Category: lgbtq support, LGBTQ Inclusion, AON Pride, LGBTQ Community, Pride Month, Pride Event, LGBTQ+, Pride Network, Aon Team Pride, Pride 2021
Aon participating in London Pride 2019
Pride Month is usually celebrated with parades and marches, but with social distancing still in place, things will be different for a second year. We spoke to Emma and Kate from the UK Pride Alliance at Aon to learn about how they are preparing for Pride 2021.
Emma Robertson has been a UK cyber consultant at Aon for three years and is an active committee member of the UK Pride Alliance.
Emma Robertson, Cyber Consultant at Aon
Kate Crisp has been at Aon for five years. She is the regional asset manager and an Ally of the UK Pride Alliance.
Kate Crisp, Regional Asset Manager at Aon
Tell us about your role at the UK Pride Alliance
Emma: I'm LGBT myself so that obviously brought me to join. It was actually through the Pride March that I learned about the Pride Alliance. I inquired about how to get involved and then joined the committee. When I went back to my team with some of the merchandise for the march, they were impressed. None of them knew the Alliance existed. I feel really lucky that I just happened to find out about the Pride March which led to me joining the committee.
One of the great things in our committee and our wider group is that it's very integrated between the allies and members. Everyone's involved in events and running events. It isn't divided. Having ally voices in the conversation is really key for employee engagement.
Kate: I've been on the Pride Alliance for probably three years as an ally, and it's been quite an eye-opener. I've met so many lovely people through it and it's a very valuable part of my work. It resembles extracurricular activities if you like.
Being an ally is about spreading the word. I've been on the Pride March twice, which has been great fun. We also do a bit of social outreach. For example, inviting people through our partner charity, Opening Doors London, to come along. We'd watch films, eat popcorn and drink wine. One of the things that really hit home for me was a Christmas hamper we arranged to deliver for the charity. It was a great team effort in preparing the hampers and getting them delivered to the door. People were so grateful, some of them burst into tears saying they weren’t expecting to get anything for Christmas. I thought it was a great thing to do and I am so proud of that.
Kate at Pride 2019 with Aon
Emma: That was a fantastic initiative! Older members of the LGBT community are often particularly isolated through COVID because some of them don't have the support of family in the way that other older people may have.
How have things changed due to the pandemic?
Emma: Things got slightly different in the last year with virtual events. We've done some really good Speaker Series. We recently did an event for Lesbian Visibility Day which had a panel of internal and external speakers. I personally consider the speaker panels and Q&As to be our most powerful events. Although we have excellent written pieces, I think the real impact comes from hearing people's discussions. We had another very successful one for Trans Day of Visibility as well, led by one of our committee members.
Kate: People feel they have more time when they're working from home. So they might be more inclined to attend a virtual seminar because they're not thinking ‘I've got to run and get my train’. Virtual events have helped us to expand a bit and get the message across to a wider audience. However, the downside is not being able to meet in person and perhaps talk individually afterwards about shared experiences. This bit of personal interaction is lost.
Emma: I would agree. Not only do we have more time, but there's a level of engagement that we've reached across regions. COVID has connected people in a way that maybe wouldn't have happened beforehand. Virtual events can bring colleagues together across countries now. Our Virtual Pride last year had this global element. It also brought a heightened level of awareness about wellbeing and the importance of checking in on people who may feel isolated.
Lesbian Visibility Day: The Power of Authenticity
The Connecting Colleagues series, hosted by the wider D&I initiative at Aon, allowed us to learn the experiences of colleagues who came out because of COVID. There has been more awareness about people's home situations and the value of being more open. For the LGBT community and others who weren't previously comfortable sharing, this gave them the chance to open up because now you can see inside their homes. It is just the nature of remote working. Hopefully, this openness will be beneficial to many people.
How would you describe the aim behind your network activities?
Emma: Speaking openly and having a space within a corporate setting which promotes that you can be You and live your normal life while working in a big corporation. You don't have to have a work persona and a home persona.
Kate: Absolutely, the aim is to get to a point where it doesn't matter if you aren’t the same as the person sitting next to you. We're all humans and we're all working hard because we want to do a good job. That's what it should all be about. I think we've made great strides over the last few years.
How is Aon preparing for Pride 2021?
Kate: For Pride 2021, we are going to follow on and expand from what we did last year on the virtual global Pride, moving across the globe with each country sharing its events. On the 3rd of June, there's a virtual celebration by region, which everybody is invited to obviously. Then on the week of the 7th of June, there are a few events around allyship. This is obviously something that I'm getting involved with, including updating the Ally Guide which explains how to be an ally. We are currently in the final stages of tweaking that.
Emma: I'm excited about the global event although, as Kate mentioned, sometimes these virtual events lose a little bit of their face to face connection. And I am hopefully going to be involved in the Pride March later in the year as well, so double Pride!
What do you hope to achieve from this year’s celebrations?
Kate: I am more aware now of what Aon does to promote and support the LGBT community. And so for me, the more I see what they put into it, the more I want to get colleagues involved. I think it's a marvellous thing! I'm sure that more people are aware now of what we do as a firm, especially when you've got CEO Greg Case. He's such a great advocate who is recognized globally as Top Ally of LGBTQ+. It's a really positive thing, in my view.
Emma: I think having this high-level visible support, right from the top, is impactful. It is true that we've still got a way to go when it comes to engaging those who are not already part of the conversation. For instance, younger members of the LGBT community aren't as heavily involved in the Alliance. For many of them, I think, it's just a very normal part of their lives –which is obviously a wonderful thing in itself – but it means that they don't feel the need to push for change. However, I would like to get some of those young voices and new talent involved as well.
What does celebrating Pride mean to you?
Kate: I think the message for this year’s celebration has to be: ‘We're all in this together.’ We've all been through a rough time this past year. Let's celebrate the fact that we've all got through it. We're sort of connected by this shared experience. We're still here. We're proud of that.
Emma: It is a unique year; such a heavy time for so many people. I think that just makes it even more poignant. Thinking about caring for others and treating everybody equally, that's what Pride is all about. Hopefully, this past year has highlighted for people the importance of being kind and looking out for friends, family, and colleagues. What a great time to have a celebration of love and unity!