Graduating from university and entering the world of employment can be a daunting task. When you’re LGBTQ+, there are additional considerations, too. Is any potential employer LGBTQ+ friendly? Will you be able to be authentically yourself at work? How inclusive will the workplace actually be?
These were all things that Tommy King considered after he graduated from university and was scoping out potential careers. Would he be accepted where he ended up?
“It was frustrating for me having to do that extra work because I'm gay,” he says now. “It does feel like a chore and it's something that all companies need to work on. It's about being more visible and supportive and not just rainbow washing when it comes to Pride month.”
Eventually, Tommy landed a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, joining their Management Training Programme. That was four years ago, and he’s since quickly made his way up through the company over the four years he’s been working there to branch manager.
While Tommy never anticipated that he would work at a company like Enterprise – he studied comedy at university, after all – he soon realised that the company was about more than just renting cars.
“That’s probably about 10% of my day,” he says with a laugh. “I’m currently responsible for a lot of money and assets. I manage about 140 cars at the moment, along with four employees, who I am directly responsible for when it comes to their training and development.
“Branch manager is much more than overseeing and training as well. I need to ensure that the branch is running successfully, whether on the accounts and finance side of things or looking at marketing for our body shops and corporate accounts. It's a bit of everything, to be honest.”
Another area that Tommy is really involved in is Enterprise’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, particularly the company’s LGBTQ+ network, Enterpride. In fact, it was this aspect of the company that initially drew him to it.
“I think everyone's worry when it comes to starting with a new company is whether you might have to come out of the closet again. I mean, by the time you're ready to start a career, many people have been out of the closet. I had done it three times – to my parents, at college, and at uni. So, it was always important for me to research a company before I applied for it,” Tommy says.
“Enterprise's website had so much about D&I on it. And it wasn't just saying 'This is what we do'. They had personal stories and that was what made me want to apply. Enterprise gave people like me a platform to voice their stories. That was super important.”
Tommy now heads up the LGBTQ+ network internally for the northwest of England. It’s a position that sees him involved in everything, from educational initiatives to Pride events. “Honestly, what don’t I organise?” he laughs.
When he first became involved with the LGBTQ+ committee, each area within the northwest nominated an individual who would champion diversity in that location.
“Bear in mind, there are about 15 to 20 areas in the northwest group,” Tommy adds. “What we found with that is that not everybody had the time. So, I've recently restructured the committee over the past year and I opened it up to our 750 employees. I said, 'Look, this is what we're about. This is what we do. We want to do this and do that. If you want to be a part of this and champion diversity, come forward!' Now we're about 35 members strong. It's been hugely beneficial. And because of the new structure, we've achieved so much over the past 12 months.”
He's not lying. In the last year, Tommy says the LGBTQ+ committee for the northwest organised weekly events during LGBT History Month (“We raised over £2000 for the LGBT Foundation in Manchester,” he says with pride) and is involved in 14 Pride events in the northwest this summer.
“We're hitting the big ones like Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool, but we've also found it's important to reach out to our communities,” he says. “It's okay to support Manchester Pride, but it's massive and everyone supports it. Yes, it's a great day out, but one of Enterprise's core values is about strengthening communities.”
The committee is also responsible for sending out monthly newsletters in order to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ issues and educate any allies who might have questions. “We have a toolkit, which was created for the whole of Enterprise. It has all sorts of articles, how to use people's pronouns correctly and more,” Tommy says.
“In the newsletter, we make sure that we're promoting that. We also make sure that we're promoting resources, whether that's mental health resources or signposting local Pride events that people can get involved with.”
For Tommy, being visible is essential – along with appearing at Pride events, he has also shared his story in a blog post for The Queer Student Awards, an organisation he has been involved with again this year.
“I shout about the company and I shout about LGBTQ+ inclusion because it's important to me,” he says. “The fact that Enterprise gives me the resources and lets me put my passion into other things other than renting cars is why I shout about them. LGBTQ+ inclusion is so important to me and a company that allows their employees to support that should be shouted about.”
Enterprise, Tommy says, is a company that encourages movement and professional growth.
“I'm at the level now where I am branch manager and I'm thinking about my next steps,” he says. “I don't know what that's going to look like. It might be talent development or talent acquisitions because that's an area I'm really passionate about. There are so many roles that you can step into, which is the beauty of it.”
Ultimately, though, he knows that while working at Enterprise there will always be space for him to be authentically himself.
“It just feels like such an open and honest place where you can be yourself. I know that's a cliche thing to say, but from the bottom of my heart, I have never felt uncomfortable. I've always felt safe where I work. If I didn't feel that way or didn't feel like I could be my authentic self, then I wouldn't have lasted four years at all,” he says.