In this week’s Meet & Greet interview, myGwork member Jessica Chu highlights the 'huge' importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion at work and shares why being an LGBTQ+ ally is really important to her. Her innate curiosity about people saw her leave Australia's beachy shores and palm trees to go back-packing. She arrived in London and loved it so much that she decided to stay, and has spent the last decade mainly focusing on diversity and inclusion programmes. She provides some insights into both her work and social life as the current Group Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement at RS Components.
Hi Jess, can you tell us a bit about your career journey to date?
I have been at Electrocomponents since April 2019 as the Group Head of D&I. Prior to this I have spent most of my career in the UK in the finance sector, and the last decade in D&I roles.
I moved here in 1999 (showing my age now) from the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. Moving to London from basically a beach and palm trees – (most people say I was mad) – but I have a innate curiosity about life and people, and I had to see the world. I came with my back pack, and didn’t really know anyone but have met some of the most amazing people over the last 22 years living here. I love it and call it home.
What's the most challenging aspect of managing people right now?
The last two years have been tricky for everyone, but most importantly as employers it has been critical to look after not only the physical health of their staff but also the mental health of their people, so that they can continue; whether on site or remotely bring their true self to work each and every day. We have worked really hard to support our people, make sure they knew their health and safety comes first and that we continue – even – if it is remotely to build a culture of inclusion. This can be tricky when the majority of people are either in A) our warehouse with no access to email, or B) from their kitchen table. We have run so many campaigns to ensure our people felt connected and included.
How important is LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace for you personally?
LGBTQ+ inclusion is hugely important to all businesses. Why would any business not want to tap into amazing talent all over the world. For us at Electrocomponents or here in the UK RS Components inclusion is about letting everyone feel safe to bring their true self to work, to have a culture where everyone can thrive and if you have to leave part of who you are at the door each and every day… that is exhausting. That is not a culture where I want to work or where I would ask anyone to work.
For me personally, it is about allyship. I would not work somewhere that excluded anyone. Over the past two-ish years, I have had the opportunity to really understand the journey that my friends from within the LGBTQ+ community go through and the exclusion, bullying, harassment and sometimes violence that they are on the receiving end of; and if I can do anything to support them by being an ally, then I will do that.
Finally, I have young children. I don’t know yet, what path they will choose in life but I want them to grow up in a world that is accepting, inclusive and safe. I want them to know that no matter what, that I love them for who they are.
What's your favorite inclusion campaign to date and why?
Easy – it has to be Work Pride. We have sponsored the Friday of that week for the last two years and I am hoping we have the opportunity again to show our support for the LGBTQ+ community. I love that we get to engage and hear from some amazing people and organisations who are members of myGwork. We get to showcase who we are as a global business and finally, meet some amazing talent who might want to come and work with us to help us realise our vision for inclusion.
How do you encourage staff to have a worklife balance, especially with the increase in remote/hybrid working?
Wish I could say… easy again, but this one is hard. We all have our own rhythms around work, family, hobbies, friends. As a components distributor, it can be hard for some of our roles e.g. those based in our warehouses to have the same flexibility as our desk based roles. As a global business we really try to encourage a culture where it is adult to adult, you are measured on the work you produce and the quality of it; and not the amount of time you spend at your PC. Trust me, we don’t always get this right, but in a culture built on trust and openness, I know I can go to my boss and say, school pick up is at 3 – 3.30pm each day. I need to be there for my children and he trusts me to get my job done around that.
What's the biggest highlight of your career to date and why?
Again, not an easy question as there are a few, but one of the highlights is definitely making the Top 50 Inclusive Employer 2020. In reality when we submitted for the award we had not even had a year of embedding our D&I strategy under our belts, so to be recognised for what we had achieved in such a small amount of time was really rewarding.
What was the last book you read? Any interesting take-aways and would you recommend it to fellow leaders?
I am one of those annoying people who reads three books at once… a bad habit I have passed onto my son. I am reading:
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama;
- What We Owe Each Other, A New Social Contract by Minouche Shafik; and
- Outspoken, 50 Speeches by Incredible Women by Deborah Coughlin.
I am enjoying all of them and I am getting something different and challenging from all three.
What was your last holiday destination and where do you plan to visit next?
Pre Covid we had our last family holiday in Alicante in Spain. It was beautiful, sunny, warm and welcoming with great food – everything we’ve grown to expect from going to Spain. We loved every minute of it and my children keep asking when we can go back.
As I am from Australia, I really need to head south and see family as it has been a long time due to Covid. Once travel restrictions lift, this will be our first destination.
What do you do to unwind at the end of a hard day?
Few different things but one of my favorite on a weekend is to have a glass of wine, over some good food. Doing this with my family makes me really happy. Food seems to be a reoccuring theme, but I am a self-confessed foodie!
Check out myGwork's other Meet & Greet interviews, including: