Leng Montgomery has built-up a reputation as an influential media voice around diversity and inclusion. He was Master Chefs first openly Trans contestant and is a regular on social media, speaking at events about issues affecting Trans Community.
He’s a nominee in this year’s British LGBT Awards under the Corporate Rising Star Category.
Leng also works to help organisations become more inclusive places to work for everyone. Currently he is employed by supermarket giant Sainsbury’s as their Diversity and Inclusion Executive.
Here he tells us about Sainsbury’s work on diversity and inclusion, what employers can do to support trans employees, offers advice to trans people coming out at work and what he’s hoping to achieve in the next year…..
What is Sainsbury’s like to work for and what kind of schemes and support does Sainsbury’s offer its employees?
Sainsbury’s is a really inclusive place to work. From the moment I had interviews and also saw what it was doing for its colleagues and customers, I found the approach to diversity and inclusion very proactive and really well executed.
I feel I can be open about who I am and it’s great working somewhere that encourages everyone to bring their whole self to work.
In terms of development, there are a variety of programmes in place and there is a great feedback culture that encourages progress and given the scale of our operation there are always new things to learn and new projects and people to collaborate with.
For support there are colleague network groups, such as Proud@Sainsbury’s and I Am Me, a thriving and active intranet space and also support from colleagues themselves. I’ve been lucky to work with some really inspiring individuals that have also helped me develop and grow professionally.
How has your own experiences and previous work impacted on your work at Sainsbury’s?
Well, without sounding too much like a cliché I feel that I am well versed in handling change and definitely have a lot of resilience. From a workplace perspective, working for various organisations in Diversity and Inclusion teams has really made me feel confident that positive change can happen. People can work together effectively and everyone has a role to play in terms of building and creating success.
Transitioning, if anything, has demonstrated that you can create something new and also retain core values and authenticity at the same time as being in a fast-paced environment.
Sometimes employers may be worried because of their lack of knowledge around LGBT issues, some may be worried about saying the wrong thing, do you have any advice for them?
Ask! It’s disappointing how many employers will use fear as a barrier and potentially closes off a great source of diverse talent due to being scared of getting it wrong. It’s better to ask, invest in your colleagues and build a business that reflects everyone in society, that way certain conversations are easier as there is already the representation there. Asking how someone likes to be addressed, rather than making assumptions about sexual orientation or gender identity are always a good starting point.
You have done a lot of work to raise awareness of the plight of transgender people around the world, what can employers do to support their trans employees?
I feel employers who are trans inclusive are starting to become more visible, which I feel is a good first step. Making that explicit stance really helps. It’s not just about profiling a colleague but having inclusive policies and I’d always recommend the introduction of an LGBT network to make sure that trans voices and issues are listened to.
Ensuring there are systems in place which accept different gender identity terms is also helpful. Overall a workplace that has a culture of acceptance and doesn’t treat people transitioning as a ‘problem’ ensures an environment that is more representative of the society we live in today.
The role that supporting line managers play is also important as they often need to understand what is in place to support individuals. In my experience many line managers have been fantastic at supporting a colleague professionally and ensuring the right levels of support are built in if a colleague is transitioning.
What advice would you have to trans people looking for a new employer or thinking about coming out at work?
I usually look at the diversity messages that an organisation might be stating publicly, but in the absence of that I do ask how inclusive an organisation is or what it considers to be inclusive.
In terms of coming out at work, that is every individual’s choice, and I would advise only to do so when ready. I have been fortunate to have had great coming out experiences, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. When I told people in an internal blog for Sainsbury’s this year I realised afterwards that I’d inadvertently come out to 195,000 people!
Everyone was lovely and as a result other trans and non-binary colleagues have contacted me, as well as a massive show of support from other colleagues too which have now become friends of mine.
Apart from your own and Sainsbury’s work around diversity and inclusion, what other exciting and innovative ideas have you come across that are working towards creating more inclusive and accessible places to work?
I admire the work of so many people, and one thing I love most about being in the D&I space is how collaborative and celebratory organisations are about their people and the work they are doing. Certain ideas that I have seen that have really stood out are having good parental leave policy, carer policy and better flexible ways of working as this is an area that benefits everyone.
What’s the biggest difference you are hoping to make at Sainsbury’s over the next year?
The areas I am most excited about, include building upon our current D&I vision and continuing to make it a more inclusive place to work. As we move into a group function with Argos and Habitat it will be an exciting time to work with more people and different areas of the business, which can really demonstrate great diversity and inclusion in the retail sector.
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