Recruitment initiatives, inclusion, quotas, top-down strategy, management buy in, diversity training, unconscious bias – what feelings do these words invoke in you? The words are dull and dry. Too often we have heard words and yet seen no action. It is tiring and counterproductive to always be asked what one wants and to not be heard. Management speak turns off many, even managers. We are jaded by buzzwords, by hashtags. In today’s blog I hope to inject the passion back into the process of change.
Pride as protest
June is Pride month, and those rainbow logos are appearing everywhere. Chrysalis and many others are encouraging you to fly your flag with pride. Social media is full of debate as to the origin, meaning and ownership of Pride. We are reminded of the Stonewall riots all those many years ago. The brutality of the police which proved to be the final straw, the oxygen to the slow burning fuse.
Western LGBT+ history is full of experiences of discrimination, of abuse, of hatred, of silencing. A history of book burning and slaughter. Tales of shame and suicide and posthumous pardons for unjust laws.
When we look at history through the lens of discrimination the focus tends to be on conflict, on moments of passion. We see the fighters, the heroes, and the victims.
Pride as change
I would like you to consider a different viewpoint, a different way of looking at change, inclusion, and progress.
Long before the Stonewall riots people were changing the system. Making the world a better place from within their own spheres of influence. Perhaps they were supported by parents who accepted and loved instead of blindly adhering to societal constructs. Maybe they were able to move away and find communities of like minded people. I do not deny that many were people of privilege, the right colour and apparent gender for the times. People of intellect who were able to exploit the system to find their own way to not only survive but thrive. Trail breakers for the rest.
Floods change the landscape forever
I envisage the growth of these pockets of diversity as liquid, gradually flowing together. I see the current of change amplified by shared purpose. Droplets becoming streams, becoming rivers and finally a flood!
Little drops of water
Following the analogy, I look at those drops of water in more detail. Focusing in on individuals who are sustained by the wider changes the flood has initiated in society. These are your everyday individuals. These drops of water are the middle managers, the trade unionists. One drop is the queer boss who was not afraid to wear skirts into the office in trouser times. Another the person on the shop floor who braved the constant abuse to be their authentic self at work.
Each of these individuals has a place at Pride. Each Pride parade, each rainbow flag displayed, adds drops of water to that flow.
LGBT+ people are everywhere
LGBT+ people are everywhere. Being LGBT+ is simply an aspect of who one is. For those queens at the Stonewall Inn their queerness still defines them but the same is not true for most of us. Most people would just like to get on with their lives without their authenticity being denied or a cause for discrimination. Something unremarkable, commonplace.
LGBT+ people are corporate employees
When I see a corporate float at Pride, I see LGBT+ employees having fun being authentic. I see people who can have pride in their career and in their LGBT+ identity. The efforts of everyone who fought to get a staff LGBT+ network off the ground shines out.
Allies are essential
A corporate attendance at Pride requires a huge team of allies too. From the champions in senior management who fight for funding and the marketing team who like the potential of the organisation being seen as inclusive to the managers who give team members time off from their regular duties and colleagues who picked up the slack because they too appreciate the value of authenticity.
These investments of time, money, and energy in allyship have long term effects too. A visible commitment to inclusion goes a long way to creating a culture where people feel safe to be authentic. Diversity and inclusion come alive when empowered by action. I opened this blog with a question, I leave you with a challenge.
How will you fly the flag?
Take the feeling of Pride and let it flow through everything you do. See the change that you, as your own drop of water, are achieving and feel part of the wider flow of history. Use your power to fly your Pride flag and celebrate the change that changed the corporate world forever.