Meet the LGBT+ leader fighting for equality in the workplace
With 62% of millennial LGBT+ graduates returning into the closet upon taking their first job, LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace is still a major challenge for young people today.
Campaign Manager Jessica Ireland sat down with Darren Beaumont, one of Financial Times Top 50 Future LGBT+ Leaders and a Technology Product Manager at Deutsche Bank, to learn about his journey coming out in the workplace and the importance of accessing LGBT+ networks.
Tell us about your role within Deutsche Bank and their Pride Employee Network
I joined Deutsche Bank’s technology division as a graduatenearly nine years ago and am currently a product manager for a self-service portal supporting 80,000 colleagues’ IT request and support needs.
Soon after joining the Bank I sought out dbPride – Deutsche Bank’s LGBT+ employee network which focuses on bringing like-minded colleagues together around LGBT+ topics.
Soon after joining dbPride, I was asked to be the network’s recruitment and engagement representative. I engaged in outreach, and organized events that promote LGBT+ inclusion. I’ve gone on to mentor junior colleagues who were going through similar journeys as I did, and sometimes even senior colleagues who know they are inclusive but aren’t sure how to communicate that in an effective way.
How do you feel about aspects of your personal life coming into the workplace?
When I look at my personal journey, I wasn't out in university so I wasn't a part of any LGBT+ networks. Whether Deutsche Bank was an LGBT+ friendly employer wasn't something I considered when I looking for employment.
It took me about six months to realise I could be both open about my personal life and successful at my job. Initially I held back my personal life when talking to colleagues. I unwittingly did the text book things like gender neutralizing terms or being vague about who I was with on the weekend. This wasn't because the company wasn't inclusive, but more of an internal fear.
Five years ago a colleague asked me to start using our internal social media platform to promote our dbPride group. I was nervous to do this as I didn’t want my sexual orientation to define who I was – but rather I wanted to be known for my work in technology.
So I looked at how I could weave in what I did around diversity into my everyday work. I started blogging about my experiences and challenging perceptions and stereotypes.
How have you seen this network progress since you joined DB?
The biggest change has been the formation of an allies program. Five years ago, dbPride observed that a lot of colleagues were supportive of LGBT+ inclusion but the majority wouldn't come to our events because they didn't identify as LGBT+. So we started running events specifically targeting allies.
Now a large number of allies attend our events, so it’s really changed the conversation from being insular to being about providing an inclusive workplace regardless of you sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, etc.
Society and organisations are now starting to see similar changes and progress towards greater transgender inclusion and awareness around gender expression and gender non-conformity.
For example, last year Deutsche Bank announced it was freezing plans to create 250 new jobs at its Cary, North Carolina, location due to state-wide legislation that invalidated existing protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fellow citizens in some municipalities.
Employee networks such as dbPride play an invaluable role partnering with their businesses leaders, and across the industry, to drive greater inclusion for all.
What advice would you give a young LGBT+ person who is struggling to find their way at work?
Look at your intranet and see if there is an employee resource group or network. There may not be an LGBT+ network, but there may be a general diversity or employee network. Find out who the Chairs of the networks are and go for coffee with them to get a sense of who they are and what their networks aim to achieve.
If you're in a bigger company, look for an ally network or Allies may be identifiable via an LGBT+ flag on their desk or an allies badge on their bag. You can ask them about why they are an ally. That’s often a good conversation starter for sharing why allies are important to you.
There are a few cross-industry networks such as Inclusive Networks or charities such as Stonewall that all offer information and events to learn more about how to be yourself in the workplace. These organizations can tell you what support groups are in your area. Lastly, look for role models and mentors and speak to them.
What has been your proudest moment as an LGBT+ role model?
Impacting people that I never realized I would. When I blog or share my story it's about sharing a message both internally and externally. People come forward who you never expected to read your blog and say, "I read this and I connected with it" and the relationship that you have with that person becomes stronger, more open and you can better work together moving forward.
If we want to change the world for the better, we have to have those visible role models who say "Hey, here is my story". This can be via a large blogging platform or by sharing you story with just one other person. It is important to showcase the diversity of people within communities – LGBT+ people are all different.
For me doing this in a way that showcases being bisexual as just another aspect of my life helps dispels stereotypes and feels really empowering. As a mentor it makes me excited when you know you’ve made a difference and helped someone else grow.
Do you want to share your story? Comment below, reach out to your networks, and share your journey. You never know who you may be able to impact!