In 2016 Sky Betting and Gaming announced the first Software Academy Graduate scheme which was a really exciting time for the company and for me because I was in the first cohort. Earlier that year I’d read an article that stated 62 per cent of graduates will “return to the closet” when they leave University and enter the world of work – this is a very high percentage of people who are hiding and censoring themselves. When in the closet, you find that you’re spending half of your energy hiding the reality, leading a dual life and making excuses. Not being able to be your authentic self while at work can lead to decreased productivity and can easily spiral into your personal life.
I was really determined not to be part of this statistic and found that within the first few weeks, I’d met so many people who made me realise I could succeed being my authentic self, without pretence. I believe that it’s so important to be yourself when you come to work which can only happen within an environment where everyone is respected, embraced and valued for who they truly are. It’s all about being included.
Quickly after joining Sky Betting and Gaming I’d realised that, despite there being no official staff network for LGBT+ colleagues, there was certainly a demand for one. There were ongoing talks surrounding an initial Diversity and Inclusion working party who would outline how we could better this in everyday life at work. The Pride LGBT+ Staff Network was set up to provide a voice for the LGBT+ colleagues, ensuring that policies, processes and the work we do are as inclusive as possible. It also provides a confidential point of call for others who have been through similar experiences. The work of the Pride LGBT+ Staff Network focuses mainly on ensuring that we can provide resources, change policies, host events and start those discussions inside the company that can eradicate the stigma and worry associated with being “out” at work.
One of the most fulfilling parts of being a member of the Pride LGBT+ Staff Network is being able to really make a difference to the environment here at Sky Betting & Gaming, being able to drive change so that when you first join you’re at ease and clear that we’re an inclusive employer who, not only values the diversity of its colleagues but celebrates it and will support and empower you.
For me, one of the most important attributes of working here is the feeling of community. That sense of togetherness and collaboration which recognises and values everybody. This is evident both in our squads and our tribes, to the wider business as a whole.
In the last few weeks, the excitement has been building around the Pride season. This has been kick-started here at Sky Betting & Gaming by a number of great events hosted here in our business park, Wellington Place. We have been blown away with how supportive they have been and keen to bring together the Wellington Place community by celebrating Pride in August. The number of events, ranging from a Pride Ryde spinning session to an open-air film screening with karaoke and street food stalls, are all happening throughout the month to raise money for LGBT+ charities. Closer to home, I’m so proud to see Sky Betting and Gaming attending both Leeds Pride and Sheffield Pride for the very first time. This marks a key moment for the company and our journey towards celebrating the diversity of our colleagues across all our offices.
For me, Pride is all about standing together with our LGBT+ colleagues. Showing solidarity against adversity, celebrating some of the incredible achievements that have been made such as same-sex marriage and a growing awareness of our trans community – but also realising that we haven’t finished in our fight for total equality.
About Tom Hanson: Software Engineer & SBG Pride Co-Chair and was one of the key driving forces behind Pride of Place at Wellington Place.