says. “What we care about is how you treat the business, your colleagues, candidates, and clients.
Standing up for your beliefs
Division Director Rachel Finan identifies as an ally, which she says is about taking action to back up your belief.
“Love is love, whomever it is between and I am privileged to know many couples of all gender identities who love unabashedly,” she says. “I believe in equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBTQ social justice, and I challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia wherever I see prejudice. I am willing to act to end oppression - that is what being an ally is to me.”
She adds that constant learning is an important part of being an ally and works actively to equip herself with the knowledge to speak up against oppression and help people to reprogram their belief system to end prejudice.
“I understand and accept that we live in a heteronormative society. Anything outside of that, will create a reaction,” Mazen says. “If I hear a comment that I feel may be offensive, I make sure to address it and educate. In these occasions, I don’t think about myself, but more about someone who is fighting their own battles and maybe not out yet.”
The biggest challenge for Louisa is assumptions that she’s straight or about how she identifies.
“I find I often bring it up early in the conversation – “my wife…” so that it doesn’t become embarrassing later on when the wrong assumption is made. No one has ever battered an eye lid when I’ve brought this up,” she says. “The main thing I find myself correcting people on is when they then assume I identify as a lesbian, and I don’t. I identify as bi-sexual. Some people have asked me what this means and I’m really happy to talk it through with them.”
Creating a supportive atmosphere
What can people do to support their LGBTQ colleagues and friends? For Mazen it comes down to two core values.
“Respect and acceptance are key. We are all the same. We all worry, have our goals, our challenges, our insecurities,” Mazen adds. “And be mindful of what you say, especially for someone who is in the closet, one word can make or destroy someone’s life.”
Rachel says that someone’s preferred gender pronouns and their preferred partner doesn’t feature in her assessment of them as a person in her life and would encourage you to actively do the same. She doesn’t think about someone’s relationship preferences, to her they are great friends or colleagues.
Finally, Louisa and Mazen both encourage people to ask questions when they don’t understand something. Language can change quickly, so if there is a word or phrase that is new to you, feel comfortable asking questions. For example, many people have been asking Louisa about her pregnancy and the correct terminology, and she’s happy to explain that “What’s your donor like?” is a better phrasing than “Who’s the father?”
“Don’t ever be shy to ask what something means so that you can use those words freely and with confidence,” she says. “As long as the person isn’t super shy talking about personal matters, use your LGBTQ colleagues to help you better understand and use the right terminology.”
The pay off: better colleagues, leaders, and friends
When everyone is able to be themselves at work it gives them the ability to focus on other things that matter to them, helping drive success for their team and the company.
“Being myself made me a much stronger leader,” Mazen says. “I am a stronger partner in this business. I am better equipped to help all our people to succeed.”
Want to work for a company that welcomes you for you? Find out more about working at Hays.