Let’s Talk: Sustainability Celebrating Diversity
It is hard to believe that in some countries today it is still illegal to be gay. In fact homosexual activity remains illegal in 70 countries - only 65% of people living in United Nations countries can now be considered in legally consenting, same-sex relationships (Source: Forbes). That seems pretty shocking. Companies are more actively promoting inclusivity and yet attitudes take time to change. According to the Equality Index, many countries around the world still offer no protection for LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination, as shown in the map below.
The Yogyakarta Principles were first developed in 2007 as recognition grew for the need to acknowledge and protect LBTQ+ human rights. It promised a future where, “all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfil that precious birthright”. In some countries that still remains an aspiration rather than reality.
These are the stories of two employees at NTT in the UK leading the force for change as they look to educate others and provide a safe workplace for a diverse workforce.
Thinking about sexual orientation especially, do you still face issues today?
GI grew up in the UK at a time when Section 28 of the local government group was still in law. This meant it was illegal for a government institution to include education to promote homosexuality as a positive lifestyle choice so when I was going through school and my degree I was part of a generation who grew up where there was no discussion formally allowed. I marvel at Gen Zs who don’t have that hangover. For Gen X’s there is still a lot of that hangover with institutionalized and internalized homophobia so I think it’s very important for the 40+ year-olds fighting against something you grew up with or lived through.
PWhen I joined the company I was in the kitchen and some colleagues were playing pool when one suddenly shouted, ‘that’s so gay’. I normally would have let it slide but that really triggered something in me and hearing it used in a derogatory way was very hurtful. I spoke to my Manager who dealt with it quickly and respectfully. Language is so important. We also did a live virtual event on this, to bring about awareness on the use of inclusive language. I really wish there didn’t have to be a network because it shouldn’t matter who I am. The good news is support for the LGBQT+ community is genuine at NTT because team members from all over the company actively get involved in our events. Everyone here is open to the idea of expanding their learning and awareness which results in people feeling able to share their ideas and stories openly.
GEquity is critical. We know that not everyone has the same starting block and we all recognize that. Sexual orientation is not the first thing you see in someone and it’s really such a small part of the whole person yet it can have a huge impact. Hiding your true self is exhausting and creates self-doubt and fears over coming out when you should just be able to be you.
Where do you go from here and what comes next?
PContinuing to grow NTT Pride Alliance, increase awareness, deliver more live events, help keep the conversation moving and ensure our policies and procedures are inclusive. In the past we’ve had parents reaching out to us as their children have come out and helping them to understand more about it and where to get further help if they need it. We’ll continue to support them and signpost to more information or help if they would like it. Creating an inclusive workplace where people feel they belong is so important to me because I felt so hidden for such a long time. Everyone has their own unique journey and I want our employees to feel cared for and safe, so they can be their best and most authentic self.
GBuilding relationships with our clients is very important. We are ranked above all our close competitors for positive diversity and inclusion by the Financial Times and that is based purely on client feedback that is provided anonymously. This year we were rated third in our sector and that means a lot to us. We’re going to continue investing in our partnership with myGwork too as a statement of our intent to increase our presence within ‘the business community for LGBT+ professionals, students, inclusive employers and anyone who believes in workplace equality.
Wow that’s a fantastic achievement – do you think awards like that make a difference?
PYes, I think they do. It’s good to get the recognition and gives you a platform to do more and attract a more diverse candidate pool. I have been nominated for The LGBTQI+ Inclusion Champion Award at the DEI Tech Awards. The event aims to provide a safe and supportive space for like-minded individuals to collaborate, support and champion the differences that make us unique, and ultimately help businesses to thrive. It gives me an opportunity to highlight the issues we encounter and I feel really honored to do this and be involved. Two of my colleagues – Roli Agrawal and Elaine Riley– are also up for awards. (Full results and details are available: here)
What would be your final comment or piece of advice to people reading this article?
PI just want the right to be ignored, after all we should all just be able to come to work as our best selves and celebrate diversity.
GNobody’s just one thing and that’s what makes us exciting as individuals.