24 June, 2016

Roz, Project Manager

“I’ve always been a minority in terms of my ethnicity and now through my lifestyle. It means I’ve had to be a strong individual. As my mother said as I was growing up: ‘I always let you be a bit mouthier than your sisters – I knew you may have to fight harder and wanted to prepare you for that.’”

Born in Bangladesh but living in the UK since she was 18 months old, Roz grew up in a quiet village in East Sussex. She moved to Birmingham to go to university, then on to London, before relocating to Surrey. Roz has worked with M&S for 11 years, initially joining us as a Store Manager in our Food Hall. A couple of Head Office roles followed and she’s now a Project Implementation Manager in our Labour Planning team. It was after joining M&S that Roz came out and, as we prepare to celebrate Pride Week, she tells us about the pride she feels about our inclusive culture.  

“As I joined M&S, I was exploring my sexuality. I found very quickly that, when you hide who you are, people find it difficult to relate to you or understand you – especially in stores when you work closely with people on a day-to-day basis. This aloofness can create a division and I’ve found that, to build relationships with others, you have to let them know about yourself as openly and honestly as you feel comfortable with. In terms of Regional Managers and Head Office Line Managers, I have never had any problems. They have always been supportive, in the same way they have for non-LGBT+ colleagues.

“I live with my wife and we have been civil partners for four years and together for eight years in total. We met at M&S whilst both in stores. Who I go home to at night has no bearing on my professional career – it does not shape how well I do my job, or which jobs I apply for. But knowing the company I work for accepts all kinds of diversity and actively celebrates and embraces differences within people makes me feel like I have a sense of belonging. This is rewarded by my loyalty to the company. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that society and attitudes have changed towards the LGBT+ community over the last couple of decades. I know that from my experience of living in big cities for the last 15 years, tolerance has increased and there is a bigger sense of acceptance to be who you want to be. That said, every minority can feel under threat at certain times.

“I have found that when you meet people, personally and professionally, and you choose to disclose your personal circumstances their overall attitude is positive. Although sometimes it can still be too much. Especially when they ask about your plans to raise a family and want details about how you might go about it. The great side of this is that they are accepting of your choice and don’t see your circumstances as a blocker to having a family. The converse of this is that it can be a bit too intrusive – especially for an initial conversation!

“I am really proud of the recent work that M&S is doing to ensure that all of their people are represented fairly. And of the fact that as a business we are asking “What more can we do for our people?” This can be seen in the reviewing of our HR policies and wording so that both are non-gender specific. This, and others like it, are examples of M&S’s long history of supporting their staff and ensuring they are ‘doing the right thing’ and interpreting those values in the context of today’s society.”

Inside M&S