Marel Strydom, communications business partner for London & South East, shares her thoughts on Lesbian Visibility Week (which starts today), why it is fantastic to celebrate it and the importance of positive role models in all spheres of life.

“Having positive role models both in and outside of the workplace is incredibly important. By being a visible, proud and positive role model, and by sharing our life experiences, we create awareness, fight isolation and support inclusion while breaking down barriers, traditional stereotypes and misconceptions. It shows people they are not alone, that there are others ‘out there’ just like them and that you can still have a fantastic life even though there might be something small that makes you ‘different’.

Growing up in a small town in South Africa there were absolutely no LGBT+ role models around, so it was much easier to supress and hide my identity to conform to those around me. This is something I carried with me throughout my younger years, including when I entered the workforce.

I started working at Kier 17 years ago, and for years when people referred to my ‘husband’ I didn’t correct them. I also made excuses to miss work events and never elaborated about my life outside of work. Hiding a part of yourself is called ‘covering’ and 61% of all employees’ ‘cover’ their identities in some way.

Thanks to three wonderful allies in our office, I finally attended one of our formal work events with my wife Debbie by my side. It was nerve wrecking but definitely worth it! Since then it has become easier to be open, visible and proud and I hope that my/our visibility will have a positive impact on anyone who needs to see someone out there that they can relate to.

We are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this year and cannot believe how time flies, it feels like yesterday when we first met. Since then we have shared wonderful experiences, travelling the world and filling our days with crazy hobbies like renovating homes and lots of dog walks! We are also very blessed with a fantastic network of family and friends around us.

At work I am so proud of our business that has moved light years ahead from my first day in the office with the fantastic KIN (Kier Inclusion Network) now launched, various sub D&I (diversity and inclusion) committees to support it and loads of role models from all different walks of life visible and accessible to all. I truly believe we can all build a more inclusive business and accepting world, together.

My experiences, and the experiences of many of us – are why week’s like Lesbian Visibility Week are so important. It gives us a chance to celebrate lesbians and show solidarity with all LGBT+ women and non-binary people. It is week where we not only celebrate who we are, but also celebrate the vast spectrum of styles, talent, personalities and ‘types’ that make up our community; weeks like these give us the opportunity to learn more about each other’s communities, cultures and beliefs.”

To find out more on Lesbian Visibility Week, visit https://www.lesbianvisibilityweek.com/lvw-events-2021 for free webinars, education tools and live events (including Diva Pride) available on its official website.