‘Mindset Is Everything’, Alicia Millar, Role Model Opens Up About Being Lesbian At Work
Alicia Millar, co-chair of PRISM, Reed Smith’s LGBT network in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA), has been shortlisted for the Diversity Champion award at the British LGBT Awards
Since when are you out at work?
I have been out at work for at least 15 years, since I started working in law in fact. Before then, I had to face the sad reality on how being gay was perceived in the workplace and how it would even be relevant in the workplace. At my first ‘career’ job, on the induction day, I was due to meet Andrew, the payroll guy. Beforehand however I was told : ‘by the way he is one of them’. I didn’t really know what to do with this information. It didn’t cross my mind something like this could happen. I was sad because I didn’t say anything, should I have? Nevertheless, said Andrew has been a dear friend ever since, and was best man at my wedding.
How did you feel the first time(s) you came out to your family, friends and workplace?
My coming-out moments were always slightly strange. I have always felt somewhat embarrassed to have to come out again and again. I grew up in a very open family. My parents taught me to see the person, the human in people being before other things. When I came out to my father, he said ‘I don’t care what you do in bed, live your life the way you want’. My parents are both wonderful.
I knew I was different from a very young age. I went to an all girls schooI, there I saw bullying about sexuality and feminine identity and I certainly didn’t come out until I was at University. Going back to London, my home town, after University was weird because I had to came out to my childhood friends, and I was a very different person to who I was when I left.
It seems your sexuality has turned out to be an advantage in the workplace for you? how is it the case?
Actually I would say that it is my professional difference, my confidence and drive that creates the advantage, not my sexuality. I have certainly learnt through experience to normalise reference to my sexuality in the workplace, for example I talk about my wife whenever the “how was your weekend?” conversation starts.
Do you think ‘being different’ is more a drawback or an advantage that everyone should use to progress in their career?
I believe people that come out and want to become Role Models need to have the mindset for it . You need to be brave, you have to be prepared to be in the spotlight at all times, you need to consider why it matters to be a role-model. You need to use this as an armour, for your personal resilience. Mindset is everything.
Reed Smith seems to be a very supportive employer. How have they supported their LGBTI employees and for how long?
There has been an employee lead network going for many years which indicates the Reed Smith culture is very supportive of its employees. We have an out LGBTI partner at the board level, and have out LGBTI partners in other leadership positions, plus several other employees that are out. We also have senior leaders who are LGBTI allies and champions. I truly feel that Reed Smith is leading the way for LGBTI role models within the legal industry.
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