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Insight

Pride month: Being an ally for those coming out at work

27 Jun 2022

Elizabeth Hardwick-Smith

Group People and Culture Director

“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start” - Jason Collins, the first male athlete to publicly identify as gay in 2014

June is LGBTQ Pride month all around the globe and with a legacy that dates back to 1972, Pride UK is now celebrating a particularly pivotal moment in its history. It’s 50 years since the first Pride exploded on to the scene in London – an event that has grown in strength year after year and spread across the UK. An event that is synonymous with visibility, unity and a political and cultural force for equality.

PRIDE

It’s time to reflect on everything the Pride movement has achieved over the last five decades – from legal rights to support groups, helplines, charities, and conferences. It’s also time to think about what the future should hold, as the LGBTQIA+ community continues to experience marginalisation, fear of rejection and are terrified of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime.

In the workplace, LGBTQIA+ people are still forced to choose between being open and honest about their circumstances (and encountering possible harassment and discrimination), avoiding the issue, or lying to their colleagues or friends. This can cause a huge amount of stress to the individual, the stress evidenced in the health inequalities suffered by many individuals. Research from Stonewall, Britain’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality, revealed in their 2018 survey that a third of LGBT staff (35 percent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. Nearly 2 in 5 bi people (38 percent) aren’t out to anyone at work.

We know that coming out at work is down to personal choice and people’s decisions about sharing information about sexual orientation or gender identity with their work colleagues can depend on a whole range of factors including:

  • The general culture of sharing what is considered ‘personal information’ within your work setting or team
  • How confident or aware you are of people’s attitudes towards LGBTQIA+ issues
  • How confident you feel personally about your own sexuality/identity and your comfort levels in discussing LGBTQIA+ issues
  • Concerns about information leakage – you may be comfortable with your immediate colleagues knowing but may not want the information shared more widely

At Pick Everard, we wrote and published two guides this Pride month to tackle concerns that any of our own LGBTQIA+ colleagues may experience when considering being their full selves in work. We’ve marked Pride for the last few years and this year we wanted to provide practical and useful support across the business. The first was a guide to coming out, designed to support staff who want to be “out” to their team or line manager. The guide has been designed to help our colleagues manage the process in the most positive way possible. We’ve provided information on their rights and ideas for how they can approach such conversations with their colleagues. We’ve signposted to avenues of support. The guide has also helped other staff understand the challenges that can be faced by our LGBTQIA+ community and the worries they may have over how they will be perceived and treated.

Our second guide was on allyship and how to be a fantastic ally beyond Pride, all year round. An ally is someone who not only supports the LGBTQIA+ community but also stands in solidarity with them, someone who takes action and advocates on behalf of those who are marginalised, and someone who keeps an open mind and is willing to learn and also educate others. We wanted our people to think broadly about numerous ways to be an ally – there is no “one-way” to be an ally. There are simple ways in which this can be achieved through listening, learning, enjoying LGBTQIA+ art, music and entertainment, getting involved, understanding what homophobia looks like in 2022, donating to charities, speaking up, opening up conversations and using pronouns.

Understanding your own identity is undoubtedly challenging to all of us, having to carefully plan, judge and manage the difficulties of coming out is a whole other level of stress. Coming out is rarely a one-off event, it’s usually a lifelong experience. We hope others within the industry continue to build their support through action, so that construction creates a workplace that’s right for everyone.

Happy Pride Month 2022.