Adam Charles

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Adam Charles, associate analyst, Product Management and PRIDE UK support pillar lead

Over the past year, many of us have worn a mask to protect ourselves. For LGBT+ people, this hasn't been the first time.   

Growing up gay, I didn't feel like me. Instead, I played a heterosexual version of myself that sacrificed authenticity to minimize embarrassment and prejudice. Since coming out five years ago, the task of adult life has been to deconstruct this false identity that I had previously created to protect myself. With the support of Mastercard and the PRIDE Business Resource Group, my journey towards self-acceptance has been life changing.   

I joined Mastercard for a summer internship in 2019. Upon arrival, the message was clear – diversity and inclusion are embedded within The Mastercard Way. When handed a coffee in an #AcceptanceMatters mug by someone wearing a multicoloured lanyard, it's not hard to miss. At that moment, I felt empowered to bring my true self to work and reject any instinct to tiptoe around conversations relating to my personal life.   

Fast forward two years, I am now in the graduate program. As part of the PRIDE UK committee, I have been handed fantastic opportunities to channel my passion into driving inclusion for LGBT+ employees and creating awareness programs for our allies. In addition, PRIDE coffee breaks and group fitness initiatives have facilitated a sense of belonging.   

The fight for LBGT+ equity is nonetheless far from won. Same-sex relations are illegal in more than seventy countries, transphobic hate crimes in the UK have quadrupled over the past five years, and non-binary identities remain misunderstood. So now I ask what role do we play in driving LGBT+ equity for Gen Z and beyond?   

When considering what matters to the wider Gen Z demographic, social justice tends to rank highly as evident from the unwavering solidarity with LGBT+, anti-racism, and gender equality campaigns in recent years. To best serve this audience, it is therefore important to acknowledge intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw that highlights the interconnected nature of inequalities and how they exacerbate one another.   

Whilst openly gay, my Jewish faith is often something I choose not to share in light of growing anti-semitism across the globe. Upon reflection, however, it would be misleading to promote authenticity in the workplace without celebrating my intersectional identity. At Mastercard, a culture of inclusion allows me to do just that.   

Looking towards the future, Gen Z will represent a significant proportion of the workforce at Mastercard as our internship and graduate programs continue to scale. In the U.S., it is estimated that one in six Gen Z individuals identify as LGBT+, which demonstrates the need for visible allyship, particularly in an increasingly digital world. Young adults launching their careers are therefore likely to depend on their colleagues and senior leaders to speak openly about ongoing LGBT+ issues.   

Being an ally that understands the power of multifaceted identities could make all the difference for the next generation and beyond. A simple gesture of solidarity this Pride month is a step in the right direction.

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