On 26th February we had the privilege of holding the University of Bath’s first ever LGBT+ centred Careers Service panel. This event was held as part of the LGBT+ careers week and we welcomed four wonderful speakers to Chancellor's Building to discuss their experiences of being LGBT+ at work.
This panel came about partly as a result of the Stonewall report 2018, which found that that one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months. In response to this and to prepare our students for placements and graduate roles, the Careers Service with support from the LGBT+ SU Group and LGBT+ staff (Kaleidoscope) set up a panel session to address some key concerns for LGBT+ students. We hoped this event would give students:
- Useful information and build confidence about coming out at work,
- Know where to go if they ever experience issues of bullying, harassment or discrimination
- Know how to target diversity friendly employers
- Understand how mentors can provide support
- Find out more about LGBT+ and the workplace, and how you can be a supportive ally.
Therefore, a panel of four professionals was the perfect opportunity to hear about real life work experiences and environments as part of the LGBT+ community.
Our first speaker of the night was Dr Harry Roberts, a mechanical engineer at EDF Energy. Harry begun his career in the electricity industry at Dinorwig Power Station, a pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme in North Wales. Since 2004 he has worked in the nuclear generation industry, for 10 years with Magnox Ltd, and now with EDF Energy since 2014. Harry was nearly 40 when he came out as trans at EDF in 2016, which he said was a very nerve-wracking experience. However, EDF were nothing but supportive and inclusive when he came out; he is now one of the deputy chairs and Transgender Support Lead for EDF’s LGBT+ Supporters Network. Reflecting on his coming out experience, he says it went well. Human Resources and his senior manager at EDF were fully supportive and were clear how and to whom to come out to were up to him. Harry decided to come out personally to his immediate colleagues but via a handwritten note emailed to all fellow employees at EDF in the office at Gloucester, explaining what coming out as trans meant, that he is the same person and asking for them to treat him with respect even if they couldn’t understand fully or agree with his transition. Although Harry was very relieved that everyone accepted him as trans, what surprised him were the emails of support he received from co-workers he had never met. In terms of disclosing being LGBT+ at work, Harry’ decided that he wanted to be open, and by increasing visibility of being trans, help make it less of a “thing”, something we should strive for. For the most part Harry’s day-to-day work has carried on like before; transitioning in work has gone very well so far and EDF have been very supportive. Harry’s speech was inspiring and a very positive account of being LGBT+ in the workplace. To find out more about EDF and their job opportunities visit https://www.edfenergy.com/careers
Caroline Hollis is a Student Accommodation Reception Coordinator here at University of Bath, and she is also the co-chair of Kaleidoscope, the staff LGBT+ society at Bath. Caroline graduated in 2015 from Bath Spa University with a BSc in Sociology, and searching for work she sought to find a job somewhere with a diverse and inclusive work force. Her first job out of university was in retail where she worked for a year and a half. Then she found her current job at Bath. Arriving at University of Bath she wanted to find an LGBT network for staff but found that there did not seem to be an active group. She decided to get involved with the new LGBT staff network when Sophie Miles and Ed Stevens breathed new life into the group and sent out a call for committee members.
Caroline remarks that she doesn’t feel that she has been blatantly discriminated against at work due to being gay, but that it does influence her life experiences in both a positive and sometimes negative way. She makes a point of being transparent from the start at work, bringing up her partner in conversation. She believes that, when safe to do so, the more open, honest and sometimes vulnerable people are with their colleagues and the general public, the more widely accepted being LGBT+ will be. People can start to realise that LGBT+ people do not just exist in a vacuum, and that their experiences are relevant and all around us. Caroline recognises that transparency is not always possible, and feeling safe to disclose at work is a position of privilege that not everyone currently has. She hopes to contribute towards creating positive change for the LGBT+ community in the workplace and encourages everyone to create the space for this type of group. If an LGBT+ network does not exist in your workplace…create it!
Kaleidoscope aims to create a supportive LGBT+ community for staff and postgraduate researchers at the University of Bath. We organise social events, represent the interests of LGBT+ staff at University level and provide workshops and training events through collaborations with charities and other local networks.
Visit Kaleidoscope’s website http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/kaleidoscope/ for blogs and for more information.
This wraps up the first half of the blog from the evening, the second blog comprising the final two speakers and the Q&A session will be published soon.
Maisie Goodson - Student Events Assistant - Careers Service