Damien, why do we need to shift the lines on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace? What key challenges are we facing?
LGBT+ people are more visible today, including in the workplace. While the situation may have improved in some respects for LGBT+ people, it is not entirely settled yet. The feeling of being “out of place” still remains a struggle for LGBT+ people in the workplace. We are not necessarily aware of it, but we evolve in a society that is very much normative. And this norm prevails in conversations between colleagues. A personal experience: for a long time, I was asked if I had a wife and children, and I wasn't comfortable enough with my identity to come out as gay. So these simple, friendly questions made me feel uncomfortable. Today, I would like to help change the mindset and normalize the fact that someone can have a same-sex partner, or be transitioning and be open about it, and without being disregarded or ostracized for it.
What leads are you exploring in the working group you started?
This process is still very recent, the first task force’s meeting was held a few days ago on Pride Month. But we can already highlight three important points. The first is the motivation and commitment of the people who participate in this working group. There is a lot of enthusiasm and energy, which is very positive. The second point is that the members of this group are not limited to representatives of the LGBT+ community. It includes employees who are interested in the topic and want to be involved as allies. And that is extremely encouraging! The third point is that we have rallied around a shared goal, which is to increase the visibility of employees who are advisors on the topic, whose main role is to provide support and to direct employees to the appropriate Sopra Steria prevention agent, depending on the situation they encounter, including personal situations.
When we talk about open dialogue and inclusion, not only we want LGBT+ people to feel listened to, but also all those who have questions and do not know how to act or react to a situation affecting a colleague, a member of their family, etc., to be able to turn to someone who will be able to provide guidance.
Did getting involved in LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace come naturally to you?
No, not really. At first, I was uncomfortable with engaging under the LGBT+ banner. I didn't want my being gay to be seen as the sole reason for my involvement, even though I had a long-standing commitment to diversity in all its forms. The reason for my involvement is not related to my personal situation. It is related to a desire to make our company an inclusive place in which everyone can work and grow while being themselves, without being discriminated against for any reason whatsoever.
Have you ever faced difficulties or discrimination related to your sexual orientation in the workplace?
For me, things went pretty smoothly. But I am aware that this is not the case for everyone. I worked in England for a long time, where I was able to live openly and without difficulties as a gay man. I had the feeling that things would not have been so easy in France. But when I moved to Toulouse seven years ago, I realized that society was much more open than I thought and that I could live as myself openly and without problems. Today, I realize that I have been an actor of my own discrimination for a long time because it took me time to be comfortable with my identity, to be open and to talk about it naturally with my entourage.
What advice would you give to LGBT+ people on how to embrace their identity in the workplace?
I would like everyone to feel able to embrace their identity as they see fit, openly or not. It is an individual choice, which belongs to each person. I would add that in my case, when I decided to be part of the gay community without taboos, the reactions were unanimously positive and benevolent.