Darren Robertson CA: ‘No one should be discriminated against’
Darren Robertson CA, Audit Manager at Johnston Carmichael, discusses coming out at work, what Pride means to him and what firms can do to help LGBT+ CAs feel more able to bring their whole selves to work.
Did you ever feel pressure to hide your true self at work?
I have always found Johnston Carmichael to be very welcoming and understanding towards me and my identity and sexuality. It’s not something that I believe should ever be relevant to how my contribution is judged – work is work, and I strongly believe no one should be discriminated against because of something they cannot control and do not have a choice over. No one chooses to be straight just as much as no one chooses to be gay.
During the first few months of my career, I never mentioned my sexuality to any of my colleagues. Whilst some may argue there was never any need, that’s not the issue. I was afraid of the reaction and whether I’d be looked down at, my contract not renewed, or that I’d be treated differently for saying anything. Was there an equivalent of an LGBT+ glass ceiling? Could my career options be limited before I even established myself and let others see what I could bring in terms of skills and knowledge?
However, since ‘coming out at work’, I have found this to be the complete opposite – colleagues were inclusive, welcoming, and we were able to have frank and open conversations around relationships and life, which was fantastic and really encouraging to see. I wasn’t treated any differently at all.
What does inclusivity mean to you?
Inclusivity isn’t about making LGBT+ rights more important than any other party – it’s about equal rights and ensuring everyone is treated fairly and consistently, and that’s regardless of sexual orientation, gender, age, race, marital status, and so on.
June is Pride month in the UK. What does Pride mean to you?
Pride is a great way to show others how important inclusivity is to us and allows us to express ourselves freely.
A common misconception I find is that people usually associate Pride with a simple parade for drag queens, rainbows, and glitter. Whilst this is partly true, just as much as this will be attractive for someone who is or isn’t sure of their identity, it isn’t wholly true for others. Where I’m based in Aberdeen, Pride has stalls for running and rugby groups specifically for LGBT+ individuals of all ages, highlighting that the main importance is togetherness, diversity and understanding that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
You mentioned having early career doubts about coming out at work. What do you think can be done within the profession to help ensure that all CAs feel able to bring their whole selves to work?
I am confident that my career development has been due to my work efforts and proud that I can, hopefully, act as a role model for others starting out in their careers who have had similar concerns to mine.
At Johnston Carmichael we have recently formed a People and Culture Forum, which provides a channel for employees to generate, discuss and help implement ideas for positive change. This has really led the way in listening to and being a voice for employees. As part of the Forum, we have formed a group called Embrace to promote LGBT+ inclusivity, as well as a network group for LGBT+ individuals called Proud. Everyone’s LGBT+ journey differs and that’s where I believe Embrace and Proud can ensure that other peoples’ journeys are as kind to them as my own has been to me.
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