My name is Michael Illert and I am the lead Partner of the SR Group for Continental Europe. I have been out all my professional career and most importantly, my partner Kory and I are proud dads of two lovely boys.
In my day-to-day professional life I constantly meet new people, whether as candidates, clients or prospective employees. A key to being successful is to be authentic and personable. As these conversations are typically quite personal I come out in most of them.
For the married men reading this I am sure you are used to the typical ‘and what does your wife do’ question, which I typically answer with ‘my partner Kory, he does…’. Now, I don’t mind because I don’t see myself as any different. I strongly believe that all of us should be able to choose to live our lives as we wish, or as the unspoken rule of the Netherlands, ‘live your life as you like as long as you respect your neighbour ‘.
Well, there is much more to this though. Coming out in a conversation with a ‘stranger’ takes the conversation to a very personal level. I offer total openness to the person I am meeting which is typically then replicated. Being open, being authentic is disarming.
There is a second point which I didn’t learn until later in life. A couple of years ago, I attended the Leadership Seminar of Stonewall in the UK. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure why I attended because I didn’t see the connection of being gay and being a leader. So I arrived in my typical sceptical self. The opening speech was held by Ruth Hunt, the then CEO of Stonewall which basically re-taught me to understand the privilege I have to live openly the life I want to live.
And the key point she made was: by continuously coming out I was constantly showing that it is okay to be whoever you are and that you can be very successfully regardless of who you are. Needless to say, we are all too aware that there are businesses, organisations, societies and countries where it is not okay to not adhere to what society deems as ‘normal’ but with openly showing the world how the four of us enjoy life as a family we constantly use the opportunity to challenge to status quo a little bit.
I am very passionate about Diversity & Inclusion though I started to dislike how we use the word Diversity. All of us are different so we are all diverse. I don’t believe there are certain diverse and non-diverse groups. This is why I believe inclusion has to be the focus. Disarming the guards all of us have built up throughout our lives and by being your true self enables inclusiveness and yes, some people can’t be helped but that’s at their loss.