Skip to main content

“I never wanted to be anything other than ordinary” Beth Tomlin shares her story

Beth Tomlin

We recently spoke to Beth Tomlin, a writer and poet, and one of our Senior Learning Designers within the Learning Design and Development (LDD) team at Kaplan.

At Kaplan, we are proud to encourage the messages of equality, inclusivity and diversity all year round and ensure that all colleagues can feel safe and supported in their own identities.

Beth shared her story with us as an openly gay professional, as well as her thoughts on how employers can encourage inclusivity in their workplace.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Beth and I live in Lancashire. I live with my little dog, and best mate, Wilson. When I’m not working at Kaplan, I’m a writer of children’s and young adult fiction represented by the Bath Literary Agency. This year, two of my manuscripts were longlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award, and I have a little poetry collection on Amazon too!

I’ve been with Kaplan for almost three years now as a Senior Learning Designer. I work mostly from home but aim to go to the office at least once weekly. What I love about my job is my wonderful team, the creativity of my day-to-day job, and being able to integrate storytelling into the learner journey.

What helped you to come out at work?

I don’t think one specific thing inspired me, it was just where I was at that stage in my life. I started at Kaplan the same year that I came out to my family: a hurdle that, once jumped, made everything else feel much easier.

At work, there was never one moment where I remember ‘coming out’ to my colleagues. I never kept my love of Florence Pugh a secret (I’d die for her!) and whenever I was dating someone and it came up in conversation, I tested the waters with individual colleagues by mentioning their names and eventually figured out that I have an excellent, accepting and inclusive team.

When I first started, I felt like there was nobody who was openly gay in my immediate team. I took it upon myself to join the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) working group and became an active member and eventual co-manager of the LGBTQIA+ Hub.

Engaging with these groups really boosted my confidence and helped me to realise it wasn’t just me in this position. This made it much easier for me to initiate and participate in conversations about my sexuality at work.

The Coronavirus pandemic and remote working have blurred the line between our personal and professional lives. And although it was a difficult adjustment, I really do value the amazing working relationships that it’s enabled me to form with my colleagues.

What were some of the challenges you faced as an openly out professional at work?

When you work so closely with your team, and they’re as open and warm as mine, you end up finding out a lot about their personal lives. It’s normal for my colleagues to talk about their husbands, wives and children as part of our day-to-day conversations.

A challenge for me back then was just being able to talk about my life outside of work, without feeling like I was making people uncomfortable or bringing ‘politics’ into the conversation. I think a lot of that was down to my own fears and anxieties that I was projecting.

The only way to overcome that is time. The better you know your colleagues, the more trust you have in your team, and then the easier it is to be your most authentic self.

How has your identity influenced the way you approach your work?

As someone who works with a lot of written content, I’m actively aware of the messages we’re sending to learners. Especially in the financial industry, when all of the case studies that you could be reading about in your course may be white, male, British characters making their way, it isn’t hugely motivating as a learner if you don’t fall into that group.

However, at work, I have seen some real movement with the inclusivity of our examples, case studies and scenarios within online content. Same-sex couples, gender non-conforming and non-binary characters, and most recently I got the opportunity to write our first non-binary character in our Skills and Behaviours course for our apprentices.

What advice would you give to other LGBTQIA+ professionals who are considering coming out in their workplace?

Above anything, you need to consider your own psychological safety. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and safe in your work environment before coming out. Seek support from other queer colleagues if you can, they tend to be the best place to start.

Also, everyone’s experience in how they want to approach coming out at work will be different. For me, I didn’t want a moment where I would have to have a proper conversation around it. I was happy to engage in conversations and let it happen naturally, the same way I’d find out someone was heterosexual! My colleague might mention his wife, and I might mention a girl I was seeing. I never wanted to be anything other than ordinary.

“The best thing I believe employers can do is listen, with empathy, to the experiences of their employees and actually strive to make a real change rather than slapping a rainbow on their logo.”

What do you think our industry can do to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment?

