Back on the 21st of June, we held a Pride panel to discuss the importance of celebrating Pride and how to create a more inclusive environment in your organisation year round.
This write up is to help you get inspiration on how you can enact change in your organisation from some of the biggest thought leaders in the game, including :
Michael Powers, Director of Employee Experience & Engagement @ Toast
Alexander Morrissey, Learning & Development Manager @ Vita Coco
Sophie Wood, Learning & Development Partner @ Lottoland
George Rowe, Senior Motion & Graphic Designer @ THRIVE
And Sacha Harvey, Head of People & Culture @ THRIVE
Let’s dive right in!
Zero in on what Pride actually means
First things first, it’s important to consider exactly what Pride means, so you can start to actually replicate the attitude and keep the Pride spirit all year round.
As Michael states, it’s important to understand Pride “comes from a place of protest and fighting for our rights” but also that it’s a “celebration of everyone, not just in our community but our allies as well”.
THRIVE’s very own George echoes that sentiment, sharing that for him Pride means a “celebration of love and inclusivity, and also how to be non judgemental.” with Sophie adding Pride should be “a safe space for people to celebrate their identities without fear”.
Alex also shares that his first time celebrating Pride means “a celebration of defeating shame” and a time “for an individual to look at who they’ve been created to be and see that without shame”.
It’s also essential to resist the idea that Pride means the same thing around the world over, as Sophie attests “Pride can be situational”. Dissect what Pride means in your part of the world specifically, and also be aware that “year over year, it can also mean different things” as Michael says.
Being aware of the current state and focus of Pride is key to starting your journey to create a fully inclusive environment.
Facilitate LGBTQ+ allyship on a personal level
Allies are an essential part of defeating bias on an organisational level, but how does someone become a better ally?
George says that it’s about taking accountability for your own education in these areas.
“It’s important for people outside of minority communities to educate themselves, it’s not the responsibility of the LGBTQ+ community to educate people''. And it starts with initiating conversations, with George reiterating “Talking about it more, normalises it”.
Michael provides valuable advice on how to start these conversations.
“In a lot of situations you are not going to be able to empathise, but try to get as close as you can” he says, but you can always “ask, if the person feels comfortable of course, how did you feel in that situation? What can I do to help in the future? Is there something I could be doing to support you more”. It’s all about learning and growing, and being bold and curious enough to educate yourself.
Alex also explains the importance of closeness to the issues at hand.
“Our compassion for any given issue or topic, is so directly related to our proximity to it”. How do you combat distance? “Get close, get curious, listen in and allow your heart to feel some of the pain of communities that are being discriminated against”.
Sophie agrees with the idea of closeness being a crucial step to being an ally, drawing on her experiences as a trans woman saying “my immediate team really benefited from being able to engage with me on a daily basis”.
Make sure you aren’t shying away from any issues around inclusion, get close to the issue, be as curious as possible, and if you’re a more visual learner looking to get started, Michael has some advice for you.
“For those who haven’t seen Heartstopper on Netflix, go and watch it”.
How to promote inclusion at an organisational level
Our panel also shared how they think organisations can approach promoting meaningful inclusion.
For Alex, it’s all about being aware of the harm that can be caused from a lack of initiatives and looking at the changing nature of harm from discrimination.
“We aim to understand what harm might look like, and the different subtle, sneaky forms that it often takes” and “understand harm’s impact. To really understand, if we don’t do this, this is how this affects people in such a negative way”.
George also expands on how important it is to be aware of the different environments where discrimination may occur.
“It’s about really keeping up with what’s going on. I think people can get a bit complacent with what they learn, so it’s about making sure you are up to date with everything that’s going on”.
He also explains the importance of safeguards in all work environments, not just the office.
“We often talk about a lot of stuff in a workplace which will affect a certain environment, which could be an office which is easily controllable. But say you go out to a work event or a Christmas party, what safeguards can you put in place for people who identify as the LGBTQ+ community”.
Awareness of potential harm, whilst putting in appropriate safeguards, are clear keys to increasing inclusion, so make sure you’re constantly evaluating your environments and considering the impact of the harm your employees may be experiencing.
Tips for overcoming bias in yourself and others
Bias is ingrained in each and every one of us, and confronting them can be daunting and difficult. This is why we got our power panel to share their tips for how to overcome bias in yourself, and how to address bias in others.
For Sophie, self reflection, and tempering emotional responses is absolutely key.
“Sometimes when you have a bias that’s ingrained into you, just through your lived experience, you have an emotional reaction to it. So it’s really important to recognise that you are having an emotional reaction and then being able to bring that into your conscious thinking and actually problem solve that, identify that you’ve got a prejudice and then you’re able to throw it away and dismiss it.”
Michael echoes this, and gives some tips on how you can start to look at examples from your own life, and understand where biases may have played a part.
“Think back to a conversation you just had, a decision you just made, why did you make that decision? Was there anything in there you need to unpack? And if there was, write it down, and hold yourself accountable to it” .
George also has some advice for those within the LGBTQ+ community, on how to deal with internal biases.
“Within the community we give ourselves a label of gay or trans or bi or whatever that may be, and you have certain stereotypes to live up to yourself, so there’s also an internal bias. So you have to understand that from your own point of view, and you have to put that out there, and be like ‘I’m just a person and I’m struggling with it, that means someone else might be struggling with it as well’.
Understanding where emotional responses to conversations around bias come from is your first step, and then start to examine past examples or decisions you’ve made, try and see them from a different perspective, and if you’re stuck, take the advice in the previous paragraph, get curious!
Inspiration for celebrating Pride and supporting LGBTQ+ employees all year round
We all need a little inspiration from time to time, so we asked our panel how their organisation's support LGTBQ+ employees all year round.
For Alex and Vita Coco, it’s about measuring impact rather than intent of initiatives.
“Our hope is to be super thoughtful about things, to be really constantly self checking ourselves. Impact is greater than intent, even if our intention is to be doing the right thing, if our impact ends up being harmful or hurtful, we’re still in the wrong and need to be willing to address that”
Michael also uses internal comms tools to amplify stories of Toast employees.
“At Toast we do several awareness months or heritage months. We look at different backgrounds across the world, and celebrate those as well, whilst looking at how we can integrate the element of the LGBTQ+ community.”
“I run our internal comms function and our employee experience team, and within that we have a few publications essentially, one being The Slice, we love a good pun here at Toast! This is our internal magazine and we use that as a way to tell stories about our Toasters, which is what we call our employees. Making sure that as we’re highlighting those stories, we are putting thought on what people's backgrounds are, who they are in their entirety, to make sure we have proper representation across everything that we are doing.”
Telling employee stories is also super important at Lottoland, with Sophie filling us in that they have “a theme enabling people to share their stories throughout the year and focusing on intersectionality is absolutely key because it’s such a rich seam of education opportunities”.
Michael also explains how you can help keep the spirit going year round.
“Integrate it into your entire employee experience. Ensuring recognition, success, new hire orientation, how you think about your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or your communities throughout your organisation”.
Any organisational shift can be tough, but with these tips and by keeping an open mindset and actively educating yourself, you can help create a more inclusive workplace for everyone, and help take the essence of Pride month, and spread it throughout your organisation, regardless of the month.