Does your workplace identity matter?

By: Edwina Mullins
Head of Marketing

9th July 2019

5 minute read

Home » Insights » Engineering » Does your workplace identity matter?

It’s hard to miss the corporate Pride activity in the last few weeks where companies have been showcasing their inclusion of people from the LGBTQ+ community. Last month I read a brilliant blog from Jen Hennings where she asks the question: “What 5 terms would you use to describe your identity?”

For me, I picked Human. Mum. Foodie. Arty. Country-loving. It was actually a harder process than I thought and I partially failed as I realised I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my career, the way I bring up my children, my purchasing decisions, and how to be a better version of myself. But I have never reflected on my actual identity – who I am not what I like.

I posed the same identity question to a few friends, and many were similar to me, with the exception of colour and religion additions: ‘Brown’ was one answer and ‘Christian’ was another. For Jen, her 5 words are Female. Queer. Butch. Athlete. Trans. There is an obvious point that if you identify yourself with a minority group or have struggled with your identity being accepted by a wider community, then it will be front of mind and you will have been forced to reflect on who you are as a person. I consider that as a relatively tough, white, straight, outgoing female I have been lucky not to receive too much discrimination during my career (apart from being hit on when younger and being asked to make the tea). And I haven’t had to analyse myself and put me in an identity box (others can do that for me).

Having children, however, has opened my eyes to more ideas about identity. My husband, Barry, and I have talked extensively about how we are going to bring up our children – both our base instincts on parenting and learned behaviour. When Barry held our son in the hospital for the first time, his immediate thought was “I’m going to have to teach this little thing to be a man”. Then later (when we’d got over the initial shock of being parents), he had to define what ‘man’ actually meant. Much of this was deciding what from our own childhoods was good/irrelevant/needed redefining.

Living in a box

Simplistically, I would love it if everyone didn’t put themselves or others in a box; people could just exist and co-exist. I don’t want to identify myself or be identified as a type – no one should care that I have Saxon heritage as supposed to any other heritage for example – I want to identify myself with the choices I have made in life, not what life has given me. And that is because I don’t have to struggle with being accepted.
It’s easy to only care about the things that directly affect us. Here are some quick stats from Jen’s blog, and things I didn’t particularly consider until I learned about them:

  • LGBTQ+ people in the UK weren’t legally protected from discrimination at work until 2003.
  • It wasn’t until 2007 that sexual orientation was written into the Equality Act.
  • It took until 2010 for gender reassignment to be added as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act.
  • As of June 2019, the UK Law does not offer any provision for non-binary individuals.
  • According to research performed by UM (Universal McCann), up to 60% of UK graduates will go back into the closet when they enter the world of work.

I find the final stat particularly frustrating. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) identified that 16 – 24 year olds have a higher percentage of people who consider themselves gay/lesbian/bisexual than other age groups. With all the other stresses of starting your first job, your sexual orientation and how it will be accepted by others just shouldn’t be another worry in a perfect world. So at the moment, we HAVE to focus on the struggles and identity of LGBTQ+ people until what is considered ‘normal’ in every workplace changes to accept everyone. So what do we need to do? Yes acknowledge Pride Week, wear rainbow colours and put a post on LinkedIn. But all workplaces need a plan for the other 51 weeks of the year too.

In my perfect world, anyone can be who they like, and bonk who they like and it is just normal. This doesn’t take away the importance of who a person is or the choices they make, it’s about true acceptance. Perhaps in that world, we won’t need 5 words, we’ll just need to identify 1 word: Human.

It’s hard to miss the corporate Pride activity in the last few weeks where companies have been showcasing their inclusion of people from the LGBTQ+ community. Last month I read a brilliant blog from Jen Hennings where she asks the question: “What 5 terms would you use to describe your identity?”

For me, I picked Human. Mum. Foodie. Arty. Country-loving. It was actually a harder process than I thought and I partially failed as I realised I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my career, the way I bring up my children, my purchasing decisions, and how to be a better version of myself. But I have never reflected on my actual identity – who I am not what I like.

I posed the same identity question to a few friends, and many were similar to me, with the exception of colour and religion additions: ‘Brown’ was one answer and ‘Christian’ was another. For Jen, her 5 words are Female. Queer. Butch. Athlete. Trans. There is an obvious point that if you identify yourself with a minority group or have struggled with your identity being accepted by a wider community, then it will be front of mind and you will have been forced to reflect on who you are as a person. I consider that as a relatively tough, white, straight, outgoing female I have been lucky not to receive too much discrimination during my career (apart from being hit on when younger and being asked to make the tea). And I haven’t had to analyse myself and put me in an identity box (others can do that for me).

Having children, however, has opened my eyes to more ideas about identity. My husband, Barry, and I have talked extensively about how we are going to bring up our children – both our base instincts on parenting and learned behaviour. When Barry held our son in the hospital for the first time, his immediate thought was “I’m going to have to teach this little thing to be a man”. Then later (when we’d got over the initial shock of being parents), he had to define what ‘man’ actually meant. Much of this was deciding what from our own childhoods was good/irrelevant/needed redefining.

Living in a box

Simplistically, I would love it if everyone didn’t put themselves or others in a box; people could just exist and co-exist. I don’t want to identify myself or be identified as a type – no one should care that I have Saxon heritage as supposed to any other heritage for example – I want to identify myself with the choices I have made in life, not what life has given me. And that is because I don’t have to struggle with being accepted.

It’s easy to only care about the things that directly affect us. Here are some quick stats from Jen’s blog, and things I didn’t particularly consider until I learned about them:

  • LGBTQ+ people in the UK weren’t legally protected from discrimination at work until 2003.
  • It wasn’t until 2007 that sexual orientation was written into the Equality Act.
  • It took until 2010 for gender reassignment to be added as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act.
  • As of June 2019, the UK Law does not offer any provision for non-binary individuals.
  • According to research performed by UM (Universal McCann), up to 60% of UK graduates will go back into the closet when they enter the world of work.

I find the final stat particularly frustrating. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) identified that 16 – 24 year olds have a higher percentage of people who consider themselves gay/lesbian/bisexual than other age groups. With all the other stresses of starting your first job, your sexual orientation and how it will be accepted by others just shouldn’t be another worry in a perfect world. So at the moment we HAVE to focus on the struggles and identity of LGBTQ+ people until what is considered ‘normal’ in every workplace changes to accept everyone. So what do we need to do? Yes acknowledge Pride Week, wear rainbow colours and put a post on LinkedIn. But all workplaces need a plan for the other 51 weeks of the year too.

In my perfect world, anyone can be who they like, and bonk who they like and it is just normal. This doesn’t take away the importance of who a person is or the choices they make, it’s about true acceptance. Perhaps in that world, we won’t need 5 words, we’ll just need to identify 1 word: Human.

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