• Former David Jones CEO Paul Zahra (Supplied)Source: Supplied
"What I think I do bring is that I demonstrate that you can be visibly out, and still be successful in your career."
By
Stephanie Marie Anderson

24 Jun 2016 - 2:50 PM  UPDATED 24 Jun 2016 - 2:50 PM

Paul Zahra started out like so many of us, working in retail while studying. By 22, he was store manager of the Target he worked at, and that was only the beginning.

In a new video, Zahra talks about how coming out and being his authentic self contributed to the success he's found in his career.

"Back in those early days [before coming out], it was about fitting in, it was about being the same rather than being different," Zahra says. "I felt this enormous pressure about having the look and feel of a heterosexual male. I guess what I've realised over time is that it's my differences that make me unique."

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Zahra says that once he accepted himself as a gay man, his "whole world opened up", enhancing his relationships in both his personal and professional life.

"I underestimated the value that people place on authenticity and around actually showing some vulnerability," he shares. "For me to be an authentic leader, I needed to be out about my sexuality and actually bring my whole self to work."

Zahra is now the director of PwC's Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, a topic he speaks passionately about.

"Diversity in the workplace is really important because it brings about diversity of thought," he says. "Diversity of thought leads to innovation and complex problem solving, and innovation leads to growth."

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"An inclusive workplace is a place where people can bring their whole selves to work," he continues, "[where] they can actually be authentic about their lifestyle."

Saying that it takes "great courage as an organisation to stand up on social issues," Zahra stresses that companies should want to "be on the right side of history".

And on a personal level, Zahra is a living example of that inclusion and diversity: "What I think I do bring is that I demonstrate that you can be visibly out, and still be successful in your career," he concludes.