'I went back in the closet when I changed jobs.'

This Pride Month, we revisit our fascinating interview with Jan Gooding, former Chair of LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall. Recalling her personal experiences of coming out at work, Jan talks about employer empathy, wellbeing and performance.  

As Chair of Stonewall, Jan Gooding led a charity that champions the rights of the LGBTQ+ community throughout society, but with a particular focus on inclusive workplaces. So, we were privileged when Jan agreed to an interview, shortly after the first wave of the pandemic. She spoke candidly about her own experiences of coming out in the workplace. 

As she explained to journalist Matthew Gwyther, when she first came out at work she hadn't fully reconciled herself with being gay. The situation was almost as unexpected for her as it was for her employer.

"I was treating it as an aberration". However, the openness with which her boss responded sparked feelings of gratitude that endure today. 

Conversely, after changing jobs, she received the dubious advice from a new colleague that to "let people know you're a lesbian [...] will not play well". This resulted in Jan going back in the closet after a year of being out in the workplace. Feeling oppressed and at risk, Jan described how she became tired of having to cover up elements of her personal life that she assumed were at odds with her employer's cultural norm. 

20% of closeted LGBT workers looking for new jobs

A 2018 report from US advocacy and lobbying foundation Human Rights Campaign found that 17% of LGBTQ+ workers "felt exhausted from spending time and energy hiding their sexual orientation and 13% from not disclosing their gender identity". This psychological impact brings risk not only to the health of the individual but the organisation too, with 20% of those surveyed admitting to searching for a different job as a direct result. 

So, this Pride Month, we're calling on leaders in the world of work to champion a culture in their organisations that encourages openness, educates people about diversity, and removes the stigma that makes employees leave fundamental parts of themselves at the front door. It's not just the right thing to do for your people - it's better for business too. 

You can watch the first excerpt of our video with Jan Gooding below, and sign up for blog updates using the form.

We'll share further extracts from Jan's fascinating interview and more invaluable insights about workplace wellbeing from GoodShape.

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