Name: Álvaro Herrera López
Role: Principal Machinery Engineer
Organisation: Air Products
How does your identity relate to your work?
I identify as bisexual, and another important part of my identity is my cultural identity (Mexican) and being Spanish speaking. My identity doesn’t relate directly to the work I do. However, being part of the LGBT+ community, as well as being an immigrant, can cause anxiety if your workplace doesn’t ensure that non-discrimination and diversity policies are in place. You want to be sure that people won’t attack you or discriminate against you for being queer or not being British. When that’s covered, you’re able to focus on your work and it takes away the stress that’s otherwise in the background.
Do you feel comfortable being out at work?
I feel comfortable now. But when there wasn’t a group for LGBT+ employees, I always felt uneasy about being out. I wondered if being open about it would cause problems or damage my career development.
Through working to set up my organisation’s LGBT employee support group for Europe, I’ve helped get information out to our allies and LGBT+ employees. But I’ve also grown confident that being out won’t damage my career and that my company would tackle any discrimination or prejudice directed towards me. This happily hasn’t happened and, on the contrary, I’ve only encountered examples of support.
Why are LGBT role models important in the workplace?
It’s especially important for junior engineers to see LGBT+ people being open about their identities and being successful professionals in the sector. It encourages people to come out and be free and open about who they are. When they see that being themselves is not going to stop their career development, they build up confidence and can focus on their work.
What can allies do in the workplace?
Allies make all the difference. LGBT+ people can’t create change on our own, since we are a minority. We need our heterosexual and cisgender peers to not only show tolerance, but acceptance and support. I’ve been lucky to have a very supportive ally as my direct boss. She’s made me feel very comfortable being out and open about my sexuality and my family.