Pride month interview series: Ben Rainforth-Gott, Clarion Housing Group

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At Page Resourcing we are committed to promoting equal opportunities and inclusion in the workplace – as an employer, a provider of services and through our suppliers. For this reason, it is highly important to us to give visibility to the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month and beyond. To do this, we interviewed leaders around the world.

Interview with Ben Rainforth-Gott, Director of People & Organisational Development, Clarion Housing Group

Could you share with us your experience as gay senior leader?

I’ve spent a large proportion of my professional life wearing two hats, and that’s primarily been because in some organisations, you’re not able to bring your true, authentic self to work every day. I think there’s still a huge amount of stigma that surrounds the LGBTQ+ community.

I suppose the first time I was truly myself in the workplace was way back in New Zealand when I was working for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. And sadly, that wasn’t very long ago. I’ve been in the profession for 20 years, and I’ve only been an openly gay leader for about the last 7 years.

How did being open about your sexuality at work affect you?

I suppose it’s two-fold. If you can’t be out and proud within the working environment, that causes both professional and personal stress because you have to sort of interchange how you work and operate. You’re almost wearing a mask, which feels really alien. So, I think being open allows me to be my genuine self in the workplace. But equally, it puts me in a position, from a senior executive perspective, to inspire others to be themselves at work and to challenge the status quo.

What can companies do to make the LGBTQ+ community feel more comfortable in the workplace?

For me, it’s about making the DEI strategy and narrative a reality — not just a banner that sits on a corporate website because it’s nice to have. There really needs to be true, wholesome meaning that sits behind that. And regarding values, behaviors and culture, organisations really have to have an inclusivity lens. Not only does that attract members of the LGBTQ+ community, but it can also attract people from across the diversity spectrum.

It isn’t about reporting percentages and waving the flag, but it’s actually supporting organisations to really champion, encourage and ask questions. We need to break the cycle of active bystanding to focus on truly being an inclusive society. What we’re doing as employers should support what we’re doing from a societal perspective.

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