Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Pride both commemorates and celebrates LGBTQ+ activism, acceptance and culture through the years. Donna Bain, SVP People and Development, explains what Pride means to her and how we support and advocate inclusivity in our own business.
Pride means something different to everyone, but to me it is a time of celebration, reflection, and progress. As we work to be inclusive in our own workplace, we understand that the most meaningful support should be more than a rainbow logo displayed once a year.
We want everyone across the business to feel comfortable and confident to be themselves at work. But we also understand that not every LGBTQ+ person feels supported by their employer. We’ve made progress as a society toward achieving many of the goals of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, but a recent report from Stonewall and YouGov highlights just how much more progress needs to be made before every LGBTQ+ person feels accepted for who they are at work.
And that is really sad. I have a gay son and I am proud of him every single day. But we come from a very small town that can be conservative in its views, and when I look back, I think if he had been able to spread his wings and be his true self at school, his teenage years and 20s could have been so much better.
So I’m very proud that at Westcon-Comstor, we truly believe that everyone should be able to be their authentic selves and we strive to make equality, inclusion, and diversity a priority all year long. We work hard to understand the complex issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. And, above all else, we try to make sure our workforce feels included, supported, and heard.
Celebrating Pride is an opportunity to raise awareness and education around the issues by allowing us to have a powerful conversation with our people, our partners and our communities. It also demonstrates our commitment to diversity and inclusivity, shows that we are listening to and implementing employee feedback, helps to facilitate a sense of support and community within the business, and helps prevent us from making mistakes that may ultimately alienate and frustrate members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Inclusivity in action
To this end, we recently set up Employee Representative Groups under our OneWestcon umbrella to advocate and promote diversity, equality and inclusion across the business. We have a number of groups, but one of the largest and most active is around inclusion.
As with all our ERGs, the group is led by our employees. It’s only been up and running for a short time but it’s great to see people taking the lead and getting so involved. It provides a safe space for people to voice their concerns, opinions and feedback on everything from workplace issues to their experiences outside of work. For the LGBTQ+ community, this can be anything from having to pretend or not be their authentic self, to feeling that they could be overlooked or passed over for promotion.
Love and acceptance
Pride is about friendship, love and acceptance. It’s about being proud of who you are, and however you identify. But many LGBT staff, and trans people in particular, still face anti-LGBT discrimination and even bullying at work. The ERGs provide a safe space for them to explore these issues, but I believe that being inclusive is also ensuring everyone can feel comfortable talking to their managers, their colleagues, and the person they’re sitting next to in the office. And I’m a firm believer that education and awareness are the key.
Pride around the world
Pride month may officially be celebrated in June in the UK, but of course it’s celebrated throughout the summer across the world, and as a truly global business, we choose to celebrate Pride ‘season’.
As a global business that operates in countries that don’t always share the same values, we have to be sensitive to cultural differences. Nevertheless, Pride is about acceptance and tolerance, so although we tread carefully, we are also proud to test boundaries and start the conversation – just as the original Stonewall protestors did 50 years ago.
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Why is celebrating Pride important in the workplace?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of knowledge in the society about the true meaning of all the letters of the LGBTQ+ community. For me, it’s important that the people that you share eight hours a day with get to know you and treat you with the respect you deserve.
Why should we celebrate diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion should be celebrated in every part of society: individuals, institutions, government, cultural organisations, and of course, business. Pride season gives every business the chance to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride means that feeling comfortable with your true self in whichever society you live in. We shouldn't forget that when we talk about LGBTQ+ rights, we are talking about human rights.
What is your own experience at Westcon-Comstor?
My personal experience has been always good, but I know some people do not always feel comfortable talking openly about who they really are in their workplace. Is it because they hear a hurtful comment or because they want to be discreet about their private life? We don’t always know, so we must do everything we can to make them feel supported and comfortable to be who they are in the work space.
How can we provide and show our support?
Asking people from the community is a real good start! Small acts like asking for the pronouns of a person when they are hired, or displaying the LGBTQ+ flag at the office can help a lot too! For me, the most important thing is standing with the community all year long.