As we mark Pride 2023, we’re reminded that — amongst the challenges we continue to face as a community — there are many things to celebrate.
In this interview, TrueLayer’s Stephanie Smith shares what supporting the community means to her, and how businesses can make employees feel more comfortable about coming out at work.
This is the third interview in our Pride: present and future series. You can read the previous interview, featuring Kayleigh Bateman from SheCanCode, here.
What does supporting the LGBTQ+ community mean to you?
Ensuring everyone has equal rights and opportunities regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexuality.
Previous generations have helped pave the way for LGBTQ+ rights — such as legalising same sex marriage in the UK — but there is so much more we can do.
Working for a company that promotes a speak up culture and acknowledges diversification is very important to me in building a safe work environment. And it has a big impact on the way people treat each other in society at large.
Who’s someone you admire for making a meaningful impact in the community?
I admire RuPaul's support of the LGBTQ+ community. He's been instrumental in increasing representation on a national level.
RuPaul’s encouragement of allowing everyone to be their unapologetic selves and mantra ‘love is love’ are inspirational. It resonates with me as having allies supporting the LGBTQ+ community at work, as well as in my personal life, has helped me become my true self.
Being able to celebrate Pride with my TrueLayer colleagues is so important. It creates a sense of belonging, and I hope this encourages more workplaces to do the same.
In your experience, what can businesses and allies do better to support their LGBTQ+ colleagues?
Build a safe and trusting work environment for employees by giving them the opportunity to be themselves. And most importantly, let them open up about their personal life when they feel ready. It’s important to set the right tone from a senior level that supports diversity.
For instance, people often presume I am in a relationship with a man, which can make certain conversations awkward. Mirroring the language that another person is using without prying is a difficult but important skill to develop.
Awareness of parental leave and adoption policies for same sex marriages is also really important, so employees know what their rights are. Taking the next step to have a family is a huge decision for any couple, so anything a workplace can do to promote inclusivity is a step in the right direction.
You got married recently, congratulations! How did it feel the first time you came out in the workplace?
Coming out in a workplace can be challenging, whether it’s at a company you’ve worked at for years or as a new joiner. Throughout life, it isn’t a case of coming out once and everyone knows, the conversation will come up often, but the more conversations I have the easier it becomes.
I have had times of self-doubt, questioning if by coming out it will impact the way peers or management will perceive my work, capabilities and progression within a company. Fortunately, my current and previous workplaces have been completely supportive. They have shown that it’s an employee’s work ethic, hard work and drive that truly matters.
It hasn’t changed the way my peers treat me, and if anything it has improved working relationships by not having to censor my personal life.