Diversity and Inclusion: A Personal Account
Monday 4 March 2019
Brought to you by AmCham's Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Article by Patrick Jordan
In 2019, AmCham’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee will be bringing you stories throughout the year acknowledging key dates in the Diversity and Inclusion calendar. Sunday, 3 March 2019 marked the 41st anniversary of the LGBTQI Mardi Gras Parade. This year’s parade was themed ‘Fearless’. Here is an article from Patrick Jordan, Human Resources Director, Coca-Cola South Pacific on his experience within the workplace.
I went home to Ireland at the age of 30 to tell my parents I’m gay. They were in their mid 70’s at the time. My parents are Pat and Mary, and they have 4 kids. He was a policeman and she a housewife. We are the Irish Catholic epitome of a perfect family! When that exact moment came (that I have been dreading since I was a kid) to tell them, I stumbled and mumbled through my intro and said “I need to tell you something I think you already know”. My mother’s eyes welled up, she put her hands to her cheeks and wailed “You have a baby!”. Awkward! Regardless of my mother’s reaction they were amazingly supportive, as were my siblings, in-laws, friends etc. The parents, friends and family hurdle was over! I was out and all my biggest fears I had dealt with subconsciously had been dealt with! So all’s ok, right?
Reality, unfortunately not….. nobody told me about the workplace. In hindsight, this was far more difficult. We are sold the cultural story of why where we work is a great place to work, but what we don’t always truly understand is that a workplace is full of frameworks, values, policies and procedures which aim to create an environment where everyone has an ideal way to be.
Coming to work was deep down what I dreaded! I didn’t know this as this was part of my routine, it’s what I always did and the environment I spent most of my week participating in. The Paddy I projected was the Paddy I felt I needed to provide.
Let me give you an example of what this felt like. Picture it....Monday morning! Routine is the same as every other day. I get up and get the train. I get out at the station and start my walk to the office. A few nods along the way to the people you recognise, get through the front doors and swipe my pass card to get access. Get in the lift, a few more nods, the obligatory Monday morningitis comment, get out of the lift and sit at my desk. The next is what I dreaded the most – “Hey Paddy! How are you? What did you get up to at the weekend?”. My mind panics. I don’t want to lie so I start fabricating the truth. I won’t say where I’ve been as I don’t want people to associate me with being gay. I over heterosexualise where I can. They’re off the trail! Job well done. For me anyway, for the person asking me the question they think I’m vague and not very authentic. It’s called self-editing. My day goes on....
I then get the other regular standard social questions during the week. “Paddy, you married?”, “Got a wife?”, “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”, You got kids? “. A hell of a lot more self-editing and unauthentic responses such as “I’m too busy”, “Haven’t met anyone that I like”, “Too fussy” etc. Sound familiar? You’ve asked them to people and got similar responses? I’m not saying people who respond like this are gay, but maybe for personal reasons they cannot answer them the way 70% of people can!
Building and maintaining Inclusion
I am now a lot more confident and due to amazing leaders, I bring my whole self to work every day. But I want to say I still sometimes self-edit and I hate myself for it. When I don’t know someone in the workplace and they ask the questions I’ve mentioned above, I still recoil. It’s my natural behavior which has been embedded for over 40 years. Also, I do not have many role models in the workplace. It’s hard to be what you can’t see. I know of many senior leaders where I have worked previously who have chosen not to be their whole self at work. When the email from the CEOs went out advising of their promotion, it never spoke of their personal status whereas everyone else’s talked about their husband or wife and wonderful children!
As we all (including myself) work through the complex myriad of inclusion, I always say it’s ok not to understand. It’s actually really hard to understand. I as a man cannot truly tell a woman what it is to walk in her shoes. However, I can listen and respect their point of view.
AmCham’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee will continue to share stories throughout the year. If you would like to submit your stories for AmCham’s consideration, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.