17 Jan 2017

Out and proud at work: Midsumma and why our stories matter

by Stephen Barrow

At university in the early 80s, I only knew a handful of other gay people on campus. I suspect the closet was quite full, but I decided I wanted to be open about my sexuality.

I had a tough, isolated year when I worked as a residential tutor in a university college. Some students made it clear they wanted me gone. They intimidated me, doing things like playing loud music and hitting golf balls outside my rooms very late at night. But my tenacious, some would say stubborn side, led me to stick this out. Over time mutual respect developed.

Later I moved to London to work at a large multinational technology company with a blokey culture. Plenty of my colleagues made anti-gay jokes, and treated me as though I was a bit ‘odd’, at least until they started to respect me for my work.

Many people from the LGBTI community have experienced far worse treatment in their workplaces.

My experiences have helped me to understand how it feels to be “different” from the norm, and to do my best to help other people bring their whole selves to work.

I have seen time and time again in my leadership roles that diverse, inclusive workplaces create a feeling of safety and belonging. That’s a great place to start if you want people to do their best at work, and to serve customers really well.

At NAB, where I work, we know inclusion is crucial, for our 35,000 people, our customers, and in the community. That’s why NAB is again sponsoring this year’s Midsumma Festival, the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer arts and cultural festival that features more than 130 events across Victoria, including the 22nd Pride March through St Kilda on January 29.  The festival is on for three weeks, ending on February 5.

As part of the festival, you can dial 1300 00 39 39 and tell us your story.

Stories will become part of a digital time-capsule. You can listen to other’s stories and you can also share your recorded story via social media.

Stories help us to remember yesterday and build an even better community. They help us to walk, if just for a moment, in someone else’s shoes.

Stephen Barrow is Executive General Manager of Culture and Capability at National Australia Bank, and Executive Sponsor of Pride@NAB, a network for LGBTI employees and their straight allies that he helped to found in 2012. Stephen was named as a top 50 LGBTI leader by Boss Magazine in 2016.

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