LGBT+ History Month, which is celebrated throughout February each year, is not only a significant time for the LGBTQ+ community; it’s an important opportunity for Leonardo in the UK to recognise how we are collectively moving forward, and providing support to all staff, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Creating a safe space and environment for everyone is fundamental.
We launched our Pride network group in February 2019 to coincide with LGBT+ History Month, and I’m proud of the progress we have made across the UK business. This has seen us improve equality and visibility within Leonardo for all LGBTQ+ individuals through hosting events, promoting awareness and education, and providing support.
The more we promote an inclusive culture, the better, even if we don’t all understand the terms. There’s nothing more astonishing and makes me happier than seeing someone being able to fully claim their own identity.
Clearer identification and messaging
To achieve this, in recent months across Leonardo, we’ve rolled-out email signatures featuring pronouns, which I’m very proud of. It was something I was keen to implement from the time I did an Industrial Placement at Leonardo in 2017; there’s something irritating about being called the wrong pronoun every single day, and you end up thinking ‘how many times do I correct them?’. I’d had to deal with this all my life, but when I entered the workplace, I decided I’d no longer roll over for it.
I’ve been there as a 17-year-old – lost, confused, not knowing where I fitted, because I didn’t have the words to describe my experience. Now I’ve got them, I’m committed to sharing those words with as many people as possible. Ultimately, if you don’t understand that I use ‘they/them’ pronouns, and you don’t understand that I’m non-binary, then you don’t understand me! It’s a fundamental part of who I am.
I’ve seen how this approach has directly benefited other employees too, including one of my now best friends, who is also non-binary. They’d previously been very reluctant to come out as non-binary and use alternative pronouns, simply because they didn’t know how the company would react. This was back in 2017, when there was nothing that said we’re a super-inclusive company.
Learning from the past
One of the critical aspects about LGBT History Month, is about educating people about this past. Ultimately, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We see the same mistakes and patterns recurring.
But looking back gives us the opportunity to positively influence things going forward. For example, if you look back at LGBT history, pretty much all of our labels have been slurs at some point. They usually start out positive, and once they gain enough traction, they tend to get used against us, and then eventually they cycle back round and people start using them again. It’s just the way language evolves. When I was at high school, the go-to offensive word then was ‘gay’. In 2020, ‘gay’ is no longer deemed a slur.
We’re all learning all the time, which is great. The younger generations that are discovering their own identity will come up with new words and new meanings for old words. That’s kind of magical.
Greater visibility internally and externally
Our greatest achievement of the past year is just how visible we are; now people are actually having the conversation. I’ve seen a lot of people I know were LGBT but who were not out at work, come out, which just wasn’t happening until the Pride network was established. They didn’t want to talk about it previously. They didn’t want to admit it. It wasn’t that no-one wanted to come out, but the attitudes of certain teams and the lack of visibility of specific LGBTQ+ support stick in your mind and make it hard to feel safe enough to come out. I can’t speak for every LGBTQ+ person in Leonardo, but I like to think we’ve made some people feel just that little bit safer and other people just a little more open and understanding.
With this in mind, I’m incredibly proud of our network members’ involvement in the first ever Yeovil Pride last year. We also got approached by Basildon Pride to sponsor them, demonstrating their awareness and support of Leonardo’s newly-created Pride network, while a bunch of us from Edinburgh attended the Edinburgh Pride which is so much fun.
Having witnessed a genuine step change for Leonardo in the UK during the last year – in our journey to becoming a more diverse and inclusive organisation – I’m confident we can build on that and make even more of a difference and impact this LGBT+ History Month and beyond.