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Out and proud in the workplace

Men and women from public and private sector workplaces share their experiences of being LGBT in the workplace

Martina Malone, senior staff officer, Dublin City Council

It’s not always easy being an LGBTQ+ person. At least it is not easy being out in work. I believe, nationally, about 60 per cent of people who identify as LGBT+ are not out in work.

It is no different in Dublin City Council. It is one thing to have inclusive policies to protect employees. It is another to implement those policies particularly when policies are delivered from the top down and can appear disassociated from those they are meant to protect. But to help counter this would need more employees to be out in work. This can be complicated.

I am LGBT+ in work. It’s who I am. It makes sense to be out and to be yourself. You’ll perform better if you don’t have to conceal who you are or worry if you are going to be outed in work.

In 2013, myself and a small number of colleagues set up Dublin City Council’s LGBT+ Staff network — to provide support for LGBT+ colleagues, to promote LGBT+ visibility and more importantly to generate our own issues for consideration by the HR Department. This has involved a lot of hard work by Dublin City Council’s LGBT+ Network, some of which happened easily, like for example having a presence at PRIDE each year or hosting other Networks to further LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace. We have also assisted in setting up other local authority and civil service LGBT+ Networks and with the support of the senior management produced and LGBT+ Inclusion Strategy for Employees. These things are relatively easy to achieve when there is buy-in from the top. We are lucky to have a very progressive Chief Executive and senior management team that is broadly supportive. But embedding LGBT+ inclusion in the organisation or changing the culture of an organisation is not easily achieved. We are not yet where we should be when it comes to LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace and certainly not when it comes to inclusion for our Trans colleagues.

Emma Brady, community Garda, Store Street Garda Station, Dublin 1

As an LGBTQ+ person who is working in An Garda Síochána, this might sound ridiculous, but I don’t know any different. I was gay before I joined the guards and I was, I am, accepted for who I am. I’m very lucky to have extremely supportive work colleagues and friends within An Garda Síochána.

We could easily spend 10 to 12 hours a day in a car on patrol with each other, so you do know a lot about each other. I’m comfortable in myself and who I am, so it helps, and my colleagues know that.

I don’t feel I’m treated any differently in An Garda Síochána, because I’m gay.

OK, there have been times I have been called lesbian, dyke, and worse, on the street, but if I wasn’t prepared to be called names on the street, doing what I do, well, then I probably shouldn’t have joined the guards.

I marched in the Pride parade in 2019, in my uniform, as a member of An Garda Síochána. I marched down O’Connell Street, my own area of policing, with my friends and other colleagues, and colleagues from the PSNI, who joined us on the day.

I am an LGBTQ+ liaison officer in Store Street garda station, in Dublin.

I also recently attended a ‘dialogue day’ in Outhouse, on Capel Street. I met with groups from all over Ireland and we discussed how An Garda Síochána can do more to assist with LGBTQ+ people and groups around the country. I am also a member of GForce, within An Garda Síochána.

I am also called upon by colleagues to assist with incidents that involve LGBTQ+ people, or if the person has requested to speak to an LGBTQ+ liaison officer to report a crime related to LGBTQ+ matters.

Mícheál Barry, Learning & Development manager, European Operations, and co-chair of Pride@Apple

I've worked at Apple since October 1999 and have seen a lot of change since then. What started as a 60-person operation in 1980 is now a 6,000-person-strong community representing more than 100 countries. Inclusion & Diversity is a core value at Apple and I'm proud to be part of that. We talk about 'Different Together'. Because we're not all the same and that's our greatest strength. We draw on the differences in who we are, what we've experienced and how we think. To create products that serve everyone, we believe in including everyone.

Galvanised into action by the Marriage Equality campaign, Pride@Apple became Apple’s first DNA (Diversity Network Association) in Cork in 2015. Pride@Apple is focused on building a sense of community founded on shared experiences and advocacy for our LGBTQ colleagues.

