Consider this common scenario: it is Friday afternoon and talk in the office turns as always to weekend plans. For many London PAs and secretaries, Friday night is either dinner with a partner or drinks with friends. In the course of discussions, it is natural to reveal who your partner is or the venues where your friends intend to hang out. Inadvertently, you are immediately revealing clues as to your sexuality. If you have hidden your sexuality during the recruitment process and then in the work place, you may now feel unable to join in these friendly conversations on a Friday. Does this make you feel as though you are working in an inclusive environment? Probably not. So is there an alternative?
Just to be 100% clear, no-one is required to disclose their sexual orientation at any stage during the recruitment process or even once placed in a job. No recruiter is legally allowed to ask the question at interview so why are women in top London jobs choosing to reveal their sexuality during the recruitment phase?
Lloyds CEO Inga Beale describes the huge strain she was under on a daily basis by hiding her bisexual relationship from work colleagues. It ultimately caused her to leave the City for a career break and prompted her to be upfront about her sexuality when she returned. By revealing her sexuality during the interview stage, she was not admitting to an issue affecting her ability to do her job, merely seeking reassurance that the company she was considering working for, genuinely supported diversity, and that she would feel included in spite of it rather than ostracised because of it.
Inga Beale hits on an important point about inclusion and being able to be yourself at work. As she explains, most people don’t particularly want to be labelled as different but do want to feel included. This is probably true for all aspects of our lives from childhood to old age.
What then is the advice for our LGBT applicants seeking PA, Admin and Secretarial jobs?
- Actively research LGBT friendly employees using helpful sites like Stonewall’s Starting Out: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Careers Guide and The Workplace Equality Index
- Check out the websites of the companies, who will interview you and see if their policies refer to sexual orientation.
- If you don’t want to reveal your sexual orientation at interview, do make sure you ask questions about the organisation’s diversity policies and how these are put into practice.
- Don’t randomly reveal your sexual orientation at interview merely to make a point or to gauge the reaction. As with all aspects of your interview, you are trying to market yourself in the most positive light so consider how revealing sexual orientation can be done in a positive way which will demonstrate how you are ideally suited to the position.
- Finally, the litmus test should be whether revealing your sexuality will make you feel more comfortable in the workplace. If concealing it results in a need for you to lie, you will not be feeling remotely comfortable.
Remember that the majority of top rated companies are seeking employees who can work in a diverse environment and can manage unconscious bias. Revealing your sexuality demonstrates your ability to take risks, show empathy and forge new paths. These are all qualities that will make you a desirable employee.
Evening Standard: Lloyd's CEO Inga Beale on coming out as bisexual in a job interview
Target Jobs: Sexual orientation: diversity matters