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Pride stories: As allies, we need to make sure we’re not just preaching to the choir

During Pride month, we’re exploring the importance of our LGBT+ colleagues being seen and heard

Karolina shared her point of view on the importance of allyship and what we can all do to be better allies.

Why is LGBT+ visibility important to me as an ally? It’s because I believe everyone deserves to be seen and heard, and it’s even more important for under-represented groups who have faced prejudice that has silenced their voices. Prejudice comes from fear and fear is fuelled by lack of knowledge.

We need to hear LGBT+ voices so we can build empathy and understanding of what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. As you meet people and hear their stories, you begin to look past the surface and see people as people. That’s the message I got from the Can you See Me? films when a character asks, ‘can you see me as a person, a professional?’ The stories are so emotional, I cried, I laughed and cried again.

I think building empathy and understanding is the key to building an inclusive environment. Suddenly, the “jokes” and “banter” at a minority group’s expense don’t seem so funny if you know someone or understand their story. And while there are a number of vocal allies out there doing their best to amplify the voice of minorities and calling out non-inclusive behaviour, there are also a lot of people who don’t want to get involved.

It can be uncomfortable to think or talk about sensitive topics and so the easy solution for many is to think, ‘it doesn’t affect me, I don’t need to engage.’ The problem with this thinking is that it makes it easier to let non-inclusive behaviour slide. If you can’t imagine what your colleague two seats down (in a pre-Covid world!) feels when someone makes an offensive joke, you’re less likely to speak up.

Challenging indifference

I feel like the answer is visibility. It’s not only important for LGBT+ to be seen, it’s also important for allies, especially at the leadership level, to be seen and vocal about allyship, setting the tone from the top. And it’s not always about big gestures; it is about the day-to-day behaviours that show LGBT+ colleagues that they’re recognised for their skills as professionals, heard as members of the LGBT+ community and accepted as people.

And what can you and I do as allies to make a difference? The next time you’re planning to attend an inclusion event or meeting, try and take someone else along, you might help someone new discover how they can be an ally too. The more inclusive we are, the more we’ll attract and retain under-represented people and the more minority voices will be heard.

Karolina Barrett (she/her), Deloitte Ireland

Be your whole self. Be seen. Be heard. Be proud.