Stephen, Fire, Health & Safety Officer
“Pride is special to me; it means to be accepted by everyone, anyone, anywhere, anytime. It means to be who I am and not who I have to be. Pride is important to me because it symbolises a common struggle that we all face at first but it helps us to have self-belief and confidence that the future is bright (and rainbow coloured!)”
Stephen lives in Southampton and works as the Fire, Health and Safety Officer and Plan A Champion at our West Quay store. He has big ambitions in terms of his M&S career and is a strong LGBT+ champion in West Quay Store. We spoke to Stephen to find out more about his life experiences, his time with M&S and his passion for Pride.
“My coming out experience was mixed. This is where I discovered who my real friends were. Unfortunately, my family was only 50% supportive so when I came out as a gay man, I heavily relied on my work colleagues to give me support, guidance and – most of all – a cheery mood to help me through. And I truly have never felt more compassion, love and respect given to me! Though at home things were rocky, at work I never felt like anything had changed and I simply put that down to the M&S values. We are taught integrity as one of them, and my M&S colleagues were there for me when I thought no one was.
“Before I started at M&S I didn’t really know anything about how they viewed the LGBT+ community and applying was very much a jump into the dark. I won’t lie – at first I was worried to be who I really was inside of the workplace. It took me several weeks to understand our store has a few LGBT+ members and that in this store it is widely accepted. Then, through progression and visiting stores, I realised this is companywide. I am a dedicated person and if I want something I go out and get it. I want to work my way to Head Office and my LGBT+ status won’t stop me! In my lifetime, I have been lucky enough to see major positive change within the LGBT+ community. In my store, I feel I’m around friends due to the attitudes towards me. I would recommend M&S as an LGBT+ friendly company.
“With what I have been through, I am very understanding, have an incredibly open mind and, as my colleagues have always been there for me, I am always happy and willing to help them in any way I can. For example, I like to champion LGBT+ in my store. New starters often come to me for support or questions they may not normally ask other members of staff, and news about LGBT+ is often left out at Team Briefs so I try to disperse information during my walk rounds.
“I have been to Brighton Pride which was an amazing feel-good event. It allowed me to feel not just that I was within a familiar community, but one that understood the struggle we all faced/face. The atmosphere was a celebration of what has been achieved so far. It was something lots of local businesses joined in with and made me realise just how accepting communities can be.
“I think it would be good for the community to see more progression with companies. There are those making great strides in branding with gay couples, movies with gay couples and even books for children. I love our brand and I look forward to our adverts and advertising, however, the LGBT+ community is a large one and one businesses need to look at tapping into. You can cater to LGBT+ people working for you, but shopping with you is another thing all together.Inside M&S