It’s Pride Month – the 51st year of celebration - and a time when millions of people across the world come together in support of the LGBT+ community. Louise Ines ,SSE Business Energy’s Commercial Director shares her thoughts on why inclusivity and diversity is not just culturally important but a smart commercial decision too.
Last June, in the midst of a seemingly endless lockdown, mass protests worldwide condemning the murder of George Floyd, furious Twitter feeds about gender and sex, and trying desperately to continue to do my job while juggling rambunctious two-year-old twins, I found myself wanting to speak to colleagues about something that – being frank – hadn’t been visible to me in SSE. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I was aware that there wasn’t much of a voice or presence for people like me. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted or needed from that, except maybe to be seen.
So out poured a blog that I shared across my team in SSE Business Energy. I talked about my experiences in the workplace as a gay woman and the importance of thoughtful and inclusive language and behaviour, that what you might think is a throwaway comment and with no malintent could be hurtful and place emphasis on the person who is hurt to be the one to speak up. Be excellent to each other. Understand that everyone matters.
Being LGBTQ+ can be complicated! On the one hand, you want acceptance, for your presence to be wholly and completely ‘normalised’. You shouldn’t have to ‘come out’, you shouldn’t need to have Pride parades. But on the other, and this is so important, you want your difference to be celebrated, it to be acknowledged that your rights and your needs and the challenges you might face can and will be different. You want to be out. You are proud to have Pride.
I have been asked why it is important to be out at work. Who cares? I personally believe that if I can be my whole self at work, if I don’t have to take that almost imperceptible pause before I talk about my wife and children (just in case), I will be better at my job. My team will be happier, and the company will get more from me. Now expand that thinking exponentially, to all the people that currently work here, and those that could in the future. How great could this already great place to work become? As a Commercial Director I will guarantee this – being an inclusive and diverse organisation is not just culturally important, it is a smart commercial decision.
It is Pride Month once again, an anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and protest action that galvanised the gay rights movement, and I have been thinking about what feels different this year. As a company we are clearly committing more time and space to inclusion and diversity. We have created communities online for employees to engage with one another and share resources. We are driving more training across the company focused on diverse hiring practices, asking our people to (confidentially) tell us more about who they are so we can have more tailored benefits and be an attractive employer for all people. We have external speakers telling us their stories. I am hugely encouraged.
But we must strive for more. We must have dialogue and action in the boardroom and on the shop floor. We must educate ourselves, and one another, on intersectionality and what it means to be inclusive. We must be unafraid to ask questions to become better allies. We must expand our networks and actively pursue a more diverse workforce. We must power change, and we must believe that we can.
Louise Innes, Commercial Director, Energy Customer Solutions