In the eighteen months since I joined Thoughtworks as Head of People for the UK and leadership champion for our LGBTQ+ affinity group, I have been proud of a lot of things I’ve seen. I’ve been privileged to be a part of some important inclusion initiatives, from creating a new fertility policy to launching a six month leadership development programme for women and underrepresented gender minorities. I have seen us achieve some amazing things. One of the things I am most proud of is our continued efforts to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion, which has resulted in Thoughtworks' being recognized in the top 50 of Stonewall’s workplace equality index for the first time this year.
When we started this journey in 2015, we were in 314th place: reaching 45th has taken hard work, commitment and true dedication to driving meaningful change, and improving Thoughtworks as a place to work. This has been made possible due to the drive and support from within Thoughtworks - we don’t have to explain why the LGBTQ+ agenda matters as it’s intrinsically known and felt by every single Thoughtworker. The passion and desire colleagues have to advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion is inspiring.
I grew up in a small, country town where diversity was not common. White, cisgendered heterosexuality was “the norm” and this has shaped my desire to know more as an adult. My childhood best friend is now an openly gay, proud man, but this visibility just wasn’t available for him while growing up. If anything, I watched him hide himself and struggle with coming to terms with something that he couldn’t understand. With no role models or visibility, he had no-one to tell him that it would be ok and to show me as his best friend how best to support him. While that is longer ago than I want to admit, watching his journey of discovery and seeing the struggles he has faced in a closeted environment has always made me want to be the best ally I can be and why I chose to champion the LGBTQ+ agenda within Thoughtworks.
In the last year, our LGBTQ+ affinity group has done some fantastic work to continue to drive progress for LGBTQ+ inclusion:
We launched our bi and trans allyship resources and an allyship video in partnership with our other affinity groups, talking about why allyship is important
We celebrated LGBTQ+ History Month, Trans Day of Visibility, Pride and Bi Week (amongst others), to raise awareness, educate and call for solidarity and support
We published internal and external statements regarding our ongoing commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion
We explored intersectional themes of sexuality, gender and faith during Interfaith Week
We published an intranet page with visible LGBTQ+ ambassadors, helpful resources, talk recordings and personal stories to improve understanding and enable active allyship
As an ally and leadership champion for the group, I’ve learnt that the ability to amplify messages and be a strong, outspoken supporter is important. It needs people to say that the rights of others matter when their own privilege is not in question. As a leadership team, we took a public stance to support trans inclusion at a time when trans rights were being subject to horrendous abuse in the mainstream media. I felt passionately about doing so and I want to continue to build a culture at Thoughtworks in which we continue to use our collective voices to advocate for change and stand up for what we believe is right. This is more important now than ever.
Our work here is not done. We are now at number 45 but have aspirations to be more inclusive and welcoming for everyone. Our future plans focus on intersectionalities, both internally and externally. Looking at only LGBTQ+ experiences in isolation doesn’t encompass other challenges that may be faced: what are the additional complexities of being an LGBTQ+ person of faith, what considerations are same-sex couples faced with when starting a family and how does identifying as LGBTQ+ change as you get older? We are looking to work closely with our other affinity groups to drive this agenda to understand how best to support and empower our people.
Finally, I am a firm believer that everyone should take responsibility for educating themselves on their privilege and the position that others face through identifying as LGBTQ+. However, I am so grateful that members of our affinity group and our organization more broadly, feel safe to share their lived experiences in Thoughtworks to