I joined MI5 in 2007 and am Head of the Behavioural Science Unit and Personnel Security Team. It’s a fun, dynamic place to work and a privilege to lead a talented team that makes a real difference to protecting our country, every day.
Being gay has undoubtedly influenced the choices I’ve made during my career. As a child of the 80’s it didn’t escape my attention that some people had a problem with gay people. Institutions like government – through their policies and practices – by and large agreed. Working in intelligence and security was a no go, reserved for those whose sexuality and choice of partner wouldn’t present a security risk. It’s all laughable now, and feels like a long time ago. But it had real life changing consequences back then. Thanks to others before me – committed campaigners and brave politicians who were prepared to tough it out – that’s all changed. I was never out at work when I was at my previous organisation. This was largely a personal choice, and part of the journey of recognising who I was, rather than any reaction to what others might think. Not being able to talk about yourself in the ways that others take for granted had a detrimental impact on my confidence and performance in the role back then. Conversations about my partner, holidays, weekends – all the usual fare for the office – were always filtered in a way that would not betray my sexuality. It’s ridiculous I know, and I laugh when I think about the energy wasted on not very convincing cover stories. It was tiresome. I felt like a fraud.
All that changed when I joined MI5. I decided it was best to be open about who I was, prompted partly by the need for full disclosure as part of my background checks. More importantly, there were already senior managers who were out at work, and an active LGBT group that had the support of the Board and sponsorship from directors. I joined the executive group and worked to improve our standing in the Workplace Equality Index, making improvements to a wide range of policies and practices from challenging bias and harassment, recruitment and management training through to promoting inclusivity in our supply chain. The MI5 of today is a very different place. Our ranking as Number One in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index is testament to the changes that have been made and to the role that senior leadership has made in making this happen. It is a supportive and friendly environment, committed to the development of its staff for which I have benefited immeasurably. I’ve never found it an issue being out at work and being open with colleagues has allowed me to become a more capable and confident lead.
Bi Network Member
I’m thankful that my team and particularly my line manager Jan gives me the opportunity, time and freedom to get involved with the MI5 LGBT network, diMensIon5. My management recognises that by giving me the space and support to be my authentic self I’m far more useful and valuable to them and an employee and member of my department.
Last year I was incredibly fortunate to be given the opportunity to attend the first bi specific Stonewall Workplace Role Model Programme. The programme is specifically for bi people to explore what it means to be a visible bi role model in the workplace. To add a bit of context for you, Stonewall’s research found that bisexual men and women often feel excluded from LGBT employee networks, as these are perceived to primarily cater for lesbians and gay men, with little participation by bisexual employees or focus on bisexual issues. Just for complete clarity and to ensure we’re all on the same page, ‘bi’ is an umbrella term. For example, people who identify as pansexual, heteroflexible, non-heterosexual, bi-curious, queer, or whose sexual orientation is fluid can all fall under the umbrella term.
To put this into perspective for you, 91,248 employees from various organisations participated in Stonewall’s 2017 Workplace Equality Index. Of the respondents, 16,039 identified as lesbian, gay or bi and the stats below show that bi really is a minority within a minority.
Gay Men: 51%
Lesbians and Gay Women: 24%
Bi Women: 16%
Bi Men: 9%
One of the key purposes of the programme was to enable us to reflect on personal experiences and increase our confidence in bringing our authentic selves to work. We explored ways of establishing practical methods of stepping up as a visible role model in the workplace. To finish up the day we all chose to make a declaration and a commitment. In my case I committed to being an approachable face within the network and to being more visible. Taking a more proactive approach to my LGBT Network and championing bi issues not only within the Network but also in the wider office.
So what have I been doing? Well, volunteering into writing articles like these to be a bi voice in the rainbow crowd. I’ve also got involved with the diMensIon5 Executive as one of their communications officers, as my department’s internal communications manager I thought it would be the logical step. I hope that by being more visible, not just in the Network but in the wider officer I might sow the seed of inspiration with someone else to get involved. MI5 gives me the opportunity to do that. To be visible. And to be myself.