Celebrating Pride 2022: sharing and seeing
As June rolls around, and we recover from the shock of being half-way through the year already, it’s time to look forward to a month of Pride festivities with LGBTQ+ communities around the world.
The bright rainbow colours mark a history of hard-fought rights and acceptance, coinciding with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It’s an important time for organisations of all shapes and sizes to reflect on how we create a more open and welcoming world.
For the real estate industry, institutions like the RICS have a major part to play. On Wednesday June 8th, the RICS Pride 2022 event discusses the importance of visible role models and asks what more can be done to create an equal and inclusive profession for LGBTQ+ professionals.
Ahead of that, we caught up with Neil Gilbert and Greg Curtis in our team to hear about their journeys to being out at work, and their views on what works and what could still be improved across our industry to support those who aren’t yet able to be fully themselves in the workplace.
On limiting beliefs when coming out:
Neil Gilbert, Partner, Bristol:
My journey out at work was self-delayed: I told myself I must get Chartered first! I thought I needed to prove myself with hard work and professional merit before I would be seen as more than my sexuality in a straight-male-dominated environment.
Of course, when the big moment came there was no issue – only apologies from the team! That was in the 1990s, and the industry feels a world apart today. Nonetheless, I know many professionals (new joiners and old-timers alike) still feel anxious about being themselves, and I worry for those who struggle to be fully honest about their lives while at work.
Greg Curtis, Associate Director, Birmingham:
I haven’t always been out at work – in your early 20s there is a lot going on in your head and you can find that you’re unsure of yourself or what you really want. But I knew that I wanted to be authentic and not fabricate a life outside of work for my colleagues.
Looking back, I also realise it was important to give those around me the opportunity to see the real me and, likewise, to give the opportunity for others to show how kind and supportive they are. Genuinely, most people will be. If you’re not being honest, people can tell and they might not be open and honest back, which affects the relationships you build. Before I came out at work, I wasn’t 100% relaxed and comfortable in my own skin and this likely affected my confidence to perform to my best.
Giving a platform for role models is a great way to encourage diversity across our industry. It was one of the things that attracted me to TFT in the first place, seeing the visibility of LGBTQ+ people and allies in the business, including FreeHold Co-Founder David Mann.
Those were signs to me about the company’s approach to business and part of its personality, and a few years in I’m glad to say it’s still somewhere I feel totally comfortable to work!
Coming out at work is one thing, it’s another to make your ‘whole self’ more visible at work. I am a big advocate for everyone to bring personality into their working relationships over time, bit by bit.
As I’ve done so through the years, my work became more meaningful and my relationships much stronger. Contacts become clients, and even great friends. I don’t think that would be the case if I had held myself back.
On the role of networking:
For the industry as a whole, I definitely want to see a more diverse networking scene. This could extend to a greater connection between all parts of the industry, professional services, construction and trades people, and not as separate entities. This should also be integrated with greater cooperation with BAME networking groups, Women in Property, or generally, any ally networks.
Networks are important, and they don’t always have to be LGBTQ+ forums. To those struggling to be themselves at work, it can help to attend any upcoming networking event where you can make an introduction to some new people in a different way. Mention your partner, a date, how you’ll celebrate Pride, or something else altogether. You might be surprised at the response you get – or lack thereof! It can help empower you to open up a little more when you’re back among colleagues and clients.
If you’re looking for a supportive LGBTQ+ network, FreeHold was founded as the first networking forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender professionals working within the real estate sector. Since its official launch in September 2011 by TFT’s David Mann and Saleem Fazal from Taylor Wessing, the group has grown to over 1000 members and continues to expand.