I think it’s important for employers to recognise that prejudice still shapes the lives of LGBTQIA+ people. The best thing I believe employers can do is listen, with empathy, to the experiences of their employees and actually strive to make a real change rather than slapping a rainbow on their logo.

Every LGBTQIA+ experience, though they may have overlapping features, is entirely unique. I can be my authentic self at work now, but in previous jobs, being openly gay at work could have put my job, and potentially my safety, at risk.

An employer’s priority should be to protect, value, and celebrate the diversity of their staff all year round, not just during Pride Month.

How do you celebrate pride?

I’ll be celebrating pride this year by consuming media by LGBTQIA+ writers, artists, and creatives. My favourite book at the moment is Our Wives Under The Sea, by Julia Armfield, and I’ll be starting my Haunting of Bly Manor rewatch shortly.

Do you recommend any resources that may be relevant to our staff and learners?

Stonewall is always my number one recommended resource for LGBTQIA+ colleagues.

Kaplan resources available for staff and learners

If you need any support or general well-being advice, visit our equality, diversity and inclusion page where you can find several resources and points of contact for whatever you need.

Want to share your story?

Whether you’re a member or an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, we would love to share your story and experience.

If you’re interested in taking part, please complete our online form and we will be in touch shortly.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion at Kaplan

Find out more

Related articles

C.I.KNOW: Developing new talent leads to award nominations

C.I.KNOW: Developing new talent leads to award nominations

Richard Bradley, IT Consultant at C.I.KNOW, spoke to us about their experience taking on an IT apprentice.

Kaplan · 6 minute read

What is presenteeism and why is this a problem?

What is presenteeism and why is this a problem?

Guest author, Sharon McDougall, explains what presenteeism is and how this can hinder your business.

Kaplan · 6 minute read

The differences between PowerBI and Excel

The differences between PowerBI and Excel

Both PowerBI and Excel are data visualisation tools, but there are some differences. Let’s take a closer look…

Kaplan

View all articles

“I never wanted to be anything other than ordinary” Beth Tomlin shares her story

Beth Tomlin

We recently spoke to Beth Tomlin, a writer and poet, and one of our Senior Learning Designers within the Learning Design and Development (LDD) team at Kaplan.

At Kaplan, we are proud to encourage the messages of equality, inclusivity and diversity all year round and ensure that all colleagues can feel safe and supported in their own identities.

Beth shared her story with us as an openly gay professional, as well as her thoughts on how employers can encourage inclusivity in their workplace.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Beth and I live in Lancashire. I live with my little dog, and best mate, Wilson. When I’m not working at Kaplan, I’m a writer of children’s and young adult fiction represented by the Bath Literary Agency. This year, two of my manuscripts were longlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award, and I have a little poetry collection on Amazon too!

I’ve been with Kaplan for almost three years now as a Senior Learning Designer. I work mostly from home but aim to go to the office at least once weekly. What I love about my job is my wonderful team, the creativity of my day-to-day job, and being able to integrate storytelling into the learner journey.

What helped you to come out at work?

I don’t think one specific thing inspired me, it was just where I was at that stage in my life. I started at Kaplan the same year that I came out to my family: a hurdle that, once jumped, made everything else feel much easier.

At work, there was never one moment where I remember ‘coming out’ to my colleagues. I never kept my love of Florence Pugh a secret (I’d die for her!) and whenever I was dating someone and it came up in conversation, I tested the waters with individual colleagues by mentioning their names and eventually figured out that I have an excellent, accepting and inclusive team.

When I first started, I felt like there was nobody who was openly gay in my immediate team. I took it upon myself to join the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) working group and became an active member and eventual co-manager of the LGBTQIA+ Hub.

Engaging with these groups really boosted my confidence and helped me to realise it wasn’t just me in this position. This made it much easier for me to initiate and participate in conversations about my sexuality at work.

