Mon Kowalczyk (they/them) is assistant to the CFO, HR and Marcomms Directors at Ipsos MORI, as well as co-chair of the company’s Pride Network for UK&I and a Mental Health Ambassador. They are devoted to creating moments of belonging for people who come from underrepresented communities and especially those living within the intersection of two or more marginalised groups. As such, Mon speaks openly about identity, minority stress, reframing privilege, queer imposter syndrome, allyship and mental health. They also host fortnightly employee check-in sessions called the Step Back Café to help break the stigma surrounding mental health.

Outside of the office, Mon stays in touch with their teaching past by volunteering as a role model and workshop facilitator at Diversity Role Models, co-runs weekly LGBTQI+ mental health support and information sessions for MindOut UK and can be seen organising ad hoc community initiatives on their street.

I wish I was encouraged towards the slow process of un-editing myself at work sooner, whether in terms of the clothes and (lack of) make-up that I started wearing, or being open about my personal life with colleagues at the coffee point.

When you represent some sort of a difference in your life, it can be very challenging to unmute your authentic self unless you see yourself openly represented in the people around you; but that representation does not create itself and it’s only through learning to not hold back in the office on who we are outside of it that we can truly enable a sense of belonging at work, where more people feel not only free to be themselves but also where they are truly embraced and celebrated for it.

I most admire people who use their respective privileges to uplift, support and create space for underrepresented groups and vulnerable people.

A future-fit research world is fully inclusive of marginalised voices .

My resilience tips for when times get tough are: switch off your unhelpful internal voice – whether you meditate, go for a run, play a computer game or whatever it is that works for you – switch off your internal voice and re-connect with people. It will make it easier to re-discover all the things that make the hard times worth it and remind yourself of the reasons to go on.

The one story I’ve always wanted to tell but never had a chance is of growing up in the shadows of the Auschwitz museum – when I retire, I might put it into a book…

To me, great leadership looks like trust, because – just like trust – great leadership does not really exist without transparency, accountability, authenticity, empathy and logic.

The main challenge in building a more inclusive world is overcoming fear. Our own and that of others. Fear of what we don’t know. Fear of being the token “other” in the room. Fear of disrupting the status quo. Fear of upsetting the views of those who pay our bills. I could go on.

If I wasn’t doing this, I would probably be doing something very similar. I love volunteering for DRM and MindOut and running local initiatives like the one last December of creating and distributing Christmas gifts for children whose families were badly hit by the pandemic. If anything, I would love to be able to do more of that.

Mon will be speaking on the panel at MRSpride’s first trans insight summit on 18 February. Register for free here.

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