09
Aug

This Pride month is like no other

Andrzej Pioch is a fund manager at member firm Legal & General Investment Management, and co-chair of their L&GBT network. Reproduced with permission.

What my story taught me about solidarity in driving change. We are all experiencing Pride month very differently this year. Nationwide lockdowns have meant that many Pride events have been cancelled, and our thoughts are instead with the black community fighting for equality in protests around the world.

The events of the last few weeks have forced me to examine the privileges and acceptance afforded to me

The events of the last few weeks have forced me to examine the privileges and acceptance afforded to me. It is of course important to recognise and celebrate what the Pride movement has achieved, but always with an eye on the work left to do. My hope when sharing my story is that these same privileges, and feelings of acceptance and love that I have felt, are extended to those in our community who, because of the colour of their skin, are simply less likely to. This is the real work for our LGBT+ community now. 

As someone who didn’t feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work for many years, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner

As someone who didn’t feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work for many years, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. It was only when I moved over to Legal & General Investment Management in 2013 that I decided to be fully out at work. A colleague at my former firm moved here, and told me it was a great place to work. I saw it as a fresh start, and since then I’ve felt so much happier as I’ve finally been able to bring my whole self to work. 

It’s only now that I realise how much energy I wasted trying to pretend I was someone I wasn’t when in the office – instead of being the person that I was actually really comfortable being outside of work. I found it difficult to be open in front of my colleagues, which I found stressful, particularly when it came to social interactions at work.

When you have to hide your true self for so long, it takes a lot of time to heal and unlearn those habits. But, since doing so, it’s had a really positive impact on my career. I am now able to focus all that misspent energy doing what I really value. When your personal and professional values are aligned, you are able to become much more helpful to your colleagues and more open to them. You don’t worry about the personal questions they may ask – that becomes a non-issue. So you can focus on the important things instead and form genuine connections. 

I have genuinely felt that at Legal & General, diversity and inclusion is embedded in all different areas of office life

I’m lucky to be working in a very open and tolerant team that has fully embraced me as an individual. Looking at it from the outside, you might think that companies just attend Pride as a PR exercise. It may be true in some cases, but I have genuinely felt that at Legal & General, diversity and inclusion is embedded in all different areas of office life. In my team – Asset Allocation – we are quite social, and we do a lot of activities out of office. One of the most important moments for me was the first time I attended one of our summer barbeques, and brought along my boyfriend and his two sons. It just felt so normal. It may sound like a small thing, but it meant a lot to me. 

I appreciate the educational opportunities my company offers for people who may not have had a lot of exposure to people who are LGBT+

Another thing I appreciate are the educational opportunities the company offers for people who may not have had a lot of exposure to people who are LGBT+. We hold a lot of events in which we are able to talk to our colleagues about the challenges faced by our community. For example, we did an event for World AIDS Day, in which speakers who were HIV positive came and talked about their experiences. We also ran an event with our family network for parents, to tell them how they might be able to talk to their children if they were LGBT+, advising them on what to do if they come out.

We also recently partnered with ‘Just Like Us’, a charity that aims to eliminate homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools by empowering young people to champion LGBT+ equality and challenge prejudice. It gives young people a safe space to learn about what it is to be LGBT+, even if they’re not out yet. Looking back on my teenage years, there was almost a big black hole where I hid who I was from my family and friends. It was only when I came out on the other side that I realised how dark that period was. Being able to minimise that period makes a huge difference, and shapes people’s experiences for the better later on.

I can’t even imagine what it must be like right now for young people who might not be out to their families to suddenly be locked down at home, having to hide who they are 24/7. I’m worried about the long-term effects on these individuals, so this partnership has come at a really important time. 

There is more to be done inside the LGBT+ community, particularly for the black, brown and trans people that are the last to benefit from the headways made by the Pride movement

I am proud of the work we have done at Legal & General and yet, now more than ever, I realise that there is more to be done inside the LGBT+ community, particularly for the black, brown and trans people that are the last to benefit from the headways made by the Pride movement. True equality is when human dignity is afforded to all, in spite of race, gender, sexuality or religious affiliation and the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and elsewhere are a reminder of the power in people coming together. 

I really believe that these conversations should be happening in the workplace, and we shouldn’t hide behind neutrality. We’ve heard from the head of our team and both the CIO and the CEO about the protests and I think it’s very important that we continue this dialogue.

What everyone can do, right now, is to use our voices to stand in solidarity with those who are vulnerable.

This Pride month in particular, we should look at how we can embrace intersectionality in all of our diversity and inclusion efforts.” 

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