“A lot of people think one person in a relationship needs to take on a ‘male role’ and the other a ‘female role’ but, just as in all relationships, you just play to your strengths.”Liz Leitning External Manufacturing Senior Quality Leader
Our Stronger Together conversation series has celebrated the stories of hundreds of our colleagues, sharing their experiences and what they’ve learnt as they push for change. This month, we’re shining the spotlight on all things LGBTQ+ to recognise Pride month!
Today, Liz Leitning (she/her), External Manufacturing Senior Quality Leader, based in Hull, UK shares her story – from applying for paternity leave and coming out at work to her hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community.
Tell us a little more about you...
I am geeky and slightly introverted. I am an avid reader; a sports fan and I love travelling and learning new things. I have been with my now wife for 15 years - we got married three years ago. I am a mother of two boys (aged eight and five), two dogs and some gerbils.
What does Pride mean to you?
To me, Pride is much more than rainbow flags everywhere and loud street parades. It is about: protesting inequality and unjustness, respecting oneself and others, increasing visibility, deconstructing stereotypes and embracing differences.
In other words, it is about togetherness, hope for a better future and love in all its forms.
Have you always been out at work? Or have you ever felt like you have had to keep it a secret?
It took me 10 years to be fully out at my previous workplace as I wanted to just be judged based on my performance and my work behaviours and not on someone's bias. I have been out since the day I started at Reckitt.
Could you tell us about an instance where you faced or witnessed prejudice in the workplace?
I had a frustrating experience when I applied for paternity leave at my previous workplace. I know I’m quite privileged to call this a problem (although I shouldn’t be), but it caused me the most frustration when I needed it the least.
Firstly, the forms I had to complete did not take adoptive or same sex parents into account. After submitting them, I was initially told I couldn’t take paternity leave by HR as I wasn’t a man. I also ended up with a few uncomfortable, judgemental conversations.
During your career, what have you seen change on LGBTQ+ matters?
When I first started work, marriage wasn’t legal and civil partnerships had only just been made law in the UK. As things have changed over the years and as visibility of LGBTQ+ increased, it has translated into much more open discussions in the workplace and more support and freedom. Workplace policies are now worded to be more inclusive and a lot more empowering messages come down from the top, which I think is brilliant.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community?
There are still a lot of misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community. A lot of people still think one person in a relationship needs to take on a ‘male role’ and the other a ‘female role’ but, just as in all healthy and effective relationships, you just play to your strengths.
What more needs to change in society for LGBTQ+ people to feel empowered?
More conversation, more visibility, more normalisation, more support from allies, more education.
I also believe that it’s important to ban Conversion Therapy and improve rights and laws across the globe.