Interview with Gary Zetter

Gary Zetter

EiDA16 Winner

Employee of the Year Award

For most of his career, Gary had hidden his sexuality for fear of it hindering his career progression or alienating him from colleagues, until he joined Mitie. From that day, he has continuously promoted and supported others from all diverse backgrounds, going above and beyond his role as Director. He is now the founding member of MITIE’s Diversity Steering Group. As part of the Group he became ‘Race Champion’ and Champion for LGBT&Q. This gave powerful impetus throughout other diversity groups, where he became the Joint Chair for MITIE’s LGBTQ Network ‘Proud to be’, and more recently launched Mitie’s BAME Network ‘Kaleidoscope’. Gary is also an Advisory Board Member for the Association for Black Engineers, and was also the Mitie lead person for the ‘Lives Not Knives‘ Mentoring Scheme. In addition, Gary has set ‘Community Reach Targets’, which have enabled Mitie to reach out to over 8,000 students and Young Adults through ‘Business & U,’ which targets diverse communities, schools and colleges to spark a thought of a career within the STEM Sector.

We caught up with Gary after he won The Employee of the Year Award at The Excellence in Diversity Awards 2016! Here is what he said…

What were your thoughts after winning The Employee of the Year Award?

I’ll be honest I was in shock! There were so many marvellous people in my category; I had no expectations of winning. Just being a finalist was enough, I wasn’t prepared to receive the recognition I did. In my eyes everyone is a winner. I recall some of what I said on the stage, but to be honest it was all a bit of a blur and I was finding it difficult to hide my emotions.

When I came off and did the interview, my emotions got the better of me and the tears really did flow. It was just such an honour, as these things don’t happen to people like me.  I feel that the award represents all the people that have trusted me to represent and help them. I only ever set myself one target and if I could help one person on their difficult journey then I would have succeeded. I had no idea when I first started that I could make this impact on so many people lives, especially within the industry I work in.Because of their trust in me these people have made me a better person and they have changed my life.

I didn’t come out until I was in a senior position because of the industry. Sometimes you can’t hide who you are like I was able to; race, disability etc are much harder to hide. When I got into a senior position,I felt I was then able to become a real leader and proper role model. I was determined not to be another victim as I survived, where this inner strength came from I don’t know, but it became a responsibility to become a Positive Role Model for all Diversity and to be the voice of the under-represented.

How did you feel about the other shortlisted nominees in your category?

I have to admit that I chose not to read them. I’ve read them now obviously and they are all such amazing beautiful people. This is where I feel a bit bad because I’m really competitive, I really wanted to win and so I told myself to not read about the other nominees because I didn’t want to start second guessing myself. In the past when I was Shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards 2015 as a Positive LGBT&Q Role Model, I have felt really intimidated by the stature of nominees and never felt like I was on their level. They were all so amazing which would make me question my position on the shortlist. I’m always blown away when people nominate me, so when I got shortlisted I already felt like a winner. It was such a nice feeling to get even further and cross that line by actually winning the award. I don’t often feel good about myself, but winning the award gave me a great sense of achievement.

It’s been a very difficult journey as my life has not been easy, as people judge what I look like but they don’t really know me. I always feel I’ve got to do more to prove myself in a way; to make sure I’m not vulnerable. We’re always being judged in some capacity because of our Diversity and these types of awards are a step forward and bring a positive focus that we should be treated as equals. Everyone here at the awards are beautiful and honourable people. I also got to meet Modupe Adefala for the first time, who was shortlisted within the same category and also from Mitie, and she was lovely, we had a great chat!

Excellence in Diversity Awards 2016

Excellence in Diversity Awards 2016

What impact do you think your work is having within MITIE and the community it serves?

To be honest I’m all about foundations, one of the reasons I was brought into Mitie was for business culture. Being from a working class background has allowed me the ability to communicate. I give people the opportunity based on their ability. I work with a lot of diverse individuals from Gender, BAME and LGBT backgrounds and operate one of the most successful established apprenticeship programmes within the UK.

We now have an increased talent pool of apprentices, rather than just all white male we now have LGBT, BAME, Women and Men working through an apprenticeship at Mitie.  These apprentices are the future business leaders who don’t carry unconscious bias; we are future proofing our business and clients business because of them.  The foundations for the future are everything; since we set up the apprenticeship programme in 2001 we have 217 now qualified apprentices embedded in our Business Culture with an 89% retention rate of qualified apprentices, nationwide with 48% going onto senior positions such as Supervisor, Team Leaders, Finance Managers, Facilities Manager, Contract & Account Managers and our first Regional Director.

After winning the award, what is your next step?

That’s open to discussions. Because of my background I know I can take business culture within Mitie to the next level. I’m keen to do a lot more; BAME is very high on my agenda and is a big passion of mine. I know how to challenge people the right way; it’s about having the right approach. I need to be given the access I know how to do it, I just need to be given the platform.

Why do you think it is important to champion diversity within organisation?

Leading by example has also helpedbreakdown many barriers andobstacles.We canallgive back by sharing ourknowledge andexperience, and that’s allI do.The barriers I have facedinthe past have givenme a‘PersonalThunder’whichdrives andmotivates meto dothe rightthing andmake theworldaroundme amore equalanddiverse plac

Yes it’s personal and deeply rooted to my background and I will be finally telling my personal story as I have taken forward as a one of three men for this years ‘Inspire Like a Man Event’ being held on 29th June 2016 at Ironmonger’s Hall, at Shaftesbury Place, Barbican, London EC2Y 8AA.

What were your thoughts on the awards? Did you enjoy the night?

We went there to celebrate; I couldn’t believe I was fortunate to be a finalist. Even when I found out that I had been nominated I couldn’t believe it. It’s an amazing opportunity to promote the cause. What it’s done for me is it exposes me to learn from other people I never knew like people like Tunji Akintokun what an inspirational person and of course Paul Seesay himself, they broke the mould when they made Paul a special man for bringing us all together to celebrate this way. I already knew Shaun Dellenty socially in London, but had no idea of the amazing work he did until he spotted that I was previously shortlisted for The National Diversity Awards back in 2015 and we then spoke more about what we did…..So pleased that Shaun also got recognition on the night, as he is such a lovely lad.

I felt honoured to be around such beautiful people. I feel fully embraced into the diversity family, it feels like I finally found a home and I feel safe. To be judged on who I am and not what I am makes all the difference in the World to me. I can’t thank the Judges enough for even considering me their award winner.

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