PinkNews Futures: Young LGBT+ jobseekers empowered to ‘bring their whole selves to work’
PinkNews Futures arrived in Manchester with a kaleidoscopic line-up of speakers sharing wisdom with young LGBT+ jobseekers.
PinkNews‘ flagship careers event travelled to Manchester for the first time, bringing LGBT+ young people together with industry experts and inclusive employers for a brilliant and varied day of learning and networking.
With Stonewall research finding that around 18 per cent of LGBT+ jobseekers have been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the pandemic continuing to impact young people beginning their careers, events like PinkNews Futures are a vital opportunity.
The one-day event coincided with the start of Trans Awareness Week, and welcomed keynote speaker Christine Burns MBE.
Burns has been campaigning for the civil rights of transgender people for over 30 years and previously worked as an equalities consultant in public sector organisations. She has also worked on employment legislation for trans people, consulted on the Gender Recognition Act, and wrote the first ever official guidance about trans health from the Department of Health.
Kicking off the day, Burns gave a speech about the history of trans allyship in Britain – something she argued is more important than ever in the face of a hostile mainstream media.
“We’re in a moment which is defined by egregious lying,” Burns said. “The press has really ill-served the nation across the board, whether it’s allowing people to be suckered by anti-vax arguments, or climate change denial, or lies about trans people… people are not in the position to make rational decisions about what is the right thing because they’re fed misinformation.”
She added that the media’s attacks on trans rights have “got to have some kind of reckoning”, one that “has to come within the industry itself”.
Burns’ speech was followed by panel discussions on topics such as: Make Yourself Employable, Intersectionality and Allyship at Work, Working with your Mental Health, Transitioning at Work, The Power of Networks (which was hosted by JLL) and Bridging The Gap: LGBT+ Mentoring.
Each panel was hosted by experts in diversity and inclusion from employers including Sage, DWP, Thoughtworks UK, NUS UK, We Create Space, Career Accelerator and GCHQ, as well as community organisers and activists with expertise on LGBT+ inclusion across the board.
Rico Naylor, a graduate surveyor at JLL, spoke during the Power of Networks panel.
“Coming into the infrastructure industry, which I think everyone knows is a white man, middle class and middle age dominated industry – there’s not that representation there,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to some of the larger events; it’s one of those where you look around the room and you notice the lack of representation. [Coming into] the industry and being open about my sexuality, I want to have the responsibility, almost, to run so other people can walk.
“It’s a really difficult thing to tackle, kind of the double-ended sword of being Black and gay and just not having that really in the industry at all. To others, that’s going to be an intimidating thing, but for me, I see it as an opportunity to come in and be that face, be that point of contact, so if people are like: ‘How did you navigate that? How was your journey?’ I want to be able to bring other people together and just talk about my story. I think it’s easy to pigeonhole yourself and not really want to get involved in too many things. I think you’ve got to – in your own time – be bold, so other people have the opportunity and the space to be able to follow in the footsteps that there’s not enough of.”
During the Intersectionality and Allyship at Work panel, attendees heard from a GCHQ employee named Jane.
Jane spoke of the importance of creating safe spaces at work. Many businesses and public sector organisations are encouraging people to “bring their whole selves to work,” Jane said, but it’s equally important to also have the right policies in place that protect LGBT+ people.
“I get a lot more out of being visible,” Jane said. She encouraged those who feel safe to do so to join Pride networks or community groups at work, and shared her hope that diversity and inclusion efforts would become a top-down issue for all employers.
“It encourages people who may not be as forward-leaning… having people at a senior level publicly involved [in diversity and inclusion efforts] can galvanise them. It changes passive allies into active allies.”
Stonewall estimates that 35 per cent of LGBT+ staff have hidden or disguised their identity at work because they were afraid of discrimination.
Reflecting on the event, Mac Boatswain, building surveyor and chair of Building Pride at JLL, said: “JLL jumped at the opportunity to host PinkNews Futures at its offices in Manchester to encourage aspiring young talent into a career in property, and to break the perception of what this may look like.
“JLL’s LGBT+ employee network Building Pride are a group of passionate individuals working to empower underrepresented groups, who want to push a greater representation and provide a safe space at JLL where individuals can thrive. The Building Pride Network and myself agreed on how important it was to support PinkNews Futures to create its own safe space for students to learn and take that first step to becoming future leaders.”
After 10 successful editions, the purpose of PinkNews Futures remains the same: “To encourage LGBT+ young people to go into their careers with full confidence that their sexuality or gender will not hinder their progress.”