International Pride Month: Eleni Kwinana
Eleni Kwinana, a Vodacom Executive Head of Department for Enterprise in Kwa-Zulu Natal, speaks to us about her experience working at Vodacom as a lesbian.
How do you identify and what are your pronouns?
I identify as a lesbian female with the pronouns she/her/hers.
What’s been your experience of being out while working at Vodacom?
I have never felt any different to my colleagues. Vodacom and the leadership are super supportive of all staff members regardless of their differences. I have been able to grow to an executive level, my voice is heard and the LGBTQIA+ network form is a great safe space that is created for us to learn how to be inclusive and share challenges and solution thereof if required. We also, as employees of Vodacom have multiple support structures if we require them through the HR and wellness initiatives. I am accepted by everyone as I am.
This is your second time working for Vodacom. Were there any notable changes in LGBTQIA+ policies when you came back?
The one that stands out is the maternity and paternity leave policy. Whether you are the biological parent or adopting a child you are given extended leave days to welcome the new addition to your family which is phenomenal.
What does it mean to you to be black and queer in your professional and personal life?
I feel very grateful that even as a queer black woman executive I am free to perform my duties without any form of discrimination and am held accountable for my performance like all other colleagues. I have an equal opportunity to grow my career and my orientation is not a barrier at all. In my personal life my partner and I have had to support our children to be able to handle challenges they may face with people in the community that may treat them differently but fortunately, our community have embraced us warmly without major negative incidents. I feel being out has assisted other individuals in the queer community to find the courage to be out and not feel ashamed or be afraid of being ostracized.
How has Vodacom’s support of the LGBTQIA community impacted your career and personal life?
Vodacom’s support has allowed me to be my authentic self while doing my duties so which meant I have been able to bring my A-game daily. Further to that my friends and family have been super impressed with Vodacom as an employer when they see the support I am provided. They normally tell me that they see why Vodacom has been awarded the Top Employer status.
In the workplace, do you think there should be a quota for people who are LGBTQIA+ in the same way that talent is categorised according to gender and race?
I don’t think that there should be a quota but rather that no candidate applying for any role should not be discriminated against based on whether they are part of the LGBTQIA community or not
Is there anything you’d like to share with LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace?
I’d like to say Vodacom has a great supportive environment that allows you to showcase your skills and talent whilst having a sense of belonging regardless of your orientation, personal lifestyle preferences or your gender. #FurtherTogether is not just a tagline, it is a daily way of life in Vodacom
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