“Like many, being open about my gender identity was something I found difficult. When eventually I decided to tell the world I still struggled with being open at work. As a partner in a small business I knew the impact it would have and there isn’t much room for disruption – so I bottled it. I negotiated my exit and took the chance to move on.
“I was initially reticent about changing my name on CVs and LinkedIn, but eventually took the plunge. Despite applying for hundreds of roles I had little success. I experienced awkward phone interviews, with my voice confusing the person at the other end. And then the uncomfortable conversation when meeting face to face and they realised I was trans – nothing nasty, but it made me very self-conscious.
“As trustee of several charities that embraced my transition, I knew I could function as a credible professional woman. I chose to set up a consultancy promoting diversity and inclusion to businesses. And after spending the initial months networking and meeting people, I found the world was more than receptive.
“My biggest challenge was overcoming my own imposter syndrome – that of my female self. The fact I was transgender was always the ‘elephant in the room’, or at least it was in my head.
“I still recognise the workplace challenges; businesses don’t want to hire someone different, they don’t want to have to learn to deal with you, and we must be better than the rest by a long way to be considered for a role. But I am now 18 months on and no longer a person who is only defined by being trans – being trans is just a part of me and not the only me. I am an entrepreneur, a friend, a colleague, a professional woman, and someone who also has a transgender history.”
Joanne Lockwood is founder and CEO of D&I practice SEE Change Happen