'People who are out at work are happier and perform better - I wish I'd done it sooner'

2016-10-06

"Be Yourself. Be Different" - Role model and partner at at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mark Gossington, opens up about being out at work .

How do you see your role as LGBT role model, how can this help the future generations of LGBT leaders? 

The reality is that LGBT+ people face a high risk of discrimination in the workplace even in the UK today. Nearly 50% of LGBT employees hide their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, and 23% remain closeted because they believe they will not be considered for promotion or other development opportunities. I think it helps to have out gay role models at work, particularly in more senior positions, so it's no big deal to be open and be themselves. It's proven that when you can be yourself you feel happier and perform better. I haven't always been out at work and I wish I'd done it sooner. 

Do you consider yourself as an activist and why, or why not? 

Gosh no! There are far more worthy people than me in the LGBT+ community doing work for good causes, including very important human rights work, so I wouldn't consider myself an activist. I have a huge amount of respect for people like Peter Tatchell, for example, who have made a lot of personal sacrifices and made significant achievements. I like to think that I play my part to raise awareness of inclusion issues in the corporate world and particularly enjoy supporting younger LGBT+ people in their career development aspirations. 

Have you had any bad or good experience during your life about being gay that you would like to share? 

I think I've been very lucky that I've had a supportive family, friends and employers. Whilst I, like many LGBT people, have suffered physical and verbal homophobic abuse over the years, I am pleased to say that it's not impacted me significantly and I like to focus on the good experiences. One recent example was one of our new graduate interns who contacted me saying he'd been so inspired by what we had done at PwC on LGBT inclusion, including my own story, that he had successfully applied to join the firm permanently. It made me feel very proud. 

Do you think being differentis more a drawback or an advantage that everyone should use to progress in their career? 

At PwC we have had a campaign called 'Be Yourself. Be Different'. We have used the campaign to focus on the benefits of bringing different points of view particularly to business problems that need solving and also diversity of individuals. I really think it has benefited my career to date and I am proud to help others use their difference to their advantage. 

You are very much involved in PwC LGBTI network, how has it evolved in the last 10 years? 

It started as a closed social group only open to PwC people. [email protected] (gays, lesbians and everyone else) has changed significantly to be an inclusive business network open to all, irrespective of sexuality or gender identity. We have over 1000 members including PwC people, our clients, charities and community organizations. We organise numerous events throughout the year focusing on networking and support for the wider community. We are pleased that due to the work of our [email protected] steering committee members, for the first time PwC will be a key official sponsor of Pride in London in 2017. 

PwC has offices in some countries where being LGBT is still illegal. Do you think the new partnership between PWC UK and myGwork can help send a global message of support to all PwC employees worldwide? 

PwC is a network of different firms across many countries. We have formed a Global LGBT+ Board with Partners from of our largest network firms to look at this issue, with our Chinese firm as the newest member. Whilst we have to respect local laws, we hope to use our influence to help inform and change the position particularly where it is illegal and where penalties for being LGBT are severe. Partnerships with myGwork and other global initiatives will hopefully send a strong message to those countries. We hold a Global Diversity Week across PwC globally during September to raise awareness. This year in the UK it coincides with BiVisibility Day which we will be celebrating. 

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Have you ever chosen to work for a company looking at its diversity and inclusion policy? 

I used to work for Barclays before I moved into professional services. They have a fantastic market-leading reputation for their diversity and inclusion policies and support for the LGBT+ community, including being the headline sponsor for Pride in London. It was also important for me when I became a Partner at PwC that I could truly feel the firm was inclusive and supportive of difference. Like many firms we still have more work to do but we have made significant improvements in the last few years. 

Your name is often in the LGBTI power lists of major publications, Do you think these lists help create a fearless environment for LGBT professionals to come out? How? 

It's a proud moment to see your name on these lists and role model awards. I do hope it gives people who are not out at work or with their family or friends be courage to do it and be fearless! I long for the day when these lists and awards won't be necessary any more. 

Watching controversy about the same-sex unions in Mexico, what is your opinion on the topic and on parenting? 

It seems ridiculous to me that same sex marriage or civil partnerships are not recognized universally. I also have a personal view that you should not need to get married or sign a piece of paper to give you the same rights as everyone else. Equally, assuming you are fit to be a parent, why should your sexual orientation or gender identity come into it...it plainly shouldn't. 

Do you choose for holiday LGBTI destinations or you do prefer something far from the community? 

I make a point, wherever possible, of avoiding destinations where it is illegal to be gay out of principle. I want to spend my holiday where everyone is welcomed. One of my favourite LGBT-friendly destinations is Provincetown, Cape Cod in the US. I love the art exhibitions and the nightly T-Dance! I've been going there for over 20 years and it's somewhere that makes me feel really comfortable being myself and it's always very relaxing. I've also recently come back from a trip to the Treviso region in Italy where we visited vineyards for the harvesting of the grapes for Skinny Prosecco. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your babySkinny Champagne and Prosecco? 

I got involved with the brand as an investor early on just as Skinny Prosecco was launched in the UK. They supported 2016 Pride in London by providing Skinny Prosecco at the Canadian High Commission reception. They are also bringing out baby bottles to make it easier to enjoy on the go! What I liked so much is that they produce top quality bubbles with either little or no sugar added plus it is also certified organic and vegan. Who knew that most wine isn't vegetarian?! 

Interview by Adrien Gaubert, co-founder at myGwork.

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