The Coronavirus pandemic and remote working have blurred the line between our personal and professional lives. And although it was a difficult adjustment, I really do value the amazing working relationships that it’s enabled me to form with my colleagues.

What were some of the challenges you faced as an openly out professional at work?

When you work so closely with your team, and they’re as open and warm as mine, you end up finding out a lot about their personal lives. It’s normal for my colleagues to talk about their husbands, wives and children as part of our day-to-day conversations.

A challenge for me back then was just being able to talk about my life outside of work, without feeling like I was making people uncomfortable or bringing ‘politics’ into the conversation. I think a lot of that was down to my own fears and anxieties that I was projecting.

The only way to overcome that is time. The better you know your colleagues, the more trust you have in your team, and then the easier it is to be your most authentic self.

How has your identity influenced the way you approach your work?

As someone who works with a lot of written content, I’m actively aware of the messages we’re sending to learners. Especially in the financial industry, when all of the case studies that you could be reading about in your course may be white, male, British characters making their way, it isn’t hugely motivating as a learner if you don’t fall into that group.

However, at work, I have seen some real movement with the inclusivity of our examples, case studies and scenarios within online content. Same-sex couples, gender non-conforming and non-binary characters, and most recently I got the opportunity to write our first non-binary character in our Skills and Behaviours course for our apprentices.

What advice would you give to other LGBTQIA+ professionals who are considering coming out in their workplace?

Above anything, you need to consider your own psychological safety. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and safe in your work environment before coming out. Seek support from other queer colleagues if you can, they tend to be the best place to start.

Also, everyone’s experience in how they want to approach coming out at work will be different. For me, I didn’t want a moment where I would have to have a proper conversation around it. I was happy to engage in conversations and let it happen naturally, the same way I’d find out someone was heterosexual! My colleague might mention his wife, and I might mention a girl I was seeing. I never wanted to be anything other than ordinary.

“The best thing I believe employers can do is listen, with empathy, to the experiences of their employees and actually strive to make a real change rather than slapping a rainbow on their logo.”

What do you think our industry can do to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment?

I think it’s important for employers to recognise that prejudice still shapes the lives of LGBTQIA+ people. The best thing I believe employers can do is listen, with empathy, to the experiences of their employees and actually strive to make a real change rather than slapping a rainbow on their logo.

Every LGBTQIA+ experience, though they may have overlapping features, is entirely unique. I can be my authentic self at work now, but in previous jobs, being openly gay at work could have put my job, and potentially my safety, at risk.

An employer’s priority should be to protect, value, and celebrate the diversity of their staff all year round, not just during Pride Month.

How do you celebrate pride?

I’ll be celebrating pride this year by consuming media by LGBTQIA+ writers, artists, and creatives. My favourite book at the moment is Our Wives Under The Sea, by Julia Armfield, and I’ll be starting my Haunting of Bly Manor rewatch shortly.

Do you recommend any resources that may be relevant to our staff and learners?

Stonewall is always my number one recommended resource for LGBTQIA+ colleagues.

Kaplan resources available for staff and learners

If you need any support or general well-being advice, visit our equality, diversity and inclusion page where you can find several resources and points of contact for whatever you need.

Want to share your story?

Whether you’re a member or an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, we would love to share your story and experience.

If you’re interested in taking part, please complete our online form and we will be in touch shortly.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion at Kaplan

Find out more

Related articles

C.I.KNOW: Developing new talent leads to award nominations

C.I.KNOW: Developing new talent leads to award nominations

Richard Bradley, IT Consultant at C.I.KNOW, spoke to us about their experience taking on an IT apprentice.

Kaplan · 6 minute read

What is presenteeism and why is this a problem?

What is presenteeism and why is this a problem?

Guest author, Sharon McDougall, explains what presenteeism is and how this can hinder your business.

Kaplan · 6 minute read

The differences between PowerBI and Excel

The differences between PowerBI and Excel

Both PowerBI and Excel are data visualisation tools, but there are some differences. Let’s take a closer look…

Kaplan

View all articles