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Jennifer Found: “Encouraging people to be out can reduce stress, sickness and foster a culture of honesty and integrity” (Interview)

Fourth interview of the mygwork series #IamOutatWork, Fennifer Found, GSK


Jennifer Found is a recently graduated from the University of Reading and is working at GSK in the Employee Relations department as an HR Advisor.

Have you always been out at work? How important is to be out at work?
 
I did not realise that I was not wholly straight until I started working at GSK, so I had not always been ‘out’ when I worked previously.. Since I had a realisation about myself,  my sexuality and identity, I have always been very open about it with everyone in my life, including at work, as I feel it’s important to be your true self.
 
Please, tell us about your coming(s) out. Have you ever had an especially good/bad experience because of your sexual orientation at home, university or at work? Which one(s)? 
 
I was 23 when I came ‘out’, just before my 24th birthday. I had been in a 4 and a half year relationship with a man and convinced that he was my future. Then a woman, who I now call a very dear friend, came to work for GSK who, having confided in her and spoken to her at length about my feelings, made me think more about myself and my identity,  I felt for the first time in my life, that it was ok to admit to myself that I could be a lesbian, bisexual or fluid.. I was very relaxed in telling my family, and didn’t make it a “coming out” conversation; my parents, siblings and wider family have been very supportive. My two grandmothers were confused for a while and didn’t understand, mostly about how I was going to have the family I always spoke of if I was with a woman, but we talked it out and they have been accepting and openminded. 
 
When I came ‘out’ at work and started to talk to colleagues about my future after my split from my previous male partner, it was a little scary and I didn’t know how everyone would react, especially as I was coming out quite late in my life in comparison to many people. A work colleague, my friend Abs, who is out at work, comfortable with himself and his sexuality, really inspired me, he taught me not worry about other peoples’ reactions – it was about being true to myself. Without Abs as a friend and colleague, I may not have been as open as quickly as I was. 
 
How does your organisation support and empower its LGBT+ employees?
 
GSK is incredibly welcoming to all kinds of diversity including LGBT+ employees. We have  SPECTRUM, our LGBT+ employee network, which gets involved in London Pride as well as smaller local prides where possible, run various events throughout the year, recognise important dates in the calendar such as Bi-Visibility Day and International Day Against Homophobia etc. At GSK rainbow ID lanyards are worn by LGBT+ and allies, beyond just the SPECTRUM community, to show pride and acceptance of the GSK LGBT+ community. All these activities and more, really support and empowers colleagues to be themselves. I personally feel this helped empower me to come out and be honest about myself and I’m sure it’s helped others across the GSK global network to realise that our company really supports their LGBT+ employees.
 
Do you feel coming out can encourage other to come out? Has this happened to you and your colleagues? How SPECTRUM (GSK s LGBT+ network) can help foster LGBT+ inclusion in your workplace?
 
I definitely think that coming out can encourage others to come out too. As I explained above, my friend and colleague Abs being out and proud of his identity encouraged me to come out. I find the LGBT+ community have some wonderful role models but sometimes women are less visible. I’m really open about my identity and hope that I can inspire others, including female colleagues, to be the same. SPECTRUM is a widely known and well-advertised part of GSK internally and inclusion is encouraged across the board wherever possible, including by many senior leaders who sponsor SPECTRUM.
 
It has been proven that being out increase one's productivity, what other advantages do you see in coming out? It has been proven that being out increase one's productivity, what other advantages do you see in coming out?
 
I think coming out has the biggest advantage in terms of employees’ well-being. The mental health and well-being of all employees is important and can have a real impact on those who do not feel like they can be their true selves at work around people they spend a majority of their week with. Encouraging people to be out can reduce stress, sickness and foster a culture of honesty and integrity.
 
In your opinion, how can an organisation and its clients profit from a diverse workforce?
 
A diverse workforce means that opinions come from people with such different outlooks on life and can encourage innovation, creativity, and imagination in terms of problem-solving and working well with others. I think organisations will be able to continuously improve themselves and their ways of working by listening to the views of a diverse workforce and using that to their advantage.
 
What advice would you give the younger generations of LGBT+ people looking to get started in the industry?
 
Don’t be afraid to be you. Never let anyone or the culture of any company allow you to feel that you cannot bring your whole self to work. It’s important to be true to yourself and look after yourself to be able to be the best you can be.
 
 More and more organisations want their employees to bring their whole self to work. Would you consider working for an organisation that does not?
 
I don’t think I could work for a company that did not encourage people to be themselves. I find that the discussion about weekend and evenings with friends and colleagues in the workplace really helps build good working relationships and helps my mental wellbeing, not being able to reference my (female) fiancé would be an issue for me and I would not feel comfortable working for a company whose values do not align with mine.
 
Do you check the Diversity and Inclusion policies of an organisation and same-sex partner benefits before considering working for an organisation? Why?
 
I have not previously checked policies when coming into a company as I was perceived by myself and others to be straight when I joined GSK and have no plans to change employer. SPECTRUM have collaborated with GSK UK HR to support LGBT+ friendly policies. Since I work in HR, and have a good working knowledge of the policies and have taken it upon myself to work very closely on the family policies within GSK, such as shared parental leave, as I, now more so than before, see the value in them for me in the future. If I was to change employer in future, it would certainly be on my radar to check though!
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