Briony Thomas – School of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
Why do you think it’s important to have LGBT+ allies?
I identify as an LGBT+ ally as part of my commitment to equality and challenging discrimination, whether against LGBT+ people or any other grounds such as gender, race or disability.
It is not just the responsibility of the LGBT+ community to work towards creating a workplace culture that is inclusive. When straight allies talk about LGBT+ issues it lends greater credence by the fact that it’s not raised because of a vested interest. Talking positively about LGBT+ equality is also one way for straight people to help make their workplaces more accepting and to spread the message that it is important issue.
By advocating LGBT+ equality at work I am translating my personal values into the workplace. I feel privileged to have a number of close gay friends who have had a transformative impact on my life. I now have three young children so a big driver for me is acting as a role model for them. I want them to grow up valuing and celebrating diversity.
What difference can you make as an LGBT+ ally?
Allies can use their role within an organisation to create a culture of acceptance, where equality in the workplace can be achieved. This means demonstrating through personal actions that equality – including LGBT+ equality – is important.
Actions can range from being a manager that puts equality at the heart of their area of responsibility to being a member of staff who challenges discriminatory ‘banter’ or supports LGBT+ staff and student events.
Personally I feel that playing a role in improving experiences and supporting colleagues at work is incredibly rewarding.
What can we all do to make the University of Leeds a better place for LGBT+ staff and students?
Everyone can play a role in creating a place where all staff and students, regardless of sexual orientation, can perform to the best of their ability. We all have the potential to have a significant positive impact on people’s behaviour. The championing of diversity comes from the very top of the University and it should be important to all of us.
We should all challenge discrimination and prejudice, and work to make the University a respectful and inclusive environment. If not, we could miss the opportunity to attract great staff and students, because championing workplace equality is really just part of being a good people developer.