During Pride month, our Product Manager, Joshua Gledhill kindly shared his personal experience of being a member of the LGBT+ community and what Pride means for him and his aspirations for others.
Josh joined Palintest in November 2021 and specialises in the photometric and visual product line, the company’s most established technology. In his role, Josh looks after new product development, maintains the current portfolio, and supports product strategies. He’s also part of Palintest’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) media group and along with the team facilitates thought-provoking conversations to engage colleagues on DEI topics.
Once wary about sharing his LGBTQ+ identity, Josh looks back on his journey of self-acceptance, confidence and stepping into a leadership role which has empowered him to support other LGBTQ+ colleagues.
What made you decide to take part in this interview?
I did not see very many gay men when I started my career in the manufacturing sector and I felt that I had to be a bit more reserved. Looking back, I feel that influenced some of my decisions at work and how I acted in meetings. As I developed relationships, I discovered I could be more myself. I started performing better, contributing more to creative thinking, and sharing my opinions. Those opinions led to opportunities, projects and results. I went through a five-year period early in my career before I realised it was okay for me to just be myself. I want to be that person that someone can identify with when they join the business. I could help them go through that journey quicker and realise they don’t have to be anything but themselves.
What about Palintest’s culture has allowed you to be comfortable as your authentic self?
The marketing and sales department is incredibly diverse. I knew within the first few hours of my first day on the job that this was going to be an inclusive environment to work in. And so far, seven months in, I still firmly believe that. I don’t feel I have to hide, and I believe my colleagues feel the same. Our conversations are natural, flowing and creative, and that’s something that I really value in an employer. When I interviewed for the role, I didn’t get the stock answer many companies give about diversity and inclusion. Instead, they laid out a clear strategy for how Palintest is trying to improve its diversity, champion people within the business and open opportunities for underrepresented groups. Those are things that I was excited to hear, and it made me feel like I wanted to be part of that.
Sexual orientation isn’t a visible identity which can make coming out at work difficult. What was your coming out journey like?
I joined my previous company at a young age and was there for just under a decade. I’d go into meetings and be very guarded when people asked about my weekend. That puts up barriers which affect your working relationships and damages trust. I really struggled, especially when I heard offensive jokes walking down the factory floor. It reinforced the idea that I was doing the right thing by keeping my identity quiet. It was eventually one of my colleagues who said: “We’ve all have noticed in the last two years you’ve said the word ‘partner’, and we’ve all been talking about it”. We laughed and I felt a huge sense of relief. The conversation very quickly moved on to something else, but things seemed to change for me in that moment. I got more confident in talking about my personal life and in expressing opinions and ideas at work that up until then I didn’t think I could share.
On the personal front, has your family and friends been supportive in your journey?
My mother was incredibly supportive, and she knew from the age of six that I was gay. My friends were very accepting as well, but my father wouldn’t admit it. He was in the military, from a strict background, so that had a huge bearing on his initial response. It was only after I gained more independence that I felt able to challenge him on the issues. A turning point was when I was the victim of a homophobic attack at aged 18. After going through that, my dad started to listen more and to understand the issues. I’m pleased to say that we’re now in a very different place. He has turned into a real advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and is even trying to implement policy changes in the British military. That is fantastic and has made me incredibly proud.
Lastly, what does Pride Month mean to you?
If we look at the history of Pride, it started as an act of defiance to get rights for a group of people that were marginalised. Over time, things have got better, laws have been updated and societal views are changing. We should celebrate all the hard work and sacrifices tens of thousands of people in the LGBTQ+ community have had to make. We also need to recognise that while things are changing, even in developed countries like the UK and the US, there are still challenges. Pride month is not just a great big party, it is an opportunity to change society, laws and people’s attitudes and perceptions; to make this world a fundamentally more equal and equitable place to live. It’s important that we acknowledge Pride at work, and we allow people to come to work as their full selves.
When asked about ways we can be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, Josh suggested learning, listening and giving someone a platform if you have the ability to do so. Here are some resources to help you in that journey, and a few of his personal recommendations.
Article: What Is an Ally? 7 Ways to Be One at Work | The Muse (Josh’s favourites are The Scholar and The Confident)
Book: The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business: Browne, John (2014)
Film: Pride (2014)
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