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Person using phone in office, laptop and coffee, with LGBT+ flag on screen

“It’s difficult for anyone from a minority to work in an old-fashioned industry,” Mark Lamming, a trade and customs stakeholder relationship specialist at IOE&IT, tells me of his career to date.

In my piece about the experiences of LGBT+ staff at the IOE&IT last week, Mark spoke about how the organisation’s inclusive policies and culture had taken him aback, particularly following the death of his partner’s father, when he was granted compassionate leave. He described IOE&IT as the most “forward thinking and progressive” company he’d ever worked for.

But “it’s not always been this easy,” he also told me. While, like many parts of society, there has been progress in the customs and trade arena, it’s nonetheless been an industry that’s faced accusations of being ‘old-fashioned’.

‘Old boys club’

Lamming describes the industry he entered over 10 years ago as being “historically a bit of an old boys club”. When it’s come to his sexuality, this has proven problematic for him.

“In a role at one of my old companies, when I was in my early 30s, I made what was then a mistake in that I said I was gay to my team.

“It cost me the respect that I’d gained based on my knowledge and experience. That respect eroded because I like men.”

He describes colleagues making impressions of him behind his back as “ostracising and isolating”. He had to learn to “brush it off”.

“It was a different world back then. You learned quickly, as a gay guy, to keep your mouth shut in this industry and to do the straight acting thing.”


While Lamming was able to get on with his role and move up into more senior positions in the industry elsewhere, experiences like these took a toll and impacted his confidence.

“When you go through life always being othered, you never feel like you're a part of the team and when you go into managerial rob roles, you really need to feel like you are.

“You can feel like you're emotionally or culturally sat on the periphery and that people don't really understand you.

“You don't want to make a big deal out of it because you don’t want to be that guy that's made a complaint. It does hold you back.”

Building confidence

It was during his time at DB Schenker that Lamming started to rebuild his confidence, partly because he was the head of the compliance team, which helped his self-esteem.

“My career path lent itself well to compliance because I could develop slightly in the background, and when it got to a point where I could apply to lead a more prominent department I had grown a bit of confidence.

“I’m not going to say it was an easy ride. I still have confidence issues and being othered still brings a sensitivity to a person which can be difficult to manage.”

To some extent, Lamming thinks his situation may have given him extra drive to “push himself that little bit harder”.

“I'd like to think I've got a little bit more drive. Certainly as a minority of any sort, LGBT+ or otherwise, you have to push yourself that little bit harder.”

New era

Lamming now finds himself at the IOE&IT, where he feels as included as he ever has within a professional context. He was shocked by the inclusivity that ran through the organisation’s policies, management and culture.

“As a gay guy, I’m very used to not being included in policies around things like compassionate leave. I’m 40 years old and from a generation where you wouldn’t even consider asking.”

More broadly, he thinks there has been wider societal change that has made people more respectful of minorities. He cites phenomena like the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements as having had an influence, saying that “minorities suddenly had a voice”.

He also thinks the Covid-19 pandemic has increased awareness about mental health issues, which he thinks is contributing to more openness in companies.

“Everyone in the country was locked away, and this raised an awareness that none of us are in a fantastic place and we all need a bit of support.

“But there are plenty of people who’ve felt isolated since well before the pandemic. The pandemic highlighted this too.

“And I think that now and general conversation in society people are having is more open – whether that’s about mental health issues, sexuality or whatever’s unique to them.”

Get in touch

The IOE&IT Daily Update team will be publishing features about LGBT+ issues in trade throughout Pride Month this year and is keen to hear from LBGT+ individuals and members working in the international trade sector about your experiences.

We’re looking to cover the following issues:

  • Do LGBT+ supply chain, trade and customs workers feel safe in their workplaces?
  • How should LGBT+ issues be factored into UK trade policy?
  • How can businesses ensure LGBT+ rights are protected across their supply chains?

If you’d like to be featured in or to support our content about LGBT+ issues and trade, please contact