Fiona Lush, Portfolio Lead and a proud Out role model at Kyndryl shares her journey to acceptance in the corporate world.
Fiona, can you share a bit about your journey of coming out at work and how it has impacted your professional life?
I understand that being “out at work” can feel daunting, and while I now identify publicly in business as a lesbian or gay woman, it wasn’t always this way. For a time, I hid my truth at work, worrying that coming out would affect my working relationships, leave people giggling behind my back or even hinder my chance of promotion. Everyone in the LGBTQ+ community has had a different experience of coming out, at work or otherwise, but for me, opening up about my sexuality was liberating.
What motivated you to be open about your sexuality in the workplace, despite the concerns and fears you initially had
I hope that my being out at work helps others feel they can be out too, that they can bring their true selves to work and that colleagues will be supportive and accepting. Coming out at work was a weight off my shoulders. I no longer felt stressed about answering questions about my life outside of work; I could just be myself.
How would have seeing/having visible LGBTQ+ role models in the corporate setting impacted your journey?
Representation is key to effecting true change, and by being open about my sexuality in the workplace, I hope to play a part in helping others know they can be open too, without negative consequences, and experience a supportive and accepting environment.
What advice would you give to organisations striving to create a more inclusive and accepting environment for their LGBTQ+ employees?
By building LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the organisation, business leaders can ensure that their culture gives employees and customers the respect they demand and deserve. Inclusivity feeds into a wider sense of mental wellbeing, with people feeling more comfortable in their own skin and happier in their work, boosting staff retention.
Within a supportive and inclusive environment, people no longer need to feel anxious or stressed, allowing them to direct their energy to creative thinking and problem-solving, increasing productivity and workplace satisfaction. This, in turn, makes an organisation much more attractive to potential talent from diverse backgrounds, creating a positive cycle of inclusivity.
How can individuals become better allies and support LGBTQ+ colleagues in the workplace?
If you hear something inappropriate, whether it’s regarding sexuality, gender, race or any other protected characteristic, challenge it, don’t look the other way. Challenge it in the workplace, at home, socially – wherever needed.
To be supportive, it’s important to be encouraging but not intrusive. Before I came out at work, for example, colleagues would say things like, ‘I have gay friends, and I’m totally cool with it’ or ‘My wife has a new colleague who’s gay; maybe we could all go out for a drink sometime?’ They, of course, suspected I was gay and wanted me to know that they were not only cool with it but encouraged me to be myself. Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter whom someone loves; just be kind.