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Out and proud: experiences as an out role model

Every June, we see businesses take to LinkedIn and other social media platforms to adorn their pages with the rainbow tones of the pride flag. The gesture is intended to show that the organisation is an ally to the LGBT+ community, but with so many companies now flying the flag, the act has begun to feel somewhat ‘performative’.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming a corporate ‘norm’, making it hard to decipher who’s a genuine ally.

Of course, companies should show their support for Pride. It’s a vital institution for the LGBT+ community and a beacon of hope for the future of equality. However, if organisations are to avoid ‘rainbow-washing’, there are a few things they must not forget when it comes to showing their support and following through with actions.

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My experiences over the years

Everyone in the LGBT+ community has had a different experience and has a different relationship with pride. I came out when I was 22, but early on in my career, I was told that not being open about my sexuality at work was the best thing for my job. With that advice ringing in my ears, I knuckled down and followed the guidance of 'don’t ask, don’t tell', feeling the need to keep my guard up.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m at Kyndryl, a different company with a totally different culture where I’m now fortunate enough to be an exec and a technical leader.

My experiences at work have shaped my drive to change the industry for the better and I feel it’s my duty to put my head above the parapet. This has led to my involvement with a number of company initiatives, including the ‘out role model’ programme.

Everyone (but especially those in their early careers) should have a role model they can relate to, no matter how they identify.

What should corporations do differently and why?

Acceptance should be embedded in company culture, and threaded through teams and disciplines.

At my current company, we embrace the out role model programme as well as employee-led resource groups that are dedicated to creating spaces where everyone can find and provide support and advice.

These networks are essential for companies to create, as they work to continue the advancement of respective communities by focusing on recruitment, retention, advancement, and allyship.

They also ensure every voice is heard within a corporation and a diverse group of people and opinions are seen and upheld.

When it comes to driving equality, I think many organisations could benefit from looking through a refreshed lens and adopting these measures.

Achieving a people-centric culture is fundamental to nurturing a content workforce, that remains focused, driven and loyal.

Talent comes from all walks of life – it’s important for companies to support those they employs, and critical that they reflect society at large.

Showing support for the LGBT+ community with a pride flag is a great start, but it needs to be backed up with actions and ongoing commitments.

We still have a long way to go on the road to equality, however, businesses can easily set up initiatives to support their staff and drive change. All it takes is someone to spearhead the movement.

Nick Drouet is chief technology officer UKI at tech firm Kyndryl