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When people congratulate me for co-chairing the LGBT+ Staff Network and call me a queer role model, I have to be honest – I didn’t intend for this to happen, I just came out to a colleague and everything snowballed very quickly from there.

In a lot of ways, I’m not the best person to lead a Network – I’m abominably shy, awkward, no good at networking, and generally prefer to stay hidden from sight (though admittedly most of this is due to inexperience). This was a source of discomfort for me for a while – was I a rubbish role model? Was I giving a bad image of LGBT+ people, or of the network?

Then again – over the months I have come to realise two things:

Done is better than perfect
That is – it’s better to have someone trying to effect change, making mistakes along the way, and doing their best with their heart in the right place, than wait for the “perfect” leader to come along before we try to do anything. Since I became co-chair of the Network, I am proud to have achieved the following using my resourcefulness, creativity, and enthusiasm:

• Enabled the Network to become an active group that meets monthly
• Set up regular co-chair meetings to progress the our strategic LGBT+ plans
• Established a successful LGBT+ Allies Programme
• Organised LGBT History Month celebrations for 2015 and 2016
• Held awareness-raising campaigns on calendar dates previously not marked at the University, e.g. Bi Visibility Day.
• Doubled the size of the Network
• Jointly lead the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index submission, which this year resulted in us being ranked 36th top employer in the UK, and 2nd top HEI employer!
• Regularly touch base with the Network to ensure that our members are happy with the service we provide and can feedback suggested improvements (currently underway)
• Worked with Senior Management to communicate support for LGBT+ issues
• Strengthened links with the Students’ Union LGBT Officers and community LGBT+ groups in order to share best practice, support each other’s events, and share resources.

I’m sure someone in a higher level position could have achieved even more – but until someone comes along and expresses an interest in the network leadership, then I’m more than happy to do the best I can. And for an awkward young admin assistant, I think I’ve done a pretty good job.

The more role models, the better
So often, the role models we are presented with are of a similar style – a particular leadership style that is authoritative, academic, highly confident, and well-networked. I don’t (yet) identify as any of those things, but actually that’s ok. Role models are there for people to aspire to, and not everyone wants to be an authoritative, forceful leader. Some people want to be gentle, encouraging leaders, some have no desire to lead, and some at the start of their careers can’t even imagine reaching the dizzying heights of SMT because that seems so far from where they are now. Some people just want to be comfortable enough to be out at work. If I am to be a role model for anything, I hope it is for being a publicly imperfect person that is striving to be better and doing what she can within her means. I hope I illustrate that resourcefulness, courage, and a desire to make things better can lead you to achieve great things – even if you’re awful at talking to people at parties.

Cath
LGBT+ Staff Network co-chair

Cath’s previous posts:
Straight Until Proven Queer

February 8th, 2016

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