Pride 2020 - Finding my place to be valued
Posting date:10/1/2020 4:04 PM
Breaking down the barriers to understanding
Marinder has been at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, for just over eight years. She started as an Administrator and now is the Office Manager for our ADS&T division in Bristol. One of her volunteer roles is working as part of EQUILIBRIUM, our LGBT+ inclusion network. This Pride Month #InsideAtkins caught up with her for a perspective on how the organization is doing when it comes to embracing people with hidden identities.
Happy Pride Month, Marinder! Tell us about coming out at Atkins.
During my first few years, I didn't feel comfortable sharing my identity with my colleagues. I hadn't come out to friends or family yet – it was something I'd been dealing with in stages. I remember telling my manager first. She just wrapped her arms around me and gave me a big hug. She was happy for me and said she only wishes I'd told her sooner so she could support me. I got the same reaction after telling my team. They never made me feel any different when we chatted about partners they asked about mine, and I quickly became at ease about opening up to them more.
What made you join our EQUILIBRIUM network?
I'm a network lead for the Women's Professional Network, and all network leads get together regularly to discuss our keys priorities for the quarter and key focus areas for the year ahead. What EQUILIBRIUM chair, Steven Berry had to say resonated, so I offered my help. I wanted to help others in a similar situation as me, and I also get a lot from it.
When people can't be themselves, how does this impact them in big and subtle ways?
I think it can affect people in many ways, some of which will be visible to them and other ways they may not realize until later in life. For me, I avoided doing things, going to places and seeing people, which wasn't the right thing to do, but it felt like the easier option at the time. There are still times I feel like this, as my family is still not fully accepting of who I am almost three years after telling them. It does affect the decisions I make, especially in the short term. It has been important for me to share this with close colleagues, so they understand me better.
How does Atkins enable its people to create an environment where everyone can be themselves?
EQUILIBRIUM has flourished and provides support to colleagues in many ways. We're launching a mentoring program soon, which will be a great platform for mentors and mentees. The network also impacts HR policies, and some have changed for the better with their input. There are many networks available that support staff and there is lots we can learn from each network.
This Pride Month, what do the Stonewall Riots mean to you?
History is extremely important. The Stonewall Riots have paved the foundations for the LGBTQ+ community, and without that, things would no doubt be very different today. We certainly have a long way to go, and together we can make a positive difference.
During this time of COVID-19, what ways are there for individuals and communities to mark Pride?
I've seen online events taking place during this time. Without the parades and festivals, people can still come together virtually, whether through networks or becoming an ally and showing support.
The theme for Global Pride 2020 is "Exist. Persist. Resist", how will you take that mantra into your life this month and beyond?
I think that theme fits quite well for me and is certainly reminds me to be myself – to be happy with who I am, unashamed, and not to let the negative thoughts and actions of others get me down. This is one for me to remember when making short term and long term plans in the future.
Would you say there is a desire at Atkins to embrace people for who they are?
I've seen the diversity of our staff increase in the last five years, which is great! We've moved towards embracing people for who they are and the diversity of thought they're able to display.
What one amazing thing has Atkins helped you discover about yourself?
Atkins, and more specifically, my line manager, has given me the time and opportunity to be involved with the Diversity & Inclusion networks. It's something I'm passionate about, and I've been able to be a part of a team that makes a difference. I'm not sure if that would have been possible elsewhere, because D&I is not an area of focus for an Office Manager. I'm still very much on my journey with my family, but at work, I know I can be myself, accepted for who I am.
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