Pride at WestJet with Robert Antoniuk

WestJet
By WestJet | | 4 min read

June is Pride month and at WestJet we are proud of the diverse identities that make up WestJet’s world. This month we interviewed four WestJetters who are proud members of the LGBTQ2+ community and asked them to share their personal stories and tell us about what pride means to them.

Closing the month, is Robert Antoniuk, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Chief Operating Officer.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride means being able to be truly proud of who I am, and who I have become despite the obstacles society put in front of me and my community. It doesn’t seem like very long ago that I felt the need to hide who I really was for fear of being marginalized, ridiculed or even rejected. Thankfully, today the landscape looks incredibly different, however the unfortunate thing about gaining acceptance and equality is the ultimate fact that you had to live through a period where acceptance was the exception, not the rule.  

For years, in my community, on the news, at work, members of the LGBTQ2+ community had to listen to arguments that debated their rights and freedoms, knowing that the outcome of those arguments would have great consequences on not only our happiness, but our survival. This challenge continues today and so does the fight to ensure that our LGBTQ2+ youth feel supported and nurtured. Recent studies tell us that 65 per cent of young LGBTQ2+ members consider suicide as an alternative to coming out. Imagine for a moment, a world where you consider ending your life as an alternative to being your authentic self.  This needs to change... We can change this!

Robert Antoniuk and husband, Jason Compton Robert Antoniuk and husband, Jason Compton
Jason Compton and Robert Antoniuk

To me, Pride month is dedicated to celebrating the survivors and heroes of the LGBTQ2+ community. It also provides an important opportunity for our community and our allies to gather, celebrate diversity and reassure everyone that we are all worthy of love and true acceptance. 

How do you #ShowYourPride at work year-round?

At the beginning of my career, my identity was something I hid. I recall one of my first corporate jobs, when I disclosed that I shared accommodation with another man while filing paperwork and a coworker told me I should be sure to keep that part of my life hidden otherwise I wouldn’t go very far in the company. 

 

This was one instance of many that signaled to me that my success depended on concealing the details of my life and happiness, and for a long time I obliged. The idea of marriage seemed incredibly risky and so to avoid unwanted attention and criticism I told myself I didn’t want to get married as a means of self-preservation. It wasn’t until meeting Jason, my now husband, that I started to let myself consider marriage as something I deserved and slowly got over my fear of speaking about my partner in public spaces. 

Today, I feel immense pride to not only have the privilege of being married to Jason, but also getting to speak about my husband in all areas of my life, including the workplace. Society has finally allowed me to enjoy my declaration of marriage and because of that, I feel it’s my obligation to speak openly and often about how truly fortunate I am.

Robert Antoniuk and Jason Compton

What do you like most about your role at WestJet?

At WestJet, I am fortunate that I can bring my whole self to work, each and every day because I am with a family here who loves and respects me for who I am. As a leader, I have the immense privilege of leading a large team of incredibly diverse individuals and I feel personally responsible for their wellbeing here at WestJet and ensuring that they too, can bring their full, authentic selves to work and feel supported in doing so.  

What’s your advice for WestJetters who want to be better allies to the LGBTQ+ community?

Don’t expect LGBTQ2+ people to educate you.  Instead, take every opportunity to learn and expand your understanding of what it means to have different lives and lifestyles. That being said, don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.