Donna Halkyard, Head of Inclusions & Diversity at RPC
As the Head of Inclusion & Diversity at RPC, some people might say that it is no surprise that I’m a LGBT* ally as creating a more inclusive workplace is a key requirement of my role. The latter is undoubtedly true; there are well-documented organisational benefits to be gained from straight ally programmes, including accessing a broader pool of talent and enabling individuals to perform at their best. Much work remains to be done to deliver these benefits; research by Stonewall shows that 41% of the LGBT UK population is not out at work and 62% of graduates go back into the closet when entering the workplace. The full impact on engagement, productivity and performance becomes apparent when one considers that employees who are not out at work are five times more likely to be dissatisfied with the support they receive from their manager, and three times more likely to be dissatisfied with their job security.
There is more however that motivates me to be a straight ally than fulfilling my job description. During the past twenty plus years of my career, the network of personal connections I’ve built has given me tremendous support, ranging from moral support to mentoring, coaching, visibility of career opportunities, and better access to those opportunities. All of these things help to build career resilience and success, something that is more necessary than ever in the current economic climate and given the increasing longevity of our working lives. I want others to have these same benefits and opportunities. Whilst some might say that building up a personal network is something that everyone can do and doesn’t or shouldn’t require extra support, I’m not convinced by this argument. In some workplaces even today, people can sometimes shy away from LGBT* staff network activities. Being a LGBT* ally, someone who goes beyond passive support and takes personal responsibility for inclusion, can transform a colleague’s personal and professional experience at work. This makes it well worth the effort.
And of course I personally benefit too. Being a LGBT* ally puts me in a fantastic space to learn about the differing experiences of people, both in and outside of work. Not only do I have a more diverse network of friends and colleagues but I also get opportunities to do some things I might not ordinarily do, for example attending the Stonewall stand-up comedy night with my fellow members from the RPC Inclusion & Diversity Steering Group. Spending time with a diverse group of people and having a laugh at the same time can only be a good thing. Putting yourself in unfamiliar situations is a sure-fire way of helping you understand your own preferences and comfort-levels, a necessary first step in making better decisions that benefit all.
My advice to others? We all need to constantly learn and develop – don’t let fear about making a mistake or not using preferred terminology hold you back.