If you’re employed in a workplace where you feel under pressure to keep your sexual orientation hidden it will impact your entire work experience.
When I joined Accenture 4 years ago I wasn’t out in my personal life so I kept my sexual orientation a secret at work too. It was difficult as it is always uncomfortable to have to hide such a big part of your life.
At the time though, I didn’t understand why it was so important to come out at work and the difference it would make to my life. My initial thinking was that my work and personal life are separate and that you should come to work, do your job and go home. Why would you need to be open about all aspects of your life?
However, when I decided to come out to my family and friends, work was a big part of that too. It was tough to suddenly turn around to people I’d been working with for a year and somehow drop the message in that “oh by the way, I’m gay”.
But when I got past the coming out stage – it soon became a normality. I now have open conversations about my partner, what he does for work and how we have a dog etc. It feels very natural and nobody bats an eyelid.
The difference it has made for me and my work is huge. I feel embedded within my community within Accenture and I feel connected to my peers because I’m able to talk about my life at work and my life outside of work. Some of my closest friends now are the people that I’ve met through working at Accenture.
Accenture’s inclusive workplace made coming out so much easier for me. Here are some of the ways I was made feel at ease:
1. The small but powerful gesture of rainbow badges
Accenture’s “People Page” is almost like an internal Facebook and is a directory of our 400,000 employees. We each have our own profile page with our experiences and skills and you can choose to have an LGBTI ally badge on your profile showing that you are an ally of the LGBTI community. It’s just a little rainbow symbol next to your profile picture and you don’t have to identify as LGBTI to have it. My initial impression of this was; why would you want to flag yourself as LGBTI on such a public forum, why does it matter, why do people need to know that as it doesn’t impact anything to do with your abilities or skills.
But when I was going through the process of coming out to everyone it was really powerful to see so many of my colleagues, managers and senior managers – gay or straight – supporting LGBTI rights and showing they are comfortable and fully accepting. It’s such a small gesture but it made such a difference for me.
2. Pride at Accenture Network
We have a really strong Pride at Accenture Network which anyone is welcome to join. It’s a really amazing support group locally within your own city as well as across the rest of Accenture globally.
One hat that I play within Accenture is that I am the Recruitment Lead within Pride at Accenture - so I work closely with the graduate recruitment team to make sure we have a good representation of LGBTI allies at all of our graduate recruitment events. Our goal is to make sure that anyone that decides to work at Accenture feels immediately included and safe.
3. Leadership support
Leadership support and representation is so important for creating an inclusive workplace. During the same-sex marriage plebiscite, our Country Managing Director informed us that he had signed ‘Open Letter from Australian Business Leaders in Support of Marriage Equality’ on behalf of Accenture Australia. It was really touching to see our company actively committed to encouraging an inclusive and diverse workplace – where people can feel comfortable, and inspired to bring their whole-self to work. A lot of our leadership team fully endorse the Pride at Accenture Network and are either members of the LGBTI community themselves or are active allies. I feel quite fortunate myself to be surrounded by so many positive role models.
Investing time, energy and money into creating a diverse and inclusive workplace will pay off. When people can be their true selves, they will do their best work. When you are able to connect to your employees at a human level and build lasting relationships - that’s when you’re really able to shine and do the best work that you’re capable of doing. As a company we have the social responsibility to ensure people feel comfortable in their working environment – and Accenture definitely does that.