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Pride Month 2024: Pansexuality, my career so far and what Pride Month means to me – Isobel’s story

Isobel
Isobel | June 17, 2024
Category Management Assistant
I'm proud to say that being open about who I am has never been an issue during my time at Boots
Isobel

Can you tell us a bit about your journey and how you identify?

I grew up in a household without taboos. No question was off limits and knowledge was empowerment. Unfortunately, while it was encouraged at home, the outside world didn’t always share the same sentiment. I was the weird child, the child who asked questions, however those questions led me to find out that I’m Neurodivergent and helped me to put a name to how I felt. I identify myself as Pansexual (Pan) and ArcFlux. Pansexual is a micro-label under the Bisexual umbrella and I like to describe it as ‘I can be attracted to anyone but not everyone’ or you may have heard the Schitt’s Creek quote “I like the wine not the label”. Arcflux is a micro-label as well, within the Asexual community and is used by those who are sex-oscillating.
I came out as Bisexual (Bi) at the age of 14 and my family was immediately supportive. My school experience however wasn’t great. Once they found out I was banned from changing with the other girls, and some of my bullies tried to use it against me until they realised I wasn’t reacting. It was during Sixth Form I found out about Pansexuality (Pan) and decided I preferred to use it to identify myself. For me, labels aren’t about being different or the same as others but about being able to put a name to what I feel/experience. As someone who is also neurodivergent I have always found that once I can put a name to something, I can understand it better and find it easier to learn about.

Tell us a bit about your career with Boots so far?

In terms of my career, I have been working for Boots for almost seven years in different parts of the business. I started in 2017 as an Optical Consultant for Boots Opticians, and worked in various stores until the end of 2020, when I was promoted to Team Leader. At the end of 2022 I moved over to Boots UK as an Assistant Store Manager and then transitioned to the Support Office as a Category Management Assistant in September 2023.

What did you enjoy most about your time working in store?

During my time at Boots Opticians I enjoyed interacting with customers and helping them, not only with their eye health, but to find something that gave them confidence. I’ve worn glasses since I was three years old, and I know how important finding the right pair can be.

How did you get into your current role as a Category Management Assistant in the Support Office?

It was during my time as Assistant Store Manager that I started to think about changing career paths and I signed up for the Reverse Mentoring programme. This is where team members from underrepresented or marginalised groups mentor a senior leader and share their lived experience to increase understanding.
I was paired up with someone who wanted to know how the Operations team could make working in stores easier for those with learning disabilities and learn more about appropriate terms for neurodiverse and LGBTQ+ people. It was during one of our meetings that I mentioned my interest in Support Office, and she encouraged me to apply for job roles. I had been an active member of the Pride Alliance Business Resource Group (BRG) already and everyone had been extremely welcoming when I joined them for Nottingham Pride – in fact, when I mentioned potentially moving to a Support Office role , everyone I spoke to encouraged me to do so and I had many offers to meet up once I was there.
I accepted the offer for my current role because during my interview I felt really comfortable with the interviewers; they put me at ease and gave me the impression that they saw my differences as an asset to the team. This has since been proven true and my manager has always encouraged me to continue and expand my activities within the BRGs.

What is the purpose of the Pride Alliance Business Resource Group and why did you decide to join?

The Pride Alliance BRG is there to be a voice for LGBTQ+ team members and customers. They work to champion inclusion and empowerment in all parts of the business, making sure to be involved in as many big decisions as possible. It’s a group where no matter how you identify you can get to know other open, friendly, and fun people. I joined to connect with others like me and to be a part of helping others to be their authentic selves.

How has being a member of the Pride Alliance BRG impacted you and what positive changes have you seen as a result of this group?

Being a member of the Pride Alliance has helped me in so many different ways. As I mentioned it helped me decide to come to the Support Office. It also helped me connect with others and feel as though I could share my story.
The Pride Alliance has also helped Boots become an even better company to work for. They’ve helped with inclusive language on products and information leaflets and promoted the wider use of pronouns in emails and on name badges. They’ve also helped foster an inclusive environment where one of the company behaviours is ‘We are encouraged to be our amazing, authentic selves’. My mother worked for Boots for 31 years, so I grew up hearing about the company a lot and it has definitely gone even further with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion since starting the different Business Resource Groups.

How have you been supported during your career as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

For the majority of my career at Boots I have been part of the BRGs and have wanted to be an active member. Many of my managers encouraged me to take part in events and activities by the BRGs, even while in store. While in store my managers were always supportive of me organising Pride Month activities and setting up a DE&I board in store. I’m proud to say that being open about who I am, has never been an issue during my time at Boots and being my authentic self has always been encouraged and celebrated.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Pride Month is still so important to the LGBTQ+ community. For me it’s about two things. Firstly, it’s about celebrating how far we have come and a chance for everyone to come together with pride, being able to be who they are. Secondly, it’s about showing the world we are here, we have been here, and we will always be here.

How important is it for LGBTQ+ voices to lead discussions during Pride Month?

Pride Month is a chance for LGBTQ+ voices to be amplified. Though discussions around LGBTQ+ rights and issues etc should continue throughout the year, Pride Month gives us a chance to really focus on them. During Pride Month, it’s important for both LGBTQ+ and ally voices to be heard. However, it is a time for allies to show they really are an ally by using their voices to support and strengthen the message of LGBTQ+ people.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and identities?

The best way to learn about the LGBTQ+ community is to explore. Internet access was still a restricted thing when I was discovering my identity, but now there is a vast bank of knowledge available to learn from. Look up articles, videos, and forums. Join LGBTQ+ groups – many of them don’t just include LGBTQ+ people but allies as well. If you work for Walgreens Boots Alliance join the Pride Alliance! They are always sharing information and putting on educational events.

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