LGBT+ trailblazers in media, tech, consumer and other industries came together for PinkNews Futures to give young queer people their best tips for finding that crucial first job and more.
This year’s crop of graduates are facing an unprecedented set of challenges as they enter the workplace. Local and nationwide lockdowns have had a severe impact on young people in the workplace, with under-25s more likely to be furloughed than any other age group.
LGBT+ graduates in particular traditionally have a hard time entering the job market – something that’s already a difficult enough task when there isn’t a pandemic sweeping across the globe.
With 41 to 62 per cent of undergraduates going back into the closet in their first job, the mission of PinkNews Futures was clear: to give young LGBT+ people the confidence they needed — both in themselves and in the job market.
‘I spent too long as an intern,’ says BBC LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte.
Minister for employment Mims Davies opened the conference discussing the future of employment, urging young people not to lose hope and detailing the plethora of opportunities and services put in place by the government to help young jobseekers.
Davies emphasised the importance of tenacity and resilience in the job market, sharing that her previous jobs included working in a yoghurt factory and selling kitchens.
“You name it, I’ve done it,” she said. “And everything that I have done, I have kept a friend or learned something new, and it’s been part of my work journey. Every job will help you get to where you want to be.”
Resilience and confidence were the words on everyone’s lips, as every speaker encouraged their young LGBT+ audience to value themselves and their potential.
“Be nice, but hustle hard,” was BBC LGBT+ correspondent Ben Hunte’s mantra as he urged his young listeners to put themselves out there in his keynote speech.
“You need to recognise your own impact in the media landscape. If I look back, I probably spent too long as an intern,” he advised.
“Impostor syndrome will not get you a job, simple as that.”
LGBT+ business leaders shatter the myth that finance is not a progressive industry.
A vivid array of companies and community leaders came together in a show of support for queer young people.
Industry leaders from IBM, Royal London, Zipcar, GCHQ, Sony Music, Snapchat, Linkedin and more were present throughout the week, alongside activists and advocacy groups fighting to counter stereotypes of what it meant to be openly queer in your place of work.
“We were thrilled to take part in the PinkNews Futures event and had some fantastic conversations with students and early professionals about how we support trans IBMers through their transition and also about HIV awareness and how employers can help eliminate the stigma,” says Ella Slade, Global LGBT+ Leader at IBM.
The week included panel discussions on race in the workplace, transitioning, sustainability and women’s empowerment, as well as explorations of LGBT+ identities in various sectors and coaching sessions for the attendees.
“Empowerment for me goes two ways,” argued Chantel Nickson, of Nestlé.
“It’s about having the right company saying the right things, and also about bi women, lesbian women or trans women forcing some of that empowerment.
“Whether I want to or not, I am a trans pioneer as Nestlé, and it’s my job to give other trans people the confidence to understand that they can come out too.”
Finance giants Macquarie and investment experts Baillie Gifford also joined the conference, uniting with KPMG to shatter the myth that finance is not a progressive industry.
They were joined by law firms Latham & Watkins and Blake Morgan, as well as communications whizzes Grayling and The Financial Times, all coming together in a stunning show of what being LGBT+ means in workplaces that fully embrace their staff.
Ultimately, the roster showed the audience that whether pursuing a career in media, coding, law or banking, sexuality and gender identity are not reasons to doubt yourself — employers out there are not just accepting, but eager to celebrate and support every identity under the LGBT+ umbrella.
Rachel from GCHQ said: “Being new into an organisation doesn’t mean you can’t make a big impact.
“It’s natural for those who are LGBT+ to have concerns about coming out in the workplace or fearing hostility, however, my experience has been that employers crave diversity; it’s certainly the case at GCHQ where diversity of thought is mission-critical.
“If a workforce is made up of a hoard of people who look the same and think the same then the results they achieve will always be the same. Be reassured that the difference you bring is your strength.”