KIERON-SCOTT WOODHOUSE INTERVIEW
LGBTQIA HISTORY MONTH
What do you think it means, to know who you are?
For me, knowing who you are; is understanding and being aware of what makes you tick. Whether those things are perceived as “good” or “bad” being self-aware trumps everything, especially the opinions others place on you.
Knowing and protecting what you stand for and value as an individual is so much more powerful.
How do you see yourself?
I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I am not afraid to tackle the issues that confront me on a daily basis. The last 3 years have been a huge personal growth journey for me as I quit my permanent job and decided to become a contractor in 2018 because, to be honest, I just wasn’t very happy.
Little did I know this would be against the backdrop of movements such as #MeToo, BLM and Trans Rights, as well as, COVID-19 which for many, forced us to unpack a lot of “stuff” – something none of us should take for granted.
I’m actively relearning history to better understand why the world is the way it is and I think this is one of the most important things we all have the power to do. Sadly my formal education didn’t provide this for me, but I’m not bitter – I’m fixing it.
I’m now about to go permanent again in an organisation I feel meets all of “Kieron’s Conditions”.
If I asked your colleagues to describe your personality, what sorts of words do you think they would use?
Honest, Fair, Pragmatic and Empathetic
And if we asked the same question of your friends or family?
It was my birthday recently and my closest friends basically told me in a card. I think the last year has been a rollercoaster for everyone and the need to extend our love and appreciation to those closest to us has never been more pertinent.
Funny, Voice of reason, Trustworthy, Logical and Kind.
The term LGBT has become broader and broader with the addition of Q.I & A – how do you see yourself as a member of the LGBTQIA family?
Well, I’m definitely part of the family. I’m very proud to identify as a gay black man from a beautiful blended and mixed-race family. My Mum is of mixed heritage (Jamaican and English) and met my step-father 30 years ago when I was 3.
I’m all for better identifying and recognising all the different parts of our LGBTQIA family as I believe it’s important to recognise our nuances within the community ensuring people feel seen and heard. We should also acknowledge the fact we have so much in common and in many ways are fighting the same fight – strength in numbers!
We know that more and more organisations have networks to support and amplify the voices of those with protected characteristics, how do you feel as a bi-racial, gay, cis gender male, when in corporate space?
It’s really promising to see more organisations actively supporting those that have been so underrepresented and misunderstood for so long. I currently have an incredible manager that I feel is compassionate and doesn’t shy away from what could feel like awkward conversations for a straight, cis-gendered male. We also have a Diversity Director and Diversity champions throughout the organisation to uphold these values and initiatives.
Having said that, this is the norm and we still have a way to go until we can exist in these spaces without being hyper-aware of how others might respond to us for just being our authentic selves, the way we were born.
What are the challenges, if any, do you think that those from the LGBTQIA community face at work?
Acceptance is always going to be a challenge for a lot of us. For many, growing up dealing with our sexuality and feeling “less than” or “different” because of it have created scars and trauma we are actively dealing with. I don’t ever feel compelled to tell people about my sexuality but I definitely always feel like I have to scope out a situation before deciding to disclose for whatever reason – I’d love for this not to be the case.
I’m also hyper-aware that some may see the way I look, act or speak more “palatable” and make assumptions about my background that are advantageous to me. I think for much of the community blending into a “palatable” stereotype may not really be an option and work environments need to actively educate their workforce to encourage, accept and celebrate our differences.
As a starting place, what one thing do you think companies could be implemented across the board, as standard, to support their LGBTQIA people?
It’s important to create genuine safe spaces for the community to thrive and be heard. Whether it’s an LGBTQIA group, implementation of safe communication channels or a way to learn and show support would be a great start. Listening and actively acknowledging is the first step any company can take.
What do you think it does for the community, having more openly gay people in high office, most notably, Leo Varadkar, the Irish PM?
For me, this is really simple. It gives a tangible and visibly celebrated role model to aspire to be. We are humans and in society (whether we like it or not) we tend to benchmark self-worth and our potential based on the patterns we see around us. If we see people that look like us and/or share our lifestyles succeeding it’s only natural that we feel this could be a possibility for ourselves.
Where do you hope we will be with the LGBTQIA conversation in 5 years time?
I hope we’ll be seeing a clear and deliberate trajectory of more marginalised groups including those who identify as LGBTQIA in senior positions, leading the path to a more diverse and accepting society.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
It used to be “Don’t make enemies”, but I look back at this and it reeks of a “don’t rock the boat” mentality that turns a blind eye to some of the underlying issues we face today.
The best advice I think I’ve received was from a coach helping me through the perceived issues I had around communication with C-suite executives at a company I worked at. My coach knew these executives well and said to me “Kieron did you ever once consider that they were projecting their insecurities onto you and needed you to lead a conversation because they themselves were bad communicators”. This blew my mind and completely reframed the problems I was having. I try to actively identify when and if this is happening, which has served me well.
What is the thing you are most proud of?
Honestly. Getting to University. I remember a primary school teacher insinuating I would never make it. Well, I did and I have a First-class degree to show for it – stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr teacher man!
Just in case he’s reading… That means I was a part of the top 17% of all graduates in the UK the year I graduated. I’m not being petty I just don’t think teachers think about the impact their words can have on children, especially if you already feel different. Being made to feel incapable on top of feeling different definitely didn’t help.
What’s something that most people don’t know about you that you’d be happy to share?
I was a serious athlete growing up. I was a national level swimmer competing up until I was about 16 – I trained up to 8 times a week before and after school and would regularly spend bank holiday weekends at special residential training camps.
What is the question you most want to be asked when having this discussion?
Why is it important to have these conversations?
And what is the answer?
Because if we don’t have them nobody will have them for us.