Big Business needs to be loudly inclusive

To gain the diverse work force they all need, businesses need to be loudly inclusive.

At Rolls-Royce I’m a software engineer as part of the High Performance Computing team. I’m currently on a placement year from university where I study computer science. I’m a huge open source software enthusiast and general extroverted nerd. I’m also a trans-women, a trustee of Coventry Pride, and a proud LGBT+ activist and woman in technology.

As an LGBT+ person in a STEM based computing career, the BCS and #OutInSTEM is a cause dear to my heart.

When I joined Rolls-Royce as an intern I uncharacteristically started out presenting as male due to feeling incredibly uncomfortable at the idea of being a young, trans, intern in a largely male work force dominated by long term employees.

I didn’t want to be judged

After a few months of working here, I started to feel that I could no longer pretend to be someone I wasn’t in work, and I’d have to start being the person who I am everywhere else outside of work.

I went to see a member of the Prism Rolls-Royce LGBT+ Network committee for advice. Together, we started to organise meetings with my managers, HR and team to support me transitioning at work.

Within a week or so, everyone who needed to know, knew. Everyone used the right names, pronouns and essentially acted as if it has always been this way.

I got involved with Prism’s events and in a trans advisory group as part of Prism with aim to support other people who might feel like I did when I first joined.

To me, Prism resulted in my happiness at work and meeting several people I’m happy to consider friends.

My story is of a very successful coming out, one that has improved my life tremendously. The environment it happened in is consistent with many other stories of trans people in STEM based working environments.

They’re on average over 90 per cent straight male dominated environments. While not normally intentionally intimidating, for LGBT+ people it can be a highly intimidating environment.

We feel a pressure to conform and be normal like all those other straight men around us. Although we may not display that outwardly, after a time it starts to push your mood down, stifle you being your normal happy self.

This LGBT+ History Month, it’s really important to remember that we still have a lot of work to be done as a movement. The STEM work place can still be diversified a huge amount to help not only LGBT+ employees feel more comfortable, but also women, young people and foreign workers.

We need to work on normalising inclusive language. Crushing the sexist and homophobic micro-aggressions, and asking ‘do you have a partner’ instead of assuming a woman only dates men.

What can you do to help?

Whether LGBT+, cisgender, straight, or just a human, you can start by correcting people’s sexist and homophobic comments. Being open about your gender and sexuality and making sure to talk to other people using inclusive language.

If you’re feeling more confident, organise an LGBT+ event, set up an LGBT+ Network, and convince your company to sponsor a local Pride event.

If you can take action, take it

Push STEM companies into being inclusive. Not just passively ‘equal employment’ inclusive, but openly, loudly inclusive and keen to attract a diverse workforce.

(Written for the British Computer Society’s LGBT History Month campaign 2017 and avalible here: http://www.bcs.org/category/19007)