🌈 Married entrepreneurs on running a business with Pride
Vida and Leona Barr-Jones share their experience of running a business as an LGBTQ+ couple
Vida Barr-Jones and Leona Barr-Jones are successful businesswomen with long-standing careers as Logistics Director in a FTSE and Lieutenant Colonel in the Armed Forces, respectively.
In recent years, their relationship has grown from life partners to business partners, with the co-founding of branding and digital marketing agency Focus7 International.
School Diversity Week 2018 is the UK’s celebration of LGBT+ equality in education. To get involved visit, https://t.co/ryZryqicLO to find information on how teachers and pupils can run an event for their school. pic.twitter.com/6nN7Bj1pWr— Focus7 International (@Focus7Int) July 4, 2018
Here, Vida and Leona share their views of running a business as a couple, the prejudices they’ve experienced during their careers, and how they pave the way towards a more understanding future for their employees.
DIVA: Have you come up against any prejudice in your respective fields for being LGBTQ+?
LEONA: Yes, absolutely. I’ve served for over 20 years in the Army and for half that time it was illegal to be gay and serve; you could be dishonourably discharged or even court marshalled. The change in the regulations that allowed us to serve openly made a massive difference to myself and many colleagues: we could now be our authentic selves. Now the Armed Forces march in uniform at Pride and have a positive relationship with all elements of diversity and inclusion.
VIDA: Not really, I was very lucky. I had a personality and drive that wouldn’t let prejudice get in my way. As a woman in business there was a greater pressure on me and I was pushed harder than anyone else, but they tended to be more accepting of female homosexuality than male due to a sort of fetishism. Like anyone who was out in the 80s and 90s, I was subjected to a degree of difficulty but it didn’t stop me: I was promoted seven times and ended up on the board.
What is it like being married and being joint business owners?
L: Family-run business has always been a great tradition in the UK and I feel that the challenges we face as married business owners are no different than any other entrepreneurial couple. We have to find boundaries between our work and home life. Occasionally we think that David Langdown, our third founding Director, may be surprised when we talk in a heated way about work! But it’s a much more honest and frank dialogue which is actually a really positive outcome of our relationship.
V: I couldn’t think of a better business partner. We’re dynamic together as a partnership and that dynamism is a reflection of our personal life. It’s not always easy because you have to find that work/life balance, and our financial security as a couple is tied up in our business, so it’s of central importance in our lives. What we do have is the combined maturity of our very different careers to bring to the table.
Has being LGBTQ+ given you any unique perspectives with regards to running your own business?
L: It makes me more inclined to look outside the box. When you haven’t been treated with respect yourself in the past, it makes you more willing to look for diversity and inclusion in others. It helps us to not make assumptions about staff or clients based upon their age, race or orientation.
V: We give everyone room for their own identity. We were subject to either not being able to disclose our identities or being in people’s faces about it to compensate. We want to recruit the right person for the job no matter who or what they are. So long as you’re doing the job well and embrace our values, we’re chilled!
What does Pride mean to you personally?
L: It’s about businesses, schools and youth movements getting involved and celebrating inclusion in all its forms. I want to look at it as not just a political statement but an opportunity to be your authentic self. The more authentic people are, they more they can do their best in all areas of life. I’m an LGBT champion for the Army Cadet Force and that makes me hugely proud.
V: I’ve led a good life as an openly gay woman with a successful career; I can stand with my head held high. But I also want to stand with people who have had a tougher time than me, who may still need my help, and celebrate their rights too. I’ve had a great family and friends to support me, but there’s so much more that needs to be done before we all live in an equally enlightened place.
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