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Why Coming Out Is Good for the Advertising Business - LGBT Diversity in the Workplace

24/03/2015 16:17 GMT | Updated 24/05/2015 10:59 BST

With Advertising Week Europe upon us, now is a good time to reflect on the state of the industry. One issue that's close to my heart is diversity in the sector, and in particular making sure that the industry is a positive environment for the LGBT community.

Entering the world of work is an intimidating prospect for all young adults, especially when you feel you must suppress your true identity. When I dropped out of university in 1999 and secured a role as a researcher at a TV production company, I was determined to make a successful career for myself. In my eyes, I had more to prove than anyone else because I had 'dropped out'. Whilst I came across as quietly confident, I was intensely anxious about my own capabilities and how colleagues would perceive me in the workplace. I felt that letting others know that I was gay would leave me open to even more scrutiny and judgment.

Having kept my sexuality a secret growing up, I was able to deftly deflect questions at work about my personal life. In reality, it was exhausting. Concealing who I was took up valuable headspace that should have been dedicated to my work. It prohibited me from developing strong and trusting professional relationships and without doubt held me back. Two years later, I decided to come out to friends and family. Soon after, I started my own business and vowed that from then on I wouldn't lie again about who I was and, if it presented challenges, I'd face them head on.

Unfortunately the majority of people in the workforce are reluctant to reveal their true identity for fear of it negatively impacting their career. Sadly, 62% of LGBT Gen Y Graduates go back into the closet when they start work, and only 45% of workers in the UK openly communicate to all in the workplace that they are L, G, B or T. Research highlights that LGBT diversity in the workplace positively impacts the bottom line as employees who feel their sexuality is respected are less likely to leave their jobs (Out Now Global 2014) and are often more productive.

Companies ranked in the top 25 per cent by the diversity of their boards are 53 per cent more profitable than the bottom 25 per cent. Whether it's related to gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or background, diverse experiences lead to unique and creative outputs, the very things our industry is built on.

Within the advertising industry, diversity is a vital ingredient for success, as we focus on creating and delivering messages with which everyone can identify. I'd argue it's impossible to deeply connect with your customers if they don't feel they are being effectively represented through your external communications. We still have a long way to go in representing the LGBT community in the creative for which we are all so proud. Recently, we've seen Tiffany incorporate same sex couples in its 'Will You?' campaign which in-turn made headlines in the mainstream and trade press around the world. Should this really be newsworthy in 2015?

Our industry is synonymous with innovation and creativity as well as taking a leadership role on social issues. Can we all commit to taking the lead on diversity in 2015 and beyond?