What is Pride?
Every year, throughout June, there are gay pride festivals and events across the world. June is the month chosen to celebrate Pride as it marks the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the protests that changed gay rights for a lot of people in America and beyond.
Pride is not just a parade, it started as a political movement and still is today. Pride represents the celebration of individualism, dignity and diversity, and serves as a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals to be open and proud of their sexuality. Pride is important in the promotion of self-worth and is fundamental in removing the harmful undertones connected with being an LGBTQ+ individual.
Why is there the need for Pride?
There is a common misperception that for LGBTQ+ individuals ‘we have achieved what we set out to do’. In the UK we have seen huge strides in legal and social reforms to protect fundamental freedoms, from the decriminalisation of homosexuality to gender recognition, civil partnerships and, most recently, equal marriage. These developments represented a major triumph for those, including LGBTQ+ lawyers, who’d campaigned tirelessly for legal framework to protect and enhance the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals. However, changing entrenched attitudes and prejudices towards the LGBTQ+ community is a lengthy process. Pride has been and still is fundamental in changing public perception, attitude and prejudices towards LGBTQ+ individuals.
Pride goes beyond reforms and legislation, and not only serves as a platform to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from shame and oppression, something which the majority of LGBTQ+ individuals have faced in their lifetime, but also to educate the general public on how damaging homophobia is and to encourage visibility and true acceptance in society. It is important to recognise that some of the most significant advancements in social reforms and legislation were made relatively recently; the Equality Act came in to force on 01 October 2010 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came in to force on 17 July 2013. Less than eight years ago, LGBTQ+ individuals were denied the right to marry.
It is really important to remember that many LGBTQ+ individuals still face challenges in their daily lives, are the subject of abuse and bullying at school, in a workplace environment and/or in public in general. Statistics have shown that LGBTQ+ individuals are 40% more likely to suffer with mental health issues compared to 25% of the general population. I am yet to meet another LGBTQ+ individual that has been unharmed growing up LGBTQ+. My first introduction to my sexuality as a young teenager was that it was wrong, and that I had to hide it. Many young, and indeed my generation and older, still feel burdened with this part of their lives because of the stigma attached to being LGBTQ+. In the 21st Century, there are still several countries around the world that continue to criminalise and oppress LGBTQ+ individuals.
Undeniably, the UK has some of the best LGBTQ+ equality legislation, and it is evident that public perception is changing, but the battle for true equality is far from over.
Why is it important for an employer to be inclusive and to promote equality within the work place?
The introduction of the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, workers, potential employees or job seekers and trainees because of their sexual orientation. However, being an employer committed to equality goes beyond legal compliance and extends to its culture; an environment where everyone feels welcome, safe and motivated to do well.
In a professional environment, it is essential that an LGBTQ+ employee (or any employee for that matter) feels comfortable in who they are, both in the workplace and out. Other than the obvious mental health and wellbeing benefits, by nurturing a culture of inclusion and diversity an LGBTQ+ individual is more likely to drive innovation and creativity. In turn, this will aid in the retention of employees and the success of future recruits. It is no secret that we all thrive in the right conditions. In the wrong conditions, an LGBTQ+ individual is likely to feel unsupported, oppressed and isolated which can of course be a hugely stressful situation to be in.
Due to increased awareness, largely brought about by Pride events each year, far more LGBTQ+ role models in senior positions are becoming more visible to the younger generation. Having prominent LGBTQ+ role models within a work place is so important to prospective employees as it shows that the employer has gone beyond the practicalities of implementing legislation, and actively encourages its employees to be comfortable in who they are. It also shows a prospective employee that their identity will not hinder their career progression.
It is through the behaviours and culture an employer endorses, one in which everyone in the work place has a role to play, in promoting inclusion and diversity that is really key.
What makes Girlings an inclusive employer?
Inclusion and diversity is embedded in Girlings’ culture. We (quite literally) pride ourselves in creating a safe and welcoming environment for all employees.
As an openly gay individual, I have witnessed first hand the difference between an employer who implements inclusive legislation, and an employer who truly implements and promotes an inclusive culture. Having had a relatively negative experience in a previous work environment, it was really important for me in my search for alternative employment that I found an employer that supported me both professionally and personally. Girlings has, for quite a number of years, supported Canterbury Pride. This was a positive indication of their culture, and when raising my sexuality at my interview I received such a positive response, I knew Girlings was the right fit for me. Having now worked at Girlings for over two years I can honestly say accepting my offer of employment was the best move I have made. I am open about my sexuality, valued, respected and supported.
Girlings are also committed to the mental wellbeing of all its employees and actively supports ‘Take Off’, a local physical and mental health charity based in Canterbury. Girlings recognises that good physical and mental health at work and good management go hand in hand. For more information on Take Off please visit their webpage here: https://www.takeoff.works/.