PinkNews Futures made its post-lockdown return last weekend, with LGBT+ graduates and young people connecting with industry experts to get a foothold in the job market.
The post-COVID job market is more competitive and challenging than ever before, and many of the attendees at PinkNews Futures said they were placing their hopes the Kickstarter scheme – which was recently extended till the end of March 2022.
Financial Times’s diversity and inclusion partner Jacqui Dobson kicked off one of the day’s many panel discussions by encouraging attendees to reconsider work experience schemes, having personally witnessing the benefits. Dobson managed a group of 13 Kickstart recruits and successfully kept on 11.
The scheme allowed junior members to “liaise with the CEO and board members”, and as a result they “felt more included”.
“Fewer problems arise when there is more diversity and inclusion within the workforce,” Dobson added.
Speaking with industry representatives from Sony Music, Accenture, Baillie Gifford, Gilead Sciences and Hertfordshire County Council, one attendee bravely posed the question: How do I bring my queerness to work?
Although a recent report by UCAS and the charity Stonewall found that nine out of 10 LGBT+ students have a positive or neutral experience of the UK education system, when entering the workforce, more than a third of LGBT+ staff still struggle to be open about their identity.
“The first year can make or break it for LGBT+ employees,” said Kushal Khandhar, global pride manager, Boston Consulting Group.
“I think the pivotal moment comes when people realise the company has your back and you’re not just accepted but celebrated for your identity,” he added. “Career choices are also life choices, so try to make the empowered choice that resonates with the values and culture of the company, as well as your own.”
PinkNews CEO Benjamin Cohen said: “It’s probably easier to come out today. However, the fears that people have are still genuine.”
When attendees voiced concerns about showing up as their authentic selves, panellists advised attendees to turn to employee resource groups, as sharing common interests with peers can reduce loneliness and inspire in-house changes.
Leading talent agency and hosts for the event, Major Players, prides itself in developing creative networks that enhance work relations – a recurring theme at the event.
Geffrye Parsons, managing director and co-chair of Macquarie Pride LGBTQ+ Network, shared a similar experience.
“I’ve been doing this for about a decade and I still get excited by the progress,” Parsons said.
“Networking can be a safe space to identify with fellow members and engage with allies – often senior people juniors would never get the chance to speak to.”
Cassius Naylor, co-chair of Proud FT, echoed that true change can come about from networking.
Just recently, Naylor assisted in creating the Financial Times’ first trans inclusion policy: providing guidance on everything from pronouns to language, as well as creating a new category of medical leave for gender-affirming therapies.
“That’s an example of what an employee network can do,” he beamed.