The sponsorship and endorsement of Pride@Apple has led to the development of other groups — Women@Apple, Black@Apple, Accessibility@Apple and Parenting@Apple. We work closely with the DNAs to celebrate our intersectionality and to bring everybody in. Creating an environment that allows us to live and work in authenticity is very important to us. Our group includes members of the LGBTQ community and allies — and our mantra is “You don’t have to be, to belong!” I’m proud to work for a company like Apple with such an inclusive and diverse work environment where everyone is welcome.

Sgt Richard Muldarry, chair of Defence Forces LGBTQI+ Network ‘Defend with Pride’

At the beginning of my career in the Defence Forces, I invested a lot of time and energy disguising my sexual identity. I felt at the time, if my sexuality was known it would have a negative impact on my career. It was difficult feeling I could not be my authentic self when I came to work every day. I could never have imagined that in 2016 I would be part of launching ‘Defend with Pride’, the Defence Forces LGBTQI + Network. It is hard to describe the new sense of belonging I felt within an organisation that I had been part of for 17 years. This demonstration of support from the organisation gave me a new-found confidence in who I was as a person and allowed me to bring my whole self to work.

In 2018 the Defence Forces as an organisation participated in Dublin Pride for the first time in history. This gave us the opportunity to confirm our commitment to all members of the organisation but also to demonstrate to society our promise of inclusivity. This was an emotional moment for me and for many colleagues. Different generations came together and walked together proudly side by side through Dublin City. We will continue to participate in Pride, althoughvirtually this year, in order to show our solidarity to the LGBTQI+ community.

Martin Ryall, associate director, Bristol Myers Squibb

"BMS really believes in everyone bringing their authentic self to work," says Martin Ryall, associate director, quality operations, BMS in Blanchardstown.

“You are encouraged to be who you want to be and not cover up that you are gay or have a disability or are a mother or anything else. The company believes that together we achieve more. Everyone’s view has to be heard and diverse opinions lead to the best business decisions.”

This is in sharp contrast to his previous workplace.

“I was in such deep cover that I used to read the sports results on a Sunday just to have something to talk about on Monday. I didn’t talk about me and I didn’t let people in. I didn’t feel comfortable with who I was. When I came to BMS I found a workplace where everyone is celebrated for who they are. It’s really great to be in a workplace where I can admit I hate football.”

William Organ, Global Procurement associate analyst, PepsiCo

I feel that we have an exceptionally positive environment and policy protection for LGBT+ employees in PepsiCo.

PepsiCo’s employee resource group for LGBT+ employees, Equal, has nearly 30 years of history behind it with chapters all over world, including Ireland. What I feel makes this group work so well, is it’s very much a grassroots group. It’s made up of people that get involved because they want to be involved, whether it’s for themselves in bringing their full selves to work, or as an Ally for their friends as well as their co-workers.

As part of our celebration of Global Ally Day celebration last year, we had a huge Ally board that we asked people to sign as a way of taking an Ally Pledge and be an active supporter of LGBT+ people both in the workplace and at home.

What will always stay with me is the stories people had when they came to sign. One of the operators marched up to the board and proudly took a marker saying, “I’m delighted to sign this. I have a gay son and I’m very proud of him.”

One lady asked for a photo of her signing so she could send it to her mother and her wife. A team came up to sign together and it turned out they canvassed for marriage equality together.

We gave out hundreds of rainbow lanyards and asked people to wear them for the week, which they went on to do for the whole year, and proudly wear them while visiting our sites across the globe! Little things like these may seem inconsequential, but as an out gay man in the workplace, it swelled my heart to see the sea of rainbows in the Pepsi canteen.

Rebecca Murphy, youth mental health promotion co-ordinator, Jigsaw

I think being a lesbian and having personal experience of how homophobia can impact on your mental health, definitely gives me motivation to try and build a better world and improve the mental health of young people. I think being a lesbian has given me opportunities to develop insight into those structures, and it helps me to apply that across other parts of society to other systemic issues like racism, poverty, ableism etc that impact upon mental health.

