What is Pride?
Rebecca Clarke, Head of Customer Experience
June marks Pride month, the biggest month in the LGBTQ+ calendar. Many people question the reason why we require celebratory or awareness raising months for particular groups. Putting Pride into perspective can be tricky, but sharing personal experiences can go a long way to helping others understand more.
Pride is defined as a “deep feeling of satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements”.
So, what does Pride mean to me as a gay woman in a senior leadership position?
For me the biggest thing is finally being able to feel comfortable in my own skin. This has been a long road that still has bumps in it from time to time. One way that many of us seek comfort is through familiarity and in a career sense, seeing people like them in similar positions. This can make it hard when you’re young and ambitious and you don’t always see people that look like you in senior leadership roles. This can affect your confidence massively, especially in plucking up the courage to apply for senior roles, selling yourself in interview and then succeeding in the role.
I remember ahead of interviews at new companies desperately wondering how to answer the question “so tell me about yourself…” Most people would respond mentioning their partner, family and home life. For a LGBTQ+ person, you have a daunting moment of quickly trying to assess how your answer would go down if you were honest. Even deciding what to wear to an interview can be nerve-wracking, wondering what people are expecting to see before you arrive. A previous employer had asked me to wear a skirt to a meeting and some heels, as well as interrogating me about my home life, asking if I had a boyfriend, knowing that was not the case. Experiences like this are hard to grapple with and do unfortunately tarnish your view of the world.
Thankfully, in my previous role as Head of Membership at the Chartered Institute of Housing, I was able to meet a wide range of housing professionals. I quickly came across many role models that were gay women in senior positions across the housing sector. Being able to meet them and discuss their experiences was something I found comforting and inspirational in equal measure. I was lucky enough that nearly all offered to mentor me or keep their door open should I ever need it. It was meeting these people that made it all real. It made things that I found impossible to imagine before, possible.
More than a year since starting at Wolverhampton Homes, I can say that I haven’t been anywhere else and felt this at home. The welcome I received from everyone was amazing and you do feel part of a family. It is hard to put my finger on why I feel this way. The simplest thing that people can often do is just be normal, ask normal questions, greet you with a smile, include you in things. That has happened from even before I started when a member of the WH Proud to Be network contacted me.
All my working life until the last couple of years I have felt as though I was carrying a weight on my shoulders. There was always a part of me where my conscience didn’t feel clear as I wasn’t being my true self at work. Having to hide who you are as a person, what makes you happy, who you love, for fear of judgement is I think one of the heaviest loads. Since coming to Wolverhampton Homes that weight has lifted and I am happier than ever.
I am looking forward to what the future brings, embracing the new opportunities including the relaunch of our Equalities Forum, being on the project board for the new Rainbow City and continuing my volunteering with Stonewall Housing outside of work. I hope that by being able to be myself there may be even one person who, like me not that long ago, was looking for someone like them and thinks “OK maybe I can do that now too”.