It’s important to be yourself – at work, at home, at all times. And as an organisation where colleagues are celebrated for who they are, we feel passionately about supporting LGBT+ inclusion – something that Evelyn Ferguson knows all too well…
“The first day of my role as a project controller was the first day I presented as female in the workplace.” This sentence tells you everything you need to know about Evelyn Ferguson’s approach to life. Having originally joined Rolls-Royce on the Project Management Graduate Scheme in 2014, she rotated around several parts of the business in the UK before undertaking a final placement in Dahlewitz, Germany. It was here that she chose to begin medically transitioning with the intent of living as a woman. It’s fair to say this probably wasn’t the easiest path through Evelyn’s life journey – but, as with everything else, the NPI Nacelles Project Controller took things in her stride.
“Two life events simply happened to coincide. I’d been seriously considering transitioning for a long time and had decided it was the right thing for me to pursue. Around the same time, I got the placement in Germany. The two goals weren’t mutually exclusive, so there was no reason to delay moving abroad. Undertaking it while working full-time in a new role wasn’t the easiest, but it worked.”
“The first people to know were a few colleagues that I was friends with, then my line manager at the time – she was hugely supportive. Shortly afterwards, I had an offer from a graduate scheme which wasn’t really appropriate as it would involve me travelling to and working in countries that aren’t all that LGBT+ friendly. Alarm bells rang, so I went to HR and explained my situation. They worked with me to find a positive solution, then earmarked me for the NPI project.”
“I seconded to the programme team and came out to my line manager. I’d been on hormone therapy for about four months at that point, so there was a clock ticking and it’d soon be obvious what I was doing. I thought it’d be weird to join a new team as a guy, then come out to them two months later. It was the push I needed.”
“I had a very positive experience – people weren’t just supporting me because they were legally obliged to, I genuinely got the feeling that they were sincere about it. I was very impressed by that.”
“There really is a lot of support out there. For employees seeking assistance, there are quite a few channels they can take – reaching out to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is one of them; they can put you in touch with other transgender employees globally to share experiences and advice. There’s also the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) if you’d like to seek professional help; and, obviously, the HR team are able to support with robust policies that are very LGBT+ friendly.”
Innovation is crucial for success, so fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce is hugely important to us – and this is something that Evelyn feels passionately about too.
“If we want to recruit and retain the best people, it’s important for Rolls-Royce to be inclusive for all. The industry as a whole has built up an image of being a bit of a boys’ club, but we look to attract people from newer generations who are generally a bit more liberal. The Group is keeping up with the times and it understands the relevance of inclusion.”
“Of course, there are limits to what we can do outside of the company; in the UAE there’s still a death penalty for homosexuality, for example, so there’s a limit to how much Rolls-Royce can actively support LGBT+ rights in these areas. It’s unfortunate. Local laws are restrictive, and a lot of suppliers and customers are from countries with less liberal attitudes towards LGBT+ issues.”
“However, attitudes are shifting and governments are responding. For now, Rolls-Royce can make a difference in places like the UK and Germany, and I’m really happy that the increased influence of ERGs is having such a positive impact.”
“We’re really just at the beginning of our LGBT+ journey at Rolls-Royce Deutschland; we have recently launched Pride and I’m actively involved in that – we’ve got a small group here that we’re looking to expand. However, certain restrictions in German law make it difficult to get the word out – you can’t actively solicit people to join an organisation based on their sexuality, for example.”
“We want to make Rolls-Royce Deutschland a more explicitly LGBT-friendly organisation, which is great; but it’s really about communicating this internally and externally, so people can see that they’ll be accepted.”
So what does Evelyn want colleagues who are perhaps struggling to celebrate who they are at work to learn from her journey?
“For years, I’d told myself that no-one would accept me and that my job would be in jeopardy, but I realised I’d almost being lying to myself. The only person actively holding me back, was me.”
“There are a lot of positive success stories of LGBT+ people coming out worldwide, and we should build on that momentum as there’s always more to do. What we’ve done so far is great, and it’s seen a positive change in the company in a relatively short period of time.”
“To any colleagues in the closet, believe that the trans community is supported by Rolls-Royce – by HR, by the leadership team. It’s a scary process, but please be reassured that you can be you.”
Photo © Rolls-Royce Deutschland
Proudr ist ein Projekt der UHLALA Group. Seit 2009 unterstützen, fördern und verbinden wir LGBTIQ+ Menschen in ihren Karrieren und bringen sie mit Unternehmen und Organisationen zusammen, die ihre LGBTIQ+ Mitarbeitenden schätzen.