Ella is as an out and proud lesbian working at IBM. Having recently gone through the job seeking process, she shares her experience and advice about coming out at work and how to know if the company you are joining has a truly inclusive culture.
With Ella Slade
Job seeking is never easy: there is so much stress, confusion and anxiety associated with it! But being part of the LGBT+ community means that often we have additional apprehensions when looking at potential employers. Am I going to fit in? Will I be discriminated against? Will I be able to be myself? These are just a few! It is not surprising that 62% of LGBT+ millennials go back into the closet when starting a job after university.
In this interview, Ella shares her experience and offers some advice as an out and proud lesbian.
When did you come out at work?
I came out in my job interview. I ended up talking about the work I’d done as part of my LGBT network at university. It does take strength, particularly if it’s your first big job. You really want to make a good first impression and sometimes you don’t know how people will react to you being LGBT. But I think the best thing is to attack it right from the beginning and be straight up straight away.
Are you involved with an LGBT+ network group?
We’ve got a really strong LGBT+ network at IBM. We have one in the majority of countries we operate in where it’s safe to have one. On my very first day I saw someone speak in an induction session about what the network does and I was instantly interested. It was really easy to get involved and everyone was so approachable.
So do you see yourself as a role model at work?
I think once you start looking at your own role models, it becomes easier to see yourself as one. I have some amazing role models at work – like my manager. Because from the start she was so approachable, I felt relaxed around her and completely myself. I also meet so many role models through the LGBT+ network. Some of them are in really senior positions and out – and that’s really aspirational. I now see myself as role model. Being open, honest and willing to have conversations about LGBT+ rights and issues helps educate non-LGBT+ colleagues. Hopefully it’ll have a ripple effect – because they’ll talk to their partners and friends and it’ll carry on.
What advice would you give to LGBT+ job seekers looking for an inclusive workplace?
Do your research; find out what they’re doing for the LGBT+ community. Sponsoring Pride is one thing, but what are they doing when it’s not pride season? Find out what their history of inclusion is and what they’re committed to.
Talk to someone, maybe a friend of a friend who’s worked at the company. Or maybe chat to a connection on LinkedIn – see what they think in terms of inclusivity. Trying to talk to people is really important, but it should come with the research too.
You need to stay true to yourself. It’s stressful applying for jobs and you just want to get one. I think sometimes people compromise on things like an inclusive environment. But there are some things you can’t compromise on, because that’s going to have a knock-on effect on your mental health and your happiness. Just be true to yourself from the very beginning.
Ella joined IBM in 2014 as a recruitment intern in IBM UK and was hired full-time shortly after graduation. She is part of the Global Talent Attraction team and is responsible for the social media content on IBM Jobs Global Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as overseeing the content on local recruitment social accounts. She is an active member of IBM EAGLE, the LGBT+ community within IBM. Outside of work, Ella plays field hockey for a local LGBT+ hockey club and has a pet snake named Neville.