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Category: LGBTI, LGBT, LGBT event, LGBT inclusion, LGBT+ Network, LGBTQ, LGBT+, pride, diversity inclusion, lgbt rights, Leading LGBT Organisation, lgbtq support, LGBTQ Inclusion, Sainsbury's, Lgbt diversity, LGBT Community, LGBTQ Community, LGBT History Month, argos
This is an exciting time for Sainsbury’s. In 2016 we joined forces with Argos and Habitat. It’s been satisfying seeing our distinctive brands come together and complement one another in so many different ways. After operating separately, this week our Sainsbury’s Tech teams are merging to become one multi-brand function, using technology to give us the edge in the changing world of retail.
This move puts us in a great position to take the company forward in the months and years to come, but it’s only half the story.
Diversity and inclusion have been huge talking points for brands in recent years. Many
Many companies are still working to define what this means for their organisation and to make sure their values shine through in their consumer and employee-facing brands - as well as in their workplace culture. Things don’t always go to plan. This past summer, we’ve seen corporations come under fire for what has been perceived as paying lip service to LGBTQ+ issues, plastering the rainbow on products and logos without engaging the community on a deeper and more meaningful level.
We have 70 percent of UK consumers
shopping with one or more of our brands and we have 186,000 employees. This puts us in a position to really make an impact and to shape a workplace culture where you can bring your whole self to work.
A place where people love to work and shop
We like to say we are “a place where people love to work and shop.” But what does this really mean? As a visible cisgender gay man, I’m always interested in seeing how different businesses communicate what diversity and inclusion mean to them in both their consumer and talent-facing brands. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, we’ve attended a record 43 (yes 43!) Pride events around the country. We’ve also displayed Pride banners, posters and bunting in stores up and down the country. It may seem like a small gesture, but to me, as well as many of our customers and colleagues it represents something so much bigger. In Pride month, we are celebrating the rich rainbow-fabric of our organization and we’re also sparking a discussion amongst colleagues on what inclusion really means. This gives us the opportunity throughout the year to continue the dialogue, to promote allyship and education, to celebrate awareness events like Transgender Day of Visibility or Black History Month and to create a culture where colleagues know we have an authentic commitment to inclusion for all.
I often reflect on my own position working at Sainsbury’s - and how different my working life might have looked fifty, twenty, even ten years ago. As recently as ten years ago, those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ would, at best, have felt uncomfortable sharing personal information with colleagues, or at worst, been treated unfairly or even dismissed because of it. Many of us are still uncomfortable. However, as a white man living and working in the UK in 2019, I recognise that I do have a certain level of privilege not afforded to everyone and I can use this privilege to be an active ally and a more inclusive tech leader.
Diversity within diversity
This doesn’t mean things have always been easy for me. Earlier in my life, I faced homophobia, including an assault. Many years ago, I was even outed at work. But I’ve learned something every step of the way and it has certainly helped me build my resilience.
I believe that my lived experiences make me well-suited to the job I do in tech. I definitely lacked confidence at the start of my career, so in team situations, I am now actively tuned into individuals and their contribution. Shaping teams where everyone can be heard and different opinions are respected means we can combine our ideas to achieve the best possible outcome, irrespective of where - or who - an idea originated from. I also believe my LGBTQ+ background gives me an empathy that helps me be a better ally.
I am also always learning. I don’t have the lived experience of a woman or a BAME person in technology, but by being curious, by listening to different life journeys and by tuning in to colleagues – I can be a better ally, colleague and leader.
I feel hugely privileged that the people I work with often take me into their confidence to let me know what they are dealing with and what they need from our organisation. Whether we are comfortable to disclose or not, we are all facing our own individual struggles, personally, or with our families and loved ones. In the next 12 months, one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health challenge. If I can help someone balance their personal challenges with their working lives in a healthy way, then inclusion is no longer a buzzword - it is genuinely lived every day. I can also learn where the gaps are in my own experience to make me a better leader in the workplace.
This is the path that organisations take when they go beyond inclusion to achieve a sense of genuine belonging for their colleagues.
When thinking about the best ways to promote diversity and inclusion in teams, it’s important to consider the role of intersectionality in our approach; those points where our lived experiences overlap, as well as where they diverge. That’s why I believe I need to listen to - and learn from - the lived experiences of BAME colleagues. It’s why I need to understand the daily challenges of people with disabilities – both visible and hidden. Each individual has the right to feel supported, included and free from bias. When creating an inclusive working environment, it’s important to recognise that each individual comes with their own experiences, strengths, and struggles, and to make sure that our differences are seen as an asset; after all, our customers are not homogenous, so neither should we be.
Paving the way for the future
While it’s wonderful to live in a country where businesses feel they can support Pride without fear of backlash and where our colleagues increasingly feel they can be themselves - our work is far from over.
Many of the first people involved in the Stonewall riots were trans and BAME activists. 50 years ago, the courage of Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and others started a civil rights movement for LGBTQ+ inclusion. The freedoms I benefit from as a gay man today are in large part a consequence of their bravery. Now it’s up to me - and us - to do the same for future generations and to keep the movement alive for trans and non-binary people. Trans people deserve a fair settlement on Gender Recognition Act reforms and deserve to live their lives without misgendering and other forms of harassment. That’s why I’m proud to support the #GwiththeT campaign and to be a visible trans ally.
This year alone, we’ve had transphobia in the press, in the streets and even unlawful killings reported in several countries. We’ve also had protests outside schools here in the UK and we’ve seen hate crimes increase, including a same-sex couple attacked simply for holding hands. Awareness isn’t enough; we need businesses to take action. Investing in diversity and inclusion can only ever be a good thing - especially when it comes to education. After all, the best way to be an ally is to listen and learn from the experiences of others.
Our workplace cultures can define how we work - I really do believe that. When we have the opportunity to be ourselves and to make a purposeful contribution, we do our best work and we create the conditions for innovation to flourish. So when hiring, we don’t set out looking for someone who is the perfect fit for the job on paper; we treat everyone fairly, viewing them as the individual they are and curious about what else they might bring to our tech family.
As we move into this new phase as a multi-brand, multi-channel digital, technology and data team, I can say with confidence that across our retail brands – we are committed to setting the standard as a safe and inclusive workplace where each and every colleague is encouraged to be themselves or - as we think of it - to bring their whole self to work.