Celebrating LGBT History Month – An Interview with Simon Monger SCMP®

Simon Monger, SCMP® is an Internal Communication, Change and Engagement Consultant. Since 2007 he’s worked with a diverse range of global and multinational organisations in 19 countries across three continents. Simon has been a Board Member of the UK & Ireland Chapter of IABC since June 2020.

 

To mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month, Pooja Kamat, Employment Engagement Intern at the University of Leeds and IABC UK&I Student Board Member asked Simon to share his personal experiences of working in the communication industry as an openly gay man.

 

So Simon, tell us about how you found your path into a career in the communication industry?

Like a lot of people who started working in communications in the noughties, I fell into it almost completely by accident. I was working in customer service for E.ON UK straight out of university, where I’d studied English. I wanted a job that allowed me to be creative and write, so when I heard about the magical world of internal communication, I found my way into an entry-level position. From the first day I was completely hooked. That was almost 14 years ago.

 

What has been your experience of working in the communications field as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

Overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been openly gay throughout my communications career and it’s never been an issue. I was fortunate early on to work with a brilliant head of communications who was gay, married and very open about his life and husband. It gave me the confidence to be myself at work. Role models are extremely important – being able to see someone “like you” who has been incredibly successful shows that it’s possible.

 

Do you feel the industry has changed and is now more inclusive in nature?

As I say, I’ve been very fortunate to have a good experience, so it’s difficult for me to say if the industry has changed. But if we were to speak in a broader sense about inclusivity, I do think there is lots more to do. It’s no secret that our industry is predominantly female, and once you get beyond gender there isn’t enough diversity. But I believe it’s a work in progress and what’s pleasing is that there is more pressure on us to change, a groundswell that is saying we don’t accept how it’s been, we need to change. We all have a role to play in ensuring things continue to improve and we are inclusive of everyone.

 

Have you ever faced discrimination on the grounds of your sexuality? Has being gay made it more difficult to do your job?

I don’t think I’ve ever been discriminated against based on my sexuality, no. The second part of your question is interesting, though. Being gay hasn’t made it more difficult to do my job, but there are differences. On an almost daily basis I find myself having to come out to someone. I’m pretty used to it after all this time, but it was difficult at first and can get a bit tiresome. It can also depend on the industry you work in. My clients are varied and in some I feel more comfortable than others. But that is more about me than anything, because I’ve never had any problems working in more masculine or ‘macho’ industries like transport or construction, where perhaps I might have expected it to be a bit more difficult. We can all help our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues by never assuming sexual orientation or gender identity. Don’t assume a man is married to a woman. You’d be surprised how often someone asks about my girlfriend or wife! Use inclusive language. Ask about someone’s partner, not their wife or husband. Add your preferred pronouns to your LinkedIn profile and other social media. It really makes a difference and takes such little effort to do.

An image of Simon Monger SCMP in London, UK

Inclusion and diversity are very much buzzwords of business. What are your thoughts?

I think they’re so much more than buzzwords. Yes, you could be cynical and say that companies are just looking to tick the boxes; and in some cases, that’s probably true. But I’ve seen some wonderful organisations doing really great work in inclusion and diversity. Increasingly, organisations understand how crucial diversity and inclusion are to their success – whether that’s attracting the right talent, representing the communities and customers they serve, or simply understanding that employees who can be themselves at work are more productive and engaged. It makes good business sense. In recent years we’ve seen a shift more towards inclusivity, rather than diversity. And that’s good. Diversity is about representation. Inclusion is about integration, collaboration, perspectives and presence. We will never be “finished” when it comes to inclusion and diversity. There isn’t an end to this work and we all have a role to play.

 

Do you think the LGBTQ+ community have equal opportunities?

Within the communications industry? Well, I’m very conscious that I can’t speak for an entire community! Particularly one so varied and where there is so much lived experience that is very different to my own. I would like to say that there are equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community – and in my experience that has been the case – but sadly, I think I can say with certainty that it isn’t always the case. I’m confident and comfortable in my own skin, which I’m sure has helped me. If I was less confident and comfortable, then perhaps it would be different. When it comes to wider society, I don’t think we have 100% equality yet. Things are so much better than they were when I was at school – when it was illegal to talk about homosexuality in lessons for fear of ‘promoting’ it, leading to generations of LGBT kids growing up with little or no sex education – but there is more work to be done.

 

What would you say to LGBTQ+ people who are considering a career in communications?

I would absolutely say do it. I’ve found the communications industry to be incredibly welcoming and supportive. And being a member of the IABC has been incredibly helpful, too. I have connections all around the world, people who are so lovely and supportive and welcoming of people from so many different backgrounds, with different experiences. The global reach of IABC means there’s always something new to experience, and inclusivity is at the heart of everything we do.

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One thought on “Celebrating LGBT History Month – An Interview with Simon Monger SCMP®

  • February 25, 2021 at 8:13 am
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    Thank you for sharing your story Simon. I’m glad you’ve had a positive experience across industries. And it’s always interesting to read about people’s career paths.

    Reply

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