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Pride Month Talent Talk with Nikos Enginertan

Tell us a bit about how you started your career and the journey that led you to your current role.

I started my career in 2000 at Accenture in Turkey helping businesses improve their Sales and Marketing processes and implement client relationship management (CRM) tools. 

I’m passionate about sales and always thought I would end up in a FMCG company. However, I decided to come to Australia in 2003 to do my MBA. It was a great time to come to Australia as companies were hungry for talent. I ended up joining Westpac in their projects team. I then went on to work for CommSec, CBA, CMC Markets and Rivkin Securities, where I joined in 2014.

Pride month is celebrated to honour the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York and although the world has come a long way since then what do you feel still needs to be done to create a more inclusive and equitable world/or working world?

The world has come a long way since Stonewall, and thankfully so, as the situation was quite dire back then. In my opinion, increased visibility around the gay community was the main catalyst for this change and progress made to date. Clearly 50 years ago, people had gay colleagues and gay people were CEOs . . . but can we consider the work environment “inclusive”? – No, because societal pressures made sure that only the people who fit the mold were rewarded regardless if that mold fit too tight.

The best way to create a more inclusive workplace is to celebrate diversity so that people understand they are not just “tolerated” but diversity is seen as an asset.

Have you ever experienced or feared discrimination because of your sexual orientation or gender identity in your career?

Coming from Turkey, this could have been a real concern, especially if I had been “out” at the time. In Australia, I have felt that discrimination is a risk. However, I also feel that many companies do not discriminate based on sexual orientation. So, have I ever feared discrimination? No. I knew it could happen or it does happen but also I thought I could find myself a place relatively easily where this would not be an issue.

But saying that, I was not “out” at work for the first 10 years of my career in Australia. I did not actively hide or lie to colleagues who asked (and back then, not a lot of people did). However, I did not voluntarily share that part of my life. Being asked about my wife has always made me giggle... so obviously I was afraid of something.

Today working in a small company and being the age I am in a more open society, I do find myself more open with everyone when the opportunity rises. I feel this is almost an obligation to help build the awareness which is still so important today. 

What advice would you want to share with someone struggling to express their true self in the workplace?

I believe that fear has a large role to play in stopping people from expressing their true selves in the workplace. Fear is as tricky as it is paralysing. My advice would be to break the fear down into concerns. Your mind is able to address concerns and make decisions.

So, concretely, what is the worst thing that could happen? Generally, once you have answered this question, and if you feel strong enough to deal with it, usually things will go a lot better than expected. 

There are clearly organisations which are infested with bigotry out there, but there is also a huge labor shortage. Organisations that will exclude people for their race, gender or gender identity won’t be able to survive in the long run. 

So, my advice would be to build your mental resilience. You are much stronger than you think. And take the plunge – there are lots of companies who want your unique talents!  

What does inclusivity in the workplace mean to you and what negative effects can a non-inclusive workplace have on someone from the LGBTIQ+ community? 

Inclusivity in the workplace means that differences are welcome and appreciated for bringing diversity of thought to the workplace culture. This is a huge asset for any business as they are better suited to meet the needs of their clients in society.

The flipside of a non-inclusive workplace is equally true. The culture of non-inclusive workplaces will be narrow and toxic, causing mental and emotional stress for those in the LGBTIQ+ community, which is simply not acceptable. 

Statistics show that diverse teams are more successful. In your opinion, what are some of the approaches businesses should be taking to build a better workforce for the future?

Trust everyone walking into your business. Most people are there to do a good job.  Until proven otherwise, it is important to provide them with an environment where they feel supported and can perform.

Recruitment is important. If the culture is right, diversity will come naturally. However, if it is not, then it might need to be consciously curated until the diversity comes naturally.

It is interesting but it is actually quite easy to measure if your team is diverse or not. For example at Rivkin, we are a team of 25 people. 

  • Only around 40% of the team was born in Australia or has English as their native language, which is in line with Sydney’s wider population. 

  • We have team members from 5 different religious backgrounds.  

  • Over 10% of the team belongs to the LGBTQ+ community . . . 

All of these stats reflect the wider Sydney society so we are managing to use the whole talent base in Sydney in some respect.

However, only 25% of our team are female, which is in line with finance industry averages but well below the wider population.

We are currently working on programs to help attract women, including internships, adjusting work conditions and recruitment language to attract female candidates. 

Celebrating diversity and attracting all the potential talent is an ongoing mission of our company culture.