Even the small details can make a difference on the journey to true diversity and inclusion, writes OMD’s Kristen Vrachas. This article is part of a series celebrating Pride Month, curated by the MFA DE&I Advisory Council.
I celebrate pride because when I was in my late teen years and early 20s, I spent a lot of time hiding and making sense of my sexuality. Coming out as a lesbian seven years ago was without a doubt the best decision I have ever made.
I am incredibly proud of the person I am but it’s important to know my experience, like many others within the queer community, has not been without struggles and tests of resilience.
Pride month for me means honoring and celebrating the history of the LGBTQIA+ community, fighting discrimination and being a voice for people who aren’t as fortunate, to help them know they’re not alone.
Embrace the fun, but also meaningful change
Pride month within the corporate space can be fun, but it should also be a time for reflection.
While changing a brand logo to rainbow for the 30 days of June is a supportive gesture, it does not equate to an actionable diversity, inclusion and engagement strategy.
It’s important to ask how brands are showing up for their LGBTQIA+ employees and how they want to position their brand ethos and values to the world and potential new starters – for example, looking at diversity within hiring panels, addressing gender discrimination within parental leave policies, and language bias education to name just three ways of making a difference.
At OMD I have been fortunate and proud to work with a company full of strong leaders and colleagues who empower me to be the best version of myself.
I have had the encouragement from the business to provide a diverse voice as member of both the OMD and wider Omnicom Pride Committee.
Last year alongside other OMD D&I committee members, we hosted a Pride-themed ABC style ‘You Can’t Ask That’ Q&A, to help drive education on LGBTQIA+ experiences across the community. This year, the company hosted a ‘Conversation about Intersectional Pride’ session nationally.
3 things I wish people understood better about Pride Month and the LGBTQIA+ community
Firstly, people within the queer community don’t come out just once, but on a daily basis with every single person we meet. I would describe myself as a “femme” lesbian and I cannot count how many times I have been asked about whether I have a boyfriend, particularly by GPs.
While it’s a small detail, it can be so tiring. Asking someone instead whether they have a “partner” can be such an easy win.
While I have been so fortunate to have a very supportive family and group of friends, homophobia has still found a way to rear its villainous head into the background of my life. One example of walking down the street holding hands with my previous partner, with a stranger shouting “stupid dykes” at us as he crossed paths was a moment I could have gone without having (and frustratingly one that occurred on multiple occasions).
Secondly, while we have come such a long way with the equality and rights of LGBTQIA+ people, here are some statistics on why Pride Month is still important in 2022:
- Conversion “therapy” is still only banned in three states (QLD, ACT and VIC), and no national ban exists.
- There are still 69 countries that have laws that criminalise homosexuality.
- 57% of LGBTIQ+ people nationally experience high or very high levels of psychological distress compared to 13% of the general population. Transgender and gender-diverse people face the highest levels of distress among this group (NSW Government LGBTIQ+ Health Strategy 2022-2027).
Thirdly, there is always an opportunity to learn more and do what we can to make someone feel welcome. Easy wins on being a supportive ally include:
- Listening to what marginalised people are saying (by reading articles or books, or listening to podcasts).
- It is okay to be curious and ask questions if you want to learn. When someone from a diverse community invites you to an event, try to listen and show your support. If your company is hosting a session on diversity and inclusion, try to attend. What you learn might surprise you.
- When you hear something ignorant, call the person out on it in the right environment. No big change has occurred in the D&I space from silence.
Kristen Vrachas is Senior Account Manager at OMD Australia.
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