We spoke to LSE alumni, industry experts and professionals in the run up to our LBGTQ+ recruitment and networking evening to hear their key insights and advice on why diversity and inclusion is important, how you can research to see if firms are diverse and inclusive, and advice on how to navigate your first three months.
Why is diversity and inclusion within the workplace important?
Diversity and inclusion matters on a number of different levels: economic, societal, company and personal. There is a host of research pointing to the hard metrics of improved performance by diverse teams, superior stock market returns, improved decision making, better customer insights, improved employee satisfaction, engagement and well-being. But most important of all these things, it’s just the right thing to do.
Director of Strategy at EY-Parthenon, Ray MacSweeney, shared that within EY-Parthenon they talk about belonging. They focus on championing and modelling behaviours that enhance a feeling a belonging, and the discouragement of attitudes that go against bringing your authentic self to work. This creates an environment where they accept each other’s strengths, perspectives and backgrounds enabling them to be exceptional together. Ray shared that he has seen multiple times in practice his organisation challenge where this has not happened, and this has included walking away from engagements and clients.
David Hautefeuille, Associate Account Strategist at Google, shared that working in a company such as Google, where you have the opportunity to shine in an environment where you can feel safe to bring all of you, is very important. David stressed that being your authentic self will lead to greater engagement, connection, performance but more importantly happiness.
Being part of diverse and inclusive environments within the workplace enables us to not think about the pronouns we use when we talk about our Partners with colleagues or clients. We can gossip with colleagues about what we did at the weekend and not feel like that anyone is judging. These positive environments where you can be your authentic self and where your organisation shares these values and will support you if ever you encountered a situation is important. Despite this, research still shows that around 40% of employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer go back into the closet when they start their career. Spending time researching potential employers is important and finding a truly diverse and inclusive employer will allow you to be who you are from day one.
How do you know if a firm is diverse and inclusive?
- A lot of companies have dedicated and informative diversity sections on their websites. There is a lot of useful information here about what the firm is doing to make their organisation both diverse and inclusive. For example, at Google, you can find this here.
- Do research on Glassdoor, LinkedIn and make use of various indexes such as Stonewall Top 100 employers.
- Attending specific LGBTQ+ networking events are a great way to continue to build your understanding of what different firms are doing. It allows you to network and connect with their representatives who identify as LGBTQ+ and understand what their experiences have been.
- Reach out to individuals within the organisation and network with them to help you better understand the organisation’s culture.
- Ask yourself the following questions when you are completing your research:
- Does the company speak up for what they believe in? Do they go beyond just making statement to being active participant in moving the debate forward?
- Do they set hard targets for diversity?
- The truth is there is no way to truly know but don’t rely solely on what a firm says about themselves, what a previous employee shares or what the website says. Ideally you should try to do a bit of everything and make use of multiple sources. Network, ask people and look ‘beyond the stage’.
- When students meet employers there are lots of questions to ask. Suggest asking “if I come and work for you, will I feel loved?”. If an employer makes you feel loved, that’s where you belong.
How do you navigate the first three months?
- Meet as many people as you can – invite them for a tea/coffee and you’ll never know when you might make a great friend for life or whether they’ll be a really helpful contact in the future.
- Get involved in shaping your company or firm – ask around or do some digging on your staff network pages to see what networks or internal initiatives exist (or if you can’t find something that speaks to you, start your own!) – you might make some more great connections or make your company a better place to work for yourself and others.
- Bring your authentic self to work from day one and don’t be afraid to talk about what makes you, you. Sometimes this can feel difficult and uncomfortable initially, but you should not feel that you need to hold back important parts of your life.
Advice for having a successful career
- Try to work with people smarter than you. You’ll learn more from them.
Do things that are interesting. You’re going to be working a long time, so you should enjoy it!
- Don’t be afraid of trying and failing, everyone’s human – just make sure you learn from any mistakes!
- Careers are mixture of plans and lucky breaks. Have enough of a plan to know where you’re going, and enough flexibility to take the opportunities.
- Find somewhere to work where you can be your authentic self. It’s just so much easier to come into the office without the cognitive overhead of watching your pronouns each and every day.
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself and don’t hide who you are.
With thanks to our contributors:
David Hautefeuille, Associate Account Strategist at Google
Ray MacSweeney, Director, Strategy at EY-Parthenon
David Pearson, Director at KPMG