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What is it like to be BAME and LGBT+ at work?

Posted: 4 June 2018

My experiences in the workplace and as co-chair of the London Bisexual Network have highlighted some unexpected benefits of being both BAME and LGBT+. It can be challenging to integrate into traditionally non-BAME working environments. However, the sense of community offered by the often-flourishing LGBT+ networks within these organisations can be a great way to build contacts and find mentors to help overcome perceptions of feeling out of place.

A challenge I have noticed for some BAME LGBT+ people is that their cultural background is sometimes not as accepting of being LGBT+. This can pose issues for BAME LGBT+ people choosing to be open at work, which may deprive them of both a useful internal network and create the additional stress of needing to hide their sexual orientation.

A way to overcome this is to ensure that BAME networks and LGBT+ networks within organisations collaborate, for example by hosting joint networking and awareness events. This helps educate members of LGBT+ networks of the issues faced by BAME people and encourages BAME LGBT+ people to feel comfortable being out at work.

Being unable to bring your ‘whole self’ to work goes further than sexual orientation. If an environment is monocultural, BAME people are made to feel that acting in a way that is different from the majority is wrong or inappropriate in a working environment.

We may worry about our communication style, for example, or we may hide our tastes in music or sports.

The key to ensuring that a workplace is inclusive is for the corporate culture to be one that celebrates different experiences and backgrounds, rather than focusing on creating or recruiting a ‘type’ of employee.

I grew up in a working class, single-parent family and attended a state school. Although I am from a mixed race, Jewish/African-American background, my school was predominantly Muslim. Growing up in this environment allowed me to understand the importance of appreciating diversity of all types. As a result, I have been heavily involved in initiatives that promote social inclusion.

I graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Philosophy and Biblical Studies in 2011, after which I attended law school. I completed my legal training at an English firm, and joined the global law firm Latham & Watkins in 2017. My practice area is Derivatives and Structured Finance.

Both my previous firm and my current firm have been incredibly supportive of LGBT+ individuals. Senior members of my previous firm supported me in the co-founding of the London Bisexual Network (the LBN). The LBN is a professional network for bi people working in the legal, insurance, banking and professional services industries, and provides bi education and bi visibility training to organisations.

Netanya Clixby is co-founder and co-chair of the London Bisexual Network. She is an associate at Latham & Watkins and on the Law Society’s LGBT+ Division Committee.

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