I’ve known I was gay since I was 14, so I’ve had a lot of time to figure out my sexual orientation and how it works in relation to all other aspects of my life and personality. I don’t really “come out” anymore, I just live my life openly and talk about my wife and family as anyone else would. I feel really privileged to be able do that, and to work somewhere where that’s possible.

I co-developed, with BeLonG To, a workshop for adults who work or volunteer with young people around supporting the mental health of LGBT+ young people. It’s a great way for the two organisations to bring their expertise together to help make schools, youth services etc a more welcoming and inclusive place for LGBT+ young people.

Pride is both a demand for a better world and a celebration of what we’ve achieved. It’s about visibility and solidarity with those who cannot march, whether because they’re not out, or because it’s not safe in the area or country they live in.

Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health in Ireland, works to ensure that no young person feels alone, isolated and disconnected from others around them. It provides vital supports to young people with their mental health by working closely with communities across Ireland.

Akshay Choudhary, business integrity agent, Pinterest

A considerable amount of my role involves ensuring that Pinterest users have an inspiring experience on the platform. As an LGBTQ+ person of colour, my current role is quite interesting because those intersectional identities greatly inform and enhance my work.

Pinterest’s mission is to help people create a life they love, and I believe my role is even more important to help ensure Pinterest remains an inclusive, diverse as well as a welcoming platform.

Last year during Pride month we organised a fundraiser for BeLong To. We also marched in the Pride parade representing Pinterest for the first time.

This year, we established Pinwheels in our Dublin office, as our local chapter of the Pinterest employee community group that advocates for an inclusive product, company culture and brand on behalf of Pinterest’s LGBTQ+ and ally community.

Today’s tech industry is becoming an increasingly important (and sometimes indispensable) career choice. However, at the same time, because of its global reach, it is now a place where people from all over the world work. It is on its way to embrace diversity in terms of sexuality, gender and racial identities among others. So my advice is that being an LGBTQ+ person should in no way discourage you from making a career in this industry.

Brendan Walls, director of enterprise support | global customer operations regional lead at LinkedIn

As the saying goes — if you can’t see it, you can’t be it — so I feel it’s very important for other LGBTQ+ employees to see someone like “themselves” in leadership roles and being successful.

I’ve been heavily involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives during my time with LinkedIn. I started by leading our Dublin LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, out@IN. In this role, I helped build out a strategy of inclusion, education and an ally network. After over two years of successfully leading this for Dublin I was asked by our leadership team to build on this success and roll out an extended network across all of our EMEA operations. During this time we rolled out seven new out@IN chapters across Europe. We identified those with leadership skills within the group, mentored and coached them and I eventually passed the baton on to them to lead this group.

For me, Pride means not only self-acceptance, but also self-celebration. Being proud not only of who you are inside and out, but also of the LGBTQ+ community that you are part of, both past and future. We’ve come a long way from the 10 individuals who marched at our first Pride in 1974 to where we are today. We still have a lot of work to do, particularly with Trans rights, but I’m proud of our community and confident that we will continue to push for change.

Gary Nason, checkout supervisor, Tesco, Mahon Point, Cork

I enjoy my job as a checkout supervisor in Tesco, Mahon Point. I’ve been with the company about seven years. For me it’s very important to work for a company that is accepting of all people and which celebrates diversity as Tesco does. I’m very happy at work as my employers and colleagues are welcoming and open on diversity and inclusion. We accept each other for who we are.

I personally have always felt fully included in the workplace. I’ve always worked on checkouts and am now a checkout supervisor. I really enjoy my job and all the things that come with it.

I’m really involved in our fundraising for our charity partner Temple Street and love all the events that we do in-store as it gives me a chance to give back to a great cause whilst expressing my creativity with the interaction of customers.