Profile picture of Sam, UoN graduate

March 23, 2023, by Leah Sharpe

LGBTQIA+ Identity in the Workplace

By Sam Hawkins, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Manager at Anglia Ruskin University

Can you describe your career journey so far?

I currently work at Anglia Ruskin University as the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Manager, where our team makes sure all employees feel safe and supported and that opportunity and recognition are available to all. I’ve worked in EDI for a couple of years now, previously working at the University of Leeds, and before that at the University of Nottingham Students’ Union as the Liberation Officer.

What concerns did you have about the recruitment process and entering the workplace?

It may be because I work in EDI, but I didn’t have many concerns about entering the workplace as a queer man. In fact, an ex-colleague inspired me to make a point of it. This ex-colleague told me that, most of the time, there isn’t a situation in which you lose if you put yourself out there – either they’re respectful and you get the support you need, or you realise the space isn’t for you and you can make an informed decision to leave for something better. Either way, you become one step closer to a great working experience. Of course, this will all depend on whether you think it’s safe to be ‘out’ or not, which will be the most important consideration here.

What advice would you give to students from the community around identifying networks, positive allyship in action and challenging any microaggressions in the workplace?

It’s crucial you find your allies in any workplace – whether that be more generally for your area of work or specifically to your identity. Those people will be the ones who help you realise you’re not overreacting and yes… that person really did say that! You will have your way of finding people who are aligned with you, and people’s actions will tell you everything you need to know about whether they’re authentically committed to EDI and allyship.

Any reflections, words of wisdom, or best advice you’ve been given?

Whom you work with matters so much more than what you work as. Pick and stay in jobs with people you want to learn from instead of prioritising specific titles or salary. I’ve worked with some incredibly smart and kind people who have mentored, coached, and taught me more than I can ever thank them for. When you develop your skills, opportunities will follow. However, when you only focus on the salary, you may not live up to expectations if you don’t have the skills.

Build your brand, because it will get you far. For instance, if you are seen as someone who gets things done and are considered a safe pair of hands, you’re more likely to be trusted with new opportunities. Do your job and do it well, and let the work speak for itself.

Finally, and probably most important, your job is you, but you are not your job. You’re probably going to be the only person who occupies your specific role (unless you do a job share). However, you will occupy so many different realities in your life that need your attention – as a friend, a family member, a dad to dogs, who knows! When you’re working hard, remember to have a balance and give attention to your other realities, too.

Explore schemes and roles to increase diversity in the workplace.

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