As the Director of Talent Acquisition, Ashley wants Enterprise to be a place where everyone can be their authentic self at work from day one. Ashley didn’t come out until later on in his career and reflecting back, realises that he put a lot of energy into hiding his true identity when that energy could have been better spent elsewhere. He shares his story:
I graduated from the University of Hull with a 2.2 in Criminology, after that I had a couple of jobs but I really wanted a career. I saw an advert for the Graduate Management Trainee Programme with Enterprise which offered hands-on experience across a number of business functions, career progression and it was in my local area, so I applied.
I started as a Management Trainee in Loughborough and was promoted to Branch Manager. At that time, an HR position opened in my region with the opportunity to look after Recruitment and Training, so I jumped at the chance to use the skills I had developed in another area of the business. I was then promoted to an Area Manager position in East Anglia before applying for a role at our European Corporate Office to oversee Talent Acquisition. I am now Talent Acquisition Director for the UK and Ireland.
It’s the people I work with, which is why the last few months, during the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard; I’ve had to find new ways to interact and stay in touch with my colleagues.
I also like the autonomy of running my own part of the business. As you can see from my career path, I have had various roles which have allowed me to find what my passion is and where my skill set is best suited without having to leave the company to do so.
I came out very late in life to my family, friends and work colleagues. There are a whole host of reasons why this is the case, but I suppose I never felt I had a reason to come out. When I met my now-husband Adam, something changed and I wanted to tell people who I am and be my true self and not hide a big part of my me and my life. I used to spend Friday mornings on the drive into work thinking up stories about what my weekend plans were, which aunt I was visiting, and then I would spend the Monday morning drive trying to remember what I said I was doing. It was tough and stressful, I wasn’t happy and I felt that there was always a barrier up; I wasn’t able to be my true self this had a negative impact on me in the workplace.
It wasn’t just coming out at work which was a challenge, I had kept this a secret from my family and friends also which made things even more difficult. I spent hours worrying if anyone would share something on social media that contradicted what I had said I was doing, or if I would bump into someone I knew socially at an external work function.
I spent a lot of time talking to Adam about how I would tell my family, friends and colleagues and in the end, I was just honest. I sat down with people at work, met with my family and friends and the rest is history; it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I thought it would be. Everyone was extremely supportive and I was finally able to be the real me at home, work and with my friends. A massive weight was off my shoulders which I had carried around with me most of my life, and I realise now that it had impacted my ability to be the best I can be. This has since been reflected in my promotion to Director of Talent Acquisition and to Co-Chair of the National Diversity Committee.
Everybody has their own story and their own reasons why they might not feel comfortable coming out at work or at home. I want to ensure, in my role, that we make Enterprise a place where people can be themselves and not feel they have to only bring part of themself to work. Our LGBTQ+ network, Enterpride is there for all employees and I endeavour to be a role model to others in the business and to be someone that people feel comfortable talking to.
Our LGBTQ+ Network, Enterpride means that I am connected to many LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies. This allows us to have a forum to discuss anything and learn from each other’s experiences and ideas and I value this immensely.
At Enterprise, we work hard to foster an inclusive culture that promotes LGBTQ+ equality. We have national and local Diversity Committees, where we have strands that particularly focus on LGBTQ+. We attend PRIDE events, host internal talks, and we encourage our employees to share their experiences with each other via our blog community. This year Enterprise has been recognised as one of the most inclusive employers in Britain by lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity Stonewall in its Top 100 Employers list for 2020, this is testament to our inclusion policies and initiatives being impactful.
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