As part of our Pride month celebrations, we caught up with WCS Group service delivery manager Leon Potts, who sits on the EDI LGBTQ+ working group.
Hi Leon, can you tell us a little bit about your career background and current role?
I’ve been working in building maintenance and compliance for about 20 years. I joined WCS Group in January 2021 as service delivery manager with a team of about 45 engineers & field managers. We look after the after day-to-day delivery of planned compliance tasks.
As a gay man, what have your experiences been of being out in the workplace?
I’ve always been out in the workplace; I’ve always been upfront about who I am. At WCS, I’ve felt supported from my very first week and my experience has been nothing but positive. That has not always been the case for me. One of the reasons I left a previous job was because my manager said my team should ‘man up’ when raising issues about inclusivity. I was shocked. That sort of terminology is so negative. It’s the sort of attitude we really don’t want.
What support have you had from WCS Group?
My experience at WCS has been 100% positive. I couldn’t have wished for more supportive managers or colleagues. The company is working hard to be more inclusive. We are making big strides in showing all employees it is 100% ok to be yourself. Our key message for 2022’s pride month is “Everyone is welcome”. This approach is so important. There is a distinct lack of LGBTQ+ representation in our sector and how we communicate has not really been thought about. A lot of our terminology is based on outdated gender-biased terms such as ‘man hours’ or ‘salesman’ or ‘girls in the office’. We know that in our sectors, lots of people come from a trade background and, yes, it is heavily skewed towards traditional gender-based roles. However, using that language just perpetuates the stereotype and does not form an inclusive culture for anyone who does not feel included in that terminology.
How can companies run a successful Pride month campaign?
The first thing is to engage with people and look for those who want to run Pride activities because you’ll get the best results from people who are engaged with the subject. Try to make activities relevant to your company and introduce policies that bring long lasting and meaningful change. It is important to aim for something that can be achieved. This month we picked language and terminology. That’s a big thing for us, just trying to make managers aware of what they say and what their team says in team meetings. It’s not about telling people they’ve done something wrong, it’s about creating a positive learning atmosphere.
It is also important to get backing from senior leadership, so it’s not just seen as a token few people making this call. As a company, we want that support to be visible throughout the whole organisation. This approach links closely with giving people who are trans and non-binary the option to choose their pronouns. So now people may put their pronouns on their emails if they wish. Also, our HR system now allows everyone to choose their preferred pronouns.
How can team members be allies to their LGBTQ+ colleagues?
The easiest one is not to assume anything, be inclusive and be supportive if they need to reach out. Educate yourself on LGBTQ+ topics and be visible in your support but always be careful of confidentiality and accidental “outing”. With a company the size of WCS or Marlowe, you are going to have significant numbers of people who are LGBTQ+ and making these efforts will make them feel welcome, will make them stay and help them feel a valued part of the team.
Do you have any advice for LGBTQ+ colleagues who are thinking about coming out?
It is 100% your choice, don’t let anyone pressure you. There is plenty of support if you want to have confidential conversations. We have an LGBTQ+ support email address, or if anyone wants to reach out individually, they are more than welcome to give me a call or an email.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We’re always keen for new people to come forward to get involved in the EDI committee. Currently most of the members of the LGBTQ+ working group are based in Gloucester. It would be nice to have people from other parts of the organisation to get involved, including from the wider Marlowe group. The EDI committee is full of people who are actively working to improve inclusivity and offer real support to those who need it. We use Pride month as a platform, but we are constantly working to bring positive change.
Throughout June WCS Group raised £720 for MindOut who work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all LGBTQ communities.