Creating a Culture of Inclusion
When I think about Pride, I’m reminded of a younger Ciarán, in a previous job, who went back into the proverbial closet. I came out early on in university but after I graduated, there was always a fear or worry that showing my full self would be too ‘awkward’ for my colleagues or that it could jeopardize my career opportunities.
As a young adult I thought my colleagues wouldn’t understand or appreciate what I was feeling. It’s important to remember that coming out is not just one moment, but several. When I was asked what I did over the weekend or what I had planned for the week, I’d keep it vague so as to not ‘reveal’ myself. Then one day a colleague of mine asked if I doing anything exciting over the next few weeks and after giving my standard response I asked him the same. His answer shocked me, “I’m going to celebrate Pride with my brother and his boyfriend”. I instantly realised that all that worry had been for nothing, what a waste. A time where I was unhappy, less engaged, and unmotivated. It also made me think about what Pride is about. Of course, it is a time of fun and glittery parties but more importantly it was created and continues to be a way to raise awareness of different communities and ways of life and encourage inclusivity.
Unfortunately, my story is not a unique one. In a recent Stonewall UK study one in seven LGBT people (14%) said they don’t feel able to be themselves at work. This increases to one in five for LGBT disabled people (21%), LGBT young people aged 18 to 24 (21%) and trans people (19%).
More than a third of LGB people (35%) have disguised or hidden the fact that they are LGB at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination. This rises to more than half of trans people (51%). It’s also higher among younger workers aged 18 to 24 (58%), LGBT disabled people (43%), and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) LGBT people (42%).
This is not just prevalent within the LGBTQ+ community, but also amongst employees who differ from most of their colleagues in gender, religion, race and socioeconomic background. These groups often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences, something called ‘identity cover’.
I'm lucky to have joined a team and workplace where I feel 100% included and comfortable being who I am. At AlphaSights, the majority of our hires are graduates, fostering a modern culture with a forward-thinking approach to diversity in the workplace.
As a member of the recruitment team I believe it is important to create an environment where people can be who they are, values their unique talents and perspectives, and in turn makes them want to stay.
I sat down with some of my colleagues to ask their thoughts.
What does inclusion in the workplace mean to you?
Win, an associate in our Client Service team, believes that inclusion is; “Having role models to look up to. Diversity in all ranks, especially in senior positions be it women, sexual orientation, and race.”
Mahrunisa Hamid, a coordinator within my team and a practicing Muslim, said: “Coming into AlphaSights I noticed that there were many people such as myself that had come from these different backgrounds and upbringings that were very different than my own. I always felt welcomed and encouraged to share those experiences to learn from others around me and so that others can learn from my experiences. Just recently we celebrated Eid at AlphaSights — to know that a company cares about my religious celebrations and have everyone come together to celebrate with me was overwhelming in the best sense of the word. My differences from others are what actually gave me a sense of belonging here.”
As we look to the future what can employers do to foster an inclusive working environment?
“I think firstly it's important to recognise and celebrate different backgrounds or religions. Bring awareness to historical and emerging issues and be an environment that encourages people to discuss these openly. Senior leaders also have a responsibility to lead by example and help others feel like they belong to an inclusive setting.”
I also spoke with Natasha Bhana, Head of Recruitment EMEA, and someone who prides herself on both her Polish and South African with Indian heritage, to get her thoughts on inclusion. “Creating an inclusive environment is no one person’s job. It's everyone's responsibility within a company to work towards and address. With that in mind, it's impossible to run with a single initiative and consider inclusivity to be tackled - creating an inclusive environment at work takes time and a multi-pronged approach. Looking specifically at the areas that I’m able to influence, small changes to our hiring practices i.e. no longer assessing candidates against ‘culture fit’ but rather thinking about ‘values alignment’, draws clearer lines for both candidates and hiring managers when decisions are made. By instilling this way of thinking from the beginning of a candidate's or employees’ journey, the hope is that during every review, every 1-1, every interaction, we are treating and rewarding people equally based on our values rather than personal biases which ultimately creates a more inclusive environment.”
During June and July, AlphaSights employees around the world recognised Pride both in and outside of work with speaker events, a fundraising bingo night, and a collegial brunch overlooking New York City’s Pride March to celebrate and recognise the value of inclusivity.
AlphaSights strives to maintain an inclusive work environment and hiring practices free from bias. In June 2019, AlphaSights London office ranked 10th in the UK’s Great Places to Work for Women rankings, awarded as a result of employees’ personal ratings.
Ciarán joined AlphaSights in January of 2019 as a Recruitment Coordinator in our London office.