Michael McLaughlin is from North West England, Cumbria. He moved from a little town called Cleator Moor to Newcastle upon Tyne in 2006 to attend Northumbria university. He studied BA Accounting and graduated in 2010.
He started EY in 2013 as an Anti-Money Laundering analyst. After five years with EY He is now an executive consultant working on Anti-Money Laundering and Remediation projects including past investment reviews and pension remediation work.
Have you always been out at work? How important is to be out at work?
I have always been out at work and I think it depends on the individual person whether they would like to be out at work as some people see their sexuality as a private aspect to their life. But on the other side, which I feel is more where I stand, I’m quite a camp guy and it’s not something I’m able to have private as my sexuality has always been questioned due to my buoyant character and nature.
I believe that being out at work can only bring positivity to the financial industry to raise more awareness on how many gay people there are and the different support mechanisms they might need.
Please, tell is about your coming out experiences. Have you ever had an especially good/bad experience because of your sexual orientation at home, university or at work?
So, my story starts from an early age, I didn’t come out until I was 19 in 2007, my second year of university. I felt like I had been battling/defending my sexuality for so long that it wasn’t really a shock to people when I came out, as so many people questioned my sexuality for so long. I knew I was gay from my early teens but I thought I could never acknowledge this as it just seemed like the scariest thing I could ever do. I had a few girlfriends going through school but this was partly because it helped mask my actual sexuality. When I wasn’t in a relationship I was consistently asked if I was gay and I was even told by many people I am gay and for some reason people feel they have the right to discuss or tell people who they are. No one should ever feel pushed into disclosing anything they don’t want to. This continued up into university.
While I was at uni I had dated a couple of guys and was beginning to accept myself, but still not disclosing my sexuality to any friends or family. It came to my second year of university, I was living with friends and I was still not out to anyone but it came to a point we were out in town and I just had the courage to tell one of my friend’s I was gay I had hit a point and felt like I was sick of lying about who I truly was. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, I don't know why because the words now are the easiest words to say. I think to myself now about why I found it so hard was because I worried whether people would accept me and whether my family would still love me the way they had always loved me. I started to tell other friends and the news got out quickly.
The reason I started to tell my friends first was because 1. I was at university and always with them, they were my support mechanism as I was also dealing with a bereavement from losing my mum 2. I felt it was much easier to pluck up the courage to tell my friends and to ask for advice to tell my family. But it didn’t work like that and my family found out before I had the chance to tell them myself.
I did have some supportive family but I think some of my family were annoyed they found out from someone else and not from me. What family or friends need to realise is that they shouldn’t be annoyed about how somebody comes out, they should just be happy they have come out and provide the support they need and let them know you love them. My family did provide me with support, especially my stepfather as he was always there for me after my mum passed away in 2006 from cancer, a month after my 18th birthday. At that time, it didn’t seem right to be talking about myself when my mum was dealing with her illness. My family to this day do say she knew as every mother knows their child but I do wish I did come out to my mum as I know she would’ve been very proud of who I have become today and how happy I am with my partner of 10 years and 2 doggies George and Edward.
My overall experience with my sexual orientation hasn’t been wholly good or bad. I have had negative experiences and positive experiences and they have both defined me and made me who I am today, and if I wasn’t who I was today I wouldn’t have met my wonderful partner and have the happy life I have. Yes, I was bullied at school and still to this day have people point out I’m gay or camp, but you are always going have people who try to pull you down but what they have given me is the power and strength to deal with such negativity. If they knew who I was as a character they wouldn’t make these stupid remarks and I believe it comes down to educating these people and how little remarks can affect someone in a serious way. Therefore, I believe in being a part of LGBT+ community to try help educate people and spread awareness for us all to support one another.
How does your organisation support and empower its LGBT+ employees?
EY is a fantastic company to work for. They believe in looking after their employees and promote being yourself in the workplace. They have a great culture at EY and I feel 100% comfortable to be myself and safe in my work environment.
EY provides support to all sorts of groups, training, committees, forums etc. where all employees can express their views. I am very lucky to have a positive manager and counselor as EY provides a counselor for every employee so you have someone who you can speak to with confidence and I must say I can always talk to my manager with comfort and ease and she always provides me with any necessary support required.
EY believes ‘inclusiveness means making sure all our people’s voices are heard and valued’ this helps build a better working world. I believe if we can all be ourselves in the workplace then we will all strive to provide the best services we can.
EY provides discussion forums for their employees to be able to voice their opinions, they also include LGBT committees to discuss issues specific to the LGBT community. They have other networks for disability, they have an Asian network and women’s network. They are also a part of the myGwork which is one of the leading recruitment and networking hubs for LGBT+ professionals to help promote diversity and inclusion. I’m very proud to be a part of EY and their culture. I’ve never worked for such a supportive employer and I can see myself having a long-standing Career with them and I look forward to the future and how it is going to evolve as it can only get better.
Do you feel coming out can encourage other people to come out? Has this happened to you and your colleagues?
I feel coming out and seeing other people come out can help anyone who is struggling to accept themselves. When I first came out it felt like the biggest relief, like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could be who I have always wanted to be. I don't want anyone to feel like they can’t tell people who they are and I want them to be relieved they can live a happy normal life.
Here at EY within our LGBT+ group we believe people to take their own time, we can provide confidential chats with key people on our committee, we can provide information on keys issues but one of our main priorities is having events to help people see what we can do and how we can be the support mechanism for people who are wanting to come out and provide advice on our own experiences. We never want anyone to feel they can’t be who they truly are. Strive to be your best self.
In your opinion, how can an organisation and its clients profit from a diverse workforce?
The first thing that comes to mind on how EY and its clients benefit from a diverse workforce is Enhanced performance. If everyone can be their self they will 100% provide their best performance. They won’t be distracted trying to hide who they are, they will be being the best employee that they can possibly be.
This is not just about your sexuality but this includes people with different religions, ethnicities, educations, genders, and nationalities. Having a diverse workforce provides a better working world with everyone striving to provide the best performance to its clients. You can also learn so much from a person with a different background.
What advice would you give the younger generations of LGBT+ people looking to get started in the industry?
Be yourself - sexuality doesn’t define who you are, YOU define who you are. Sexuality is just one aspect of your life you can draw from, you have a whole background at your arsenal. Draw on what makes you different.
More and more organisations want their employees to bring their whole self to work. Would you consider working for an organisation that does not?
No, I would not want to work for someone who doesn’t promote being yourself as I believe being myself and being comfortable in my working environment is the key to a healthy lifestyle and work life balance. You spend a lot of your time at work and if you don't feel free to be yourself then you’re effectively shutting down parts of who you are, which I believe is not healthy for the mind and will not boost your performance at work.
Do you check Diversity and Inclusion policies of an organisation and same-sex partner benefits before considering working for an organisation? Why?
My younger self would not usually consider this as a requirement but today if I moved jobs I would check to see if an employer supports employees with same-sex relationships. Going back into the closet for a 9-5 job would not be healthy for me.