Updated: Mar 23
Welcome to our Unmistakable Characters series.
Each month, we will be interviewing someone who encompasses what it means to be truly Unmistakable; achieving great things for minorities in their field. The series will shine a light on diverse talent making waves in their industry that others can learn from, amplifying voices that aren't often heard about to an industry that so sorely needs to hear.
Each amazing person we feature in our series has played a part in the journey towards developing equal and fair representation of minorities. Their stories are fascinating and their insights so, so valuable.
First up, the wonderful Leng Montgomery - who is truly one of a kind.
What's your name and what do you do?
I’m Leng Montgomery and I’m a Diversity and Inclusion Executive for Sainsbury’s Group. I’ve also worked as a Diversity & Inclusion consultant in my previous roles and am an ambassador for Diversity Role Models – an anti bullying charity.
How does your identity affect your work and your life in general?
Ooh now there’s a good question!
My identity definitely shapes and plays a part in who I am and in terms of bringing my ‘whole self’ to work. The many intersections and life experiences have definitely had a role to play too.
For context, I’m trans, bi, BAME (even though I’m often read as white), have dyslexia and was brought up in a single parent household on benefits.
Having those experiences is something that has given me some really good insights and understanding. This has informed some of the work that I do and helped me empathise with different groups of people in the workplace.
I’m lucky to work somewhere that has a true cross section of society running through it, and that we value and celebrate people from all walks of life working together. Having shared values and goals is crucial for uniting people and contributing to success.
At work I can be myself and I don’t have any fear around being out. In wider society I sometimes do feel a bit more reserved.
Currently, the UK media hasn’t been overly positive in its coverage of trans stories and that has left me feeling slightly segregated and angry. It’s also hard sometimes knowing that where I work or live I am part of a minority, which isn’t because of a lack of inclusion but rather a lack of visibility. In a few years to come I would love to see that landscape change more and I believe it will. But for that to happen more organisations have to be more inclusive with their hiring practices.
Good practice would be to ensure that there are people that have had unconscious bias training, multiple people interviewing with different points of view and also a clear understanding of the role as well as values and behaviours that an organisation wishes to be integrating as part of its culture.
Organisations that truly value difference will see that celebrated and represented in many different parts of the organisation and it is starting to happen, but it’s a process that needs to keep going.
There is no job done and a box getting ticked when it comes to being inclusive.
Who have been your roles models and why?
I have so many! When I first started transitioning (10 years ago!) I didn’t have many that were composite ones but people who inspired me and had values I greatly respected. People like Paris Lees, Lady Phyll, Campbell X were people whom I really felt inspired by.
As I started to work more with organisations I began to meet people who create so much positive change wherever they work. People like Emma Cusdin, Marc Reace-Coles, David Pearson, Sarah Fennell, Sarah Nelson and Claire Harvey OBE to name just a few. But there are so many – as for me, a role model is someone who displays behaviours that are inspirational and also aspirational.
I like people who passionately stand up for their beliefs and also stand up and show up for other people too.
Do you think other people see you differently to how you see yourself?
I would be inclined to agree with that. I think on the whole most people would probably view me in a more positive light than I might look at myself sometimes. But saying that I have also experienced bias because the idea of who I am has sometimes been threatening to some.
Especially when I’d first started transitioning and was entering the job market. Which I covered in a TEDx London talk last July.
But that experience has made me more determined to succeed even if it’s taken longer than I’ve wanted or expected.
Do you see yourself in advertising and marketing?
I don’t see much trans representation in marketing and advertising that I know of. I say this because you don’t always know. I definitely feel that there is something happening but it’s quite small pockets of activity.
I’m yet to feel that trans masculine representation is really out there in the mainstream media. I think a lot of advertising and marketing is geared around white same sex couples if it’s to display what is considered LGBT, where by there’s focus on L and G.
Are you tired of hearing about Diversity & Inclusion?
Never! It’s my job and a massive part of my life, both personally and in the workplace. I don’t like Diversity and Inclusion being used in the wrong way though. It isn’t the fluffy side of HR or a way of encouraging organisations and people to invoke change because they’ve found ways to tick a box, it’s a state of mind.
For me, it’s about creating an environment and contributing towards a culture whereby in the workplace, we actively celebrate and embrace difference in ourselves and in others.
What one thing would you say to your younger self?
Face your fears rather than hide from them.
What would you say makes you Unmistakable?
My name. There’s only one of me, which in some ways can be a blessing and a curse.