Matt Tudball, Senior Editor, Recycling at ICIS shares what his organisation has been doing to foster LGBT+ inclusion and stronger allyship.
Since the launch of LexisNexis Risk Solution Group’s (RSG) first-ever Pride network – PROUD@RSG – in 2017, we have been helping our colleagues and friends understand why it’s important to have Pride Networks in business.
At ICIS, which is part of RSG, we are passionate about making a positive impact on society, customers, and providing employees with access to the tools and resources to help become a stronger ally for both the LGBT+ community and underrepresented groups as a whole.
So, in no particular order, here are some of the things we have learnt along the way.
Do embrace the virtual world
Virtual working has opened the door to global inclusion, with virtual events scheduled to cover both our Asia and Americas-based offices. Virtual speaker events and panel discussions are recorded and shared on the PROUD@RSG intranet site, which allows people to watch on-demand content at a time that suits them. An additional benefit has been anonymity. Colleagues who were perhaps not ready or hesitant about attending an in-person event have been able to join online events much more easily.
Don’t limit yourself to your local audience
Our PROUD group started life in the Starbucks concession area of our office in Sutton, just outside of London. Our early efforts were very much London-focused, but we soon realised we needed to expand our reach outside of not just London, but the UK.
Virtually connecting with our colleagues around the world helped us tackle specific issues and made us think more openly about what topics to cover. For example, being raised with different cultures, surrounded by different religions, and living in different countries will mean LGBT+ individuals can have a vastly different life experience. Moving to a mostly virtual platform currently has meant a lot more interconnectivity and discussion across the PROUD members, and our events and content are only richer for it.
Do build an internal website
Virtual working has led to an assault of emails, newsletters, Teams meetings, and Zoom requests, and many people have been overwhelmed by the amount of data being sent their way on a daily basis. Despite our best efforts to cut through this noise, we typically get between 50-80 attendees at our virtual events. So, we are now focusing on building out our PROUD SharePoint website to give employees a one-stop-shop for everything we think they need. This allows them to access the content they want when they want it.
Don’t worry about making mistakes but do learn from them
All people undergoing a journey on allyship are on a journey of discovery and learning, so they will inevitably make mistakes along the way. One topic we have discussed regularly is the use of pronouns, which are particularly important for trans people. If you do misgender a person, simply say sorry and move on with the conversation. But do be mindful not to do it again.
Do be proactive with pronouns
Increasingly we see people adding pronouns to their online profiles, be it email signatures, business cards on online platforms like LinkedIn, which avoids any chance of misgendering. A good action to take when meeting in-person can be to introduce yourself using your own pronouns. This small action signals two things; it helps the other person know how to address you, but it also lets them know they are free to share their pronouns with you if they wish.
Don’t over-stretch yourself
By its very nature, an LGBT+ employee resource group (ERG) covers a whole spectrum of different people and communities, and a quick glance at any LGBT+ calendar of events shows a plethora of dates to mark. This can be overwhelming if you are trying to acknowledge each date in every region, especially if you are starting out as a small group. Instead, try focusing on a particular event or topic at a certain time and building a programme of engagement around that. Split your agenda into monthly or quarterly focuses – such as trans awareness one month, and Bi-visibility the next. If you miss a specific event or date, don’t worry – you can always focus on it again next year!
Similarly, if your ERG is growing, try focusing on a specific country or region and build a programme around that. With the ability to record and share virtual speaker events, it can allow colleagues in other time zones to catch up after the event too.
Do push your company for action
Last year, following the tragic murder of George Floyd and the subsequent focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly in our US offices, our business worked with its BAME and African Ancestry Networks (AAN) to create our Black African American Race Relations (BAARR) allyship programme. This provided employees with comprehensive resources and tools to understand the meaning of allyship in relation to race, and to encourage self-education on topics such as understanding unconscious bias, embedded racism and white privilege.
This year RSG has done the same for its LGBT+ colleagues by launching the LGBTQ+ Allyship Programme. This is designed to give colleagues access to tools and materials to help them understand what it means to be an ally to all members of the LGBT+ community, and how to advocate for LGBT+ rights and acceptance in daily life. This is a relatively simple programme to create, but it is an important step for a company to take to show they are serious about, and dedicated to, addressing issues around race, sexual orientation and gender identity to name just a few areas.
Establishing and growing a Pride ERG is a long-term commitment, and the rewards and benefits may not be immediately clear. But time and persistence will reap rewards, be that recognition of your group’s and your company’s efforts on inclusion lists, a growth in LGBT+ talent acquisition, or simply a message from a colleague who now feels safe to bring their whole selves to work.
Stick with it, listen to colleagues, speakers and experts, and learn from others around you. Sign up to LGBT+ groups in your industry, attend networking events and ask questions – you and your group are on a journey with no clear roadmap, but there are plenty of other travellers out there who will help you find your way.
Matt Tudball is Senior Editor, Recycling at ICIS, an organisation that provides market intelligence for businesses in the energy, petrochemical, and fertilizer industries.