In week two of our blogs on diversity and inclusion, Craig Jones, Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs, gives a personal take on why it’s so important to feel comfortable being yourself at work.
Here at the ASA we recently held our first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Week. It’s been a brilliant initiative that’s reminded us of the importance of making sure we have an environment that’s open and welcoming for everyone.
As part of the week, I was asked to share my personal thoughts about EDI. For me, it’s really straightforward: it’s about the importance of feeling able to be yourself at work. I have some experience of this, since during my twenties I kept my sexuality from my colleagues. I could say this was through a wish to keep my personal life private - which would have been a totally legitimate choice - but in truth it wasn’t anything like that. I did it because I was worried some people would think less of me.
After some years of this, I found that, in fact, most people seemed to have already guessed, and apparently were wondering why I wasn’t being more open. My enthusiastic reviews of three Spice Girls reunion concerts I attended in quick succession might have been a clue. A member of my team suggested I chill out a bit, lifting a barrier that didn’t need to be there – one that I’d erected myself, in fact. And there was a realisation: I’d kept quiet because I thought some people would think less of me, but, ironically, keeping a part of my life hidden away gave some of my colleagues the impression I didn’t trust them.
For a lot of LGBT people, ‘coming out’ isn’t a one-off event, but a recurring, sometimes anxious, process when they meet new friends or change jobs. Choosing to keep personal stuff private is entirely valid, but no-one should worry they can’t be open for fear of being judged or under-valued. To get there, organisations need to play their part in making sure people feel able to be themselves at work. That’s why I now wish there’d been an EDI Week in my previous organisations. And it’s why I’m so enthusiastic about ours here at the ASA.
I went on to get a different perspective on EDI, since my next role (music taste unchanged) was to develop the communications strategy for the bill that became the Equality Act 2010. I learned that legislation has an important role in strengthening protections, but it’s also about organisations making sure they have the right ethos and culture. Moreover, it’s about all of us challenging ourselves on what more we can do as individuals.
These principles apply to the full range of protected characteristics: age, sex, race, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, sexual orientation, and religion or belief. We’re all different and diverse in our own ways. That’s why we all have an interest in making sure ours is a welcoming and supportive environment for all.
Thanks to our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officers at the ASA for reminding us of the importance of these qualities during EDI week, and thanks to you as well for taking an interest by reading this article.
Want to hear more? Read our blog from week one, where our Equality and Diversity Officer, the organiser of the ASA’s first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion week, explains why it’s a subject so close to her heart, and how it’s central to the work we do at the ASA.