You can ask me anything

Anthony Francis has a mission: making the world a little more inclusive and, hopefully, just that little bit better for somebody; anybody.

Anthony Francis achieved what he never thought possible: a university degree and a rewarding job in a big company. Acknowledging his good fortune, he explores the things colleagues, co-workers, managers and corporates themselves can do to encourage understanding and acceptance. He also explains what he and other LGBT+ people can do to help others realise their full potential.

Tell us who you are and about your experience

My name is Anthony Francis and I work currently at Lloyds Banking Group as an IT project manager. I didn't believe I'd ever go to university but I graduated, in 2013, with a 2:1 in forensic computing, gained at Staffordshire University.

I was fortunate to secure an industrial placement ahead of my university friends and lucky enough to secure a graduate role at a SME, based in Vauxhall, prior to completing university. It was a great role for me and provided a great amount of experience and opportunity. It also encouraged me to apply for a graduate scheme that I had previously felt was too far out of my reach.

Taking a step forward

In early 2014 I applied for a specialist graduate scheme at Lloyds Banking Group. It was based within IT project management and would be located at London Bridge. After around eight different assessments I secured the graduate scheme I sought - the one I once felt unreachable.

It wasn't until I started working at Lloyds Banking Group that I appreciated inclusivity and diversity. I was always out to try and achieve whatever was possible but I had never taken the chance to reflect on what being both an ethnic minority and gay could mean; what it could mean when progressing in life; what it could mean when setting my own goals.

Find a role model

It took me almost 12 months to come out at work. Brighton Pride give me an excuse to be able to tell my colleagues and give me an excuse to be who I am.

It's this reflection that made me realise how much inclusivity means to me. I believe no matter our race, gender, sexuality or ability that we should all be entitled to make the difference that we want to make.

I recently reflected on my role model, as someone once told me: you can't be what you can't see. So I sought my gay, ethnic minority senior manager or exec, and I couldn't find one. In fact, I still haven't. My role model goes by the name of Kimberley Bird, who happens to be trans and white, which isn't the same as me, but she is a really inspiring person and holds many of the skills and much of the experience I hope to achieve.

Out and proud

For this reason I now stand tall, open and loud. I am open to people judging me, asking questions or even shaking my hand. Loud to advising people why inclusivity and diversity are important; why it's critical and why the world needs to be inclusive of all people. If I can make it easier for someone else or make the world a little more inclusive, then that's my mission.

Proud and making a difference

Luckily, I've not had many challenges in my career, after all, my career journey has been under four years. But in my first 12 months of my corporate life I was in the closet, I couldn't be myself and I didn't thrive. After my excuse to come out, Brighton Pride, I positioned myself to become part of our LGBT+ networks leadership team and help drive our company forward.

Pride was the beginning

I was amazed. Even I didn't know I cared so much, even I didn't know it mattered. But it does. That's why I care, that's why I now understand how important inclusion and diversity is to the world.

The IT industry isn't old, it isn't retired and it isn't resistant. It's open to change, after all, most IT professionals work in a constant state of change and although people hate change, it does make us more open.

Lloyds Banking Group won the number one spot in Stonewall's Top 100. It did so, not because it ticked boxes, but because the organisation means it when it says: Inclusivity and diversity are important to them and therefore it's in the culture. As a business, we embrace and encourage change.

A good place to work

This shows us that IT can be inclusive functions / businesses. The biggest challenge is the colleagues, and therefore I would say that companies need to explain inclusion and diversity to them and why it's important for the business as well as it being the right thing to do.

What I believe the industry needs is role models: we need gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals to not only come forward, but to be role models, to not sit back but to be willing to talk, share and mentor. Doing this means people can see you, and if people can see you they can be you; this will create inclusion, this will create diversity, this will create the future.

Given recent events, diversity is more important than ever. As LGBT+ people, we need to acknowledge that the challenge of inclusion goes further than sexuality, we are just one strand.

My advice to others would be don't restrict yourself on what you can or can't see. I once thought I'd never get a job in a corporate. I have. Stay true to who you are and do what you enjoy and the rest will follow.