June is Pride Month. A month to celebrate LGBTQ+ diversity, equality and inclusion. However, in 2018 Vodafone and OutNow published research that indicated that 41% of LGBTQ+ individuals go ‘back in the closet’ when they enter the workplace. That led us to think about what advice we can give to student members of the LGBTQ+ community to help with the transition from university to the workplace. We spoke with recent graduates Georgina, Robson and Tommy, from Enterprise Rent-A-Car to find out.
Seek out LGBTQ+ networks at your university
There is so much to do and get involved in that you can go through your whole university experience not fully knowing what support or opportunities are available. Aston University has an LGBT+ Charter – this is a great place to start to find out what your university is doing. Whether you are struggling to find your identity or looking for a network of friends and allies, there will be support available to you.
Tommy worked at his university’s Students’ Union and this was how he found out about the events for the LGBTQ+ community, including the Pride and History Month efforts. “It was amazing to see the Union go all out and cater for all students from all backgrounds: they knew how to make you feel included. My only wish was that I had been more involved in careers fairs, such as Student Pride, and networking events”.
Georgina shares that joining an LGBTQ+ society can have many benefits, as it enables you to meet new people and expand your network. “Every member of this community has a different view and different experiences that they can share – ultimately that will be what prepares you for later life. One thing I noticed after leaving university and beginning my life in the workplace, is that you never really stop ‘coming out’. No matter where you go, a new job, new friends, there is likely always a point where you have to come out again, whether that is mentioning your partner, your pronouns etc., it never really stops. I would recommend to all members of the LGBTQ+ community to find a safe space, find a good support network where you are comfortable and then nothing can stop you”.
Joining societies can also be great for enhancing your CV. It’s an opportunity to build your teamwork, leadership and communication skills. You can also get recognition for your work; Enterprise sponsors the University Society of the Year in the Queer Student Awards – we were amazed by the advocacy work this year’s entrants undertook.
When applying for jobs, do your research
For Georgina and Tommy, checking to see if the employer has ‘equal opportunity’ status or recognised as a Stonewall Top 100 LGBT Inclusive Employer was a must. “When applying for jobs, I refused to apply for a company that did not have at least one thing online about their diversity and inclusion policies or how they champion the LGBTQ+ community. I was not even necessarily in a position to be picky, but I refused to ever work for a company where I couldn’t be my authentic self. I spent the first 14 years of my life in the closet, there was no way I was going back (I do not even think I would fit in it the closet anymore!)”, Tommy shares.
Robson reflects that for him it wasn’t a conscious thought but now he realises that subconsciously he will have seen the Enterprise Pride logo, the diversity and inclusion awards and the blog posts on the website that share authentic stories of Enterprise’s LGBTQ+ employees and allies.
“I would always suggest asking what a company does to support their LGBTQ+ staff and the communities in which they work, what diversity training the company offers and whether there are any committees or support groups to join. These questions will give you a great insight into a company’s true standing when it comes to LGBTQ+ staff and customers,” shares Georgina.
Get involved in the workplace
Once you enter the workplace, you have an opportunity to be an advocate for equality. Enterprise has a vast LGBTQ+ network, EnterPRIDE, that regularly meet to discuss ideas on how they can promote awareness and inclusion within the company, and also what they can do for their local communities. All employees are encouraged to get involved, whether as a member of the LGBTQ+ community or as an ally. In 2019 Enterprise employees attended over 30 Pride events in the UK. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a stop to that this year.
“Enterprise are brilliant when it comes to all kinds of inclusion and diversity, whether that be gender, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexual orientation. For LGBTQ+ inclusion, we run specific events as well as company-wide diversity training. We spent LGBT History Month raising money for local LGBTQ+ charities by running a Rainbow Day, Rainbow Laces Day and a Rainbow Cake Day (take a look at the photos below!). We also had quizzes and lots of informative materials that were sent out to all employees throughout Pride month. We encouraged all of our colleagues to use a Pride banner and share their preferred pronouns on their email signature in an effort to normalise it for the LGBTQ+ community”, Georgina shares.
You can only perform at your very best if you have the freedom to be yourself – that’s true at university and in the workplace. We hear stories of individuals putting a lot of energy into hiding their true identity when that energy could have been better spent elsewhere. The advice from Enterprise’s recent graduates is to get involved at university, build your network, do some diversity and inclusion research on companies you might want to apply to but most of all, Georgina says, “just be yourself as good companies recognise the value in diversity and will go above and beyond to support you, regardless of how you choose to identify. Be proud of yourself and your community”.
Written by Enterprise Rent-A-Car