Back Disney vs Digital
When I “came out” just before turning 18, I thought about what my future would look like: Would I be a lonely old man on my own? Would I get married? Would I have a family of some sort of my own? Also, what would I do for work?
At this time there were the stereotypical jobs that people put gay men into - hairdressers, cabin crew, dancers, but none of that interested me. After a few years overseas as a holiday rep (I was trying to “find myself”) I decided it was time to come home and “get a proper job” and the first job I got was working in a telephony centre for a bank in Manchester. During the first few months and weeks I really held back any personal information about myself. When people asked the question “Do you have a partner” (I did at the time, Neil, who I met through an old rep friend) I skirted round the answer. Eventually when I was comfortable, I told them “Yes”, I did and he was called Neil. You could see the penny had dropped and what they were thinking all along was right…
After performing in a number of different roles within the bank, I felt like I found my place within the digital space. Working for a leader who is so passionate about being authentically you, truly helped me. I was in a place where I could bring my whole self to work and be me. That said, throughout my career up to that point, there have been some really odd conversations and questions I have been asked;
- “I bet you love Disney don’t you?” – I like Toy Story but not so keen on Snow White
- “I have a gay mate Adam, do you know him?” – Sorry you’re going to have to give me more than that
- “No he’s not gay he’s French” – Oh is just British people that can be gay?
- “Oh my brothers gay, you would love him” – why’s that then??
- “Do you think your service scores are lower this week because of your facial expressions and that’s because you’re gay?” – no it’s because customers don’t like queuing in the bank
I read something recently around gay people being ‘less likely to have jobs in tech and digital’ and I think it is simply not true. My role model at work also happens to be gay and I can honestly say has the most future thinking mindset, I have ever come across. This happens to be the same leader that advocates you being you. You see I have found that working in Digital is one of the most inclusive places to work. In my experience I haven’t found there to be this ‘bro-culture’ that I have observed in other sectors, and there is a true desire to onboard the best talent regardless of what background you come from.
I guess I have been lucky in that I have a very supportive network around me including my family and my friends. Everyone has been my ‘cheerleader’ and supported me in my career aspirations. I know sadly for some, that’s not always been the case. I have mentored people during my career around how they can be themselves both at home and at work and have heard some horrific stories as to how they have been treated due to being gay. The derogatory comments that have been made would make your skin crawl. To those reading this who have experienced treatment like this, my heart goes out to you. We spend a lot of our time at work, and to have to be something you’re not must be so exhausting. However, I also admire your resilience and tenacity to continue to put your career first above all else.
In my current organisation, I have found that we are truly leading the diversity and inclusion agenda. But this is so much broader than sexuality, and we are pioneering at the front. One thing that I have also found refreshing is that I haven’t once been asked about the sex of my other half, he’s just Gav (Neil and I called it a day after 1 year, but it’s cool we are still friends). But that’s because it’s just not important. What is important is the difference I am making when I am here, and the impact I have on my team and colleagues. I have a boss who supports me both in and out of work, and pushes me to stretch myself and broaden my skills. I am in a place where I am supporting shaping the future of the insurance marketplace and digitising our products and services to serve customers well. I am appreciated for the value I bring and for bringing my authentic self to work. Admittedly, I was apprehensive on day one but I recognise that the world has changed, and I am delighted to say, I haven’t had to discuss my favourite Disney movie with anyone.
So to close, all my worries at that start I have tackled. Gav and I are due to get married in 2 months (fingers crossed), we have started our little family and welcomed our little boy JJ into our lives last year, and I’m working in an arena I believe I belong in. And my piece of advice for anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community thinking about a career in Digital - do it!! You won’t look back!!