Proud of our people: Rebecca and Anna on being young and out at work
This Friday is Wear It Purple Day. Wear It Purple was founded in 2010 to advocate for LGBT+ young people facing bullying and harassment, and to show solidarity for those struggling or silenced by fear. On the day everyone is encouraged to wear purple to show support for LGBT+ young people. As young queer women entering the workforce, we wanted to share our experience coming out and into KPMG, and why, in 2019, initiatives like these are more important than ever.
Over the past decade, there has been a gradual shift in the attitudes surrounding the LGBT+ community, with a greater understanding of queer identities. And, with this, corporate support for the LGBT+ community has also grown. However, coming out at work can nevertheless be a tiring experience for many. It is a constant assessing and weighing up of every interaction, deciding whether this conversation or this moment is the right time. When 61 percent of LGBT+ young people report experiencing homophobic physical or verbal abuse, the risk of retaliation is often real and immediate.
We both started working in KPMG’s vacationer program in November 2018. As our first experience in a corporate setting, neither of us had made a conscious decision to be out at work. However, that quickly changed when we discovered by chance that we were both part of the queer community – and in the same team! This provided us with an overwhelming sense of solidarity, and shifted the entire experience of being out in the workplace. Simply knowing that you have the unwavering support of at least one other person is an indescribable feeling of relief and luxury.
Research for Pride in Diversity revealed younger same-sex attracted women were less likely to be out in the workplace (only 39 percent were comfortable being out) and were less likely to come out immediately after joining a workplace (53 percent are comfortable being out in their first year).
These number are low but having a supportive work network has made a world of a difference for us. We were lucky enough to connect with KPMG’s newly established Pride for Women network in January. As members of Generation Z, we often seek community through online platforms, but we’ve experienced firsthand the value in having access to physical communities with people of different ages, backgrounds, and stages in their careers coming together.
As vacationers it was nerve-wracking to attend our first work event as “out” women. But being able to share our stories with a diverse group of people at work has been an invaluable experience. KPMG’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has been incredibly encouraging, but as young queer women we would love to see even greater visibility of LGBT+ women in our workplace.
Our experience at KPMG has shown us that having a support network, however small, is enough to make the workplace a less daunting and more inclusive environment. Initiatives like Wear It Purple Day are an opportunity for us all to support these networks by creating a space for people to feel comfortable being who they are at work. Our experience at KPMG is just one of many examples where explicit and vocal shows of support can empower young people to feel safer and more understood in the workplace.
So, when you wear purple this Friday, remember the impact that a supportive environment has had on us. Wearing it purple, whether it is loud or just a subtle purple sock, is a message to our LGBT+ young people that they are safe, they are welcome, and they belong.