How can acceptance drive more diversity in property?
I never really ‘came out’ at work but I certainly wasn’t open about it either. I actively referred to my girlfriend as my partner, dodged conversations around gender and avoided work social situations.
At the time I worked in a business where staff were predominantly an older generation, this made me feel like perhaps it wasn’t accepted and made me fear being open. I was concerned about how people would react, how they would treat me and how this may affect my career.
I was ‘outed’ when my girlfriend picked me up from the office one day. Apart from some surprised faces there was zero animosity about it at all. I'd spent three years actively hiding it and then it was just open news and no reaction. So, for me the difficult part was more the fear of the unknown and how it might affect me, my career and my relationships.
At home, my coming out was similar. I’d hidden it for a while and when I did come out my mum said ‘obviously – I have three daughters and I thought one of you must be. I just wasn’t sure it would be you.’
My mum is Catholic but very open minded. She doesn't see my sexuality as defining me, it's just something that's there, it doesn't mean anything and doesn’t change anyone's perception of me. In recent years, we have started having more in-depth conversations about her beliefs about children and families. This can be a struggle because our beliefs are different, but we tackle them together and she always fully supports my decisions.
I recognise that my coming out story has been met with acceptance and support, however I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people. Being honest and true to yourself should be met with encouragement, so that we eliminate the fear that many people face in the workplace.
I am focused on educating people on the LGBTQ+ community, particularly the use of correct language and understanding identities and pronouns. Recently we’ve seen the use of pronouns on many business signatures which is a step in the right direction but there’s a lot more to do. Until everyone feels safe at work, in their own community and in wider society, the work to make it happen will not stop.
We need to continue to work together to raise awareness and create a positive, respectful, equal environment and to champion and encourage a more diverse property industry. In ten years’ time my hope is that we are all in an environment where people can be who they want to be - open and honest - where inclusivity is standard and these conversations don't have to be had because it's embedded in our culture.
Head of Prime Property Management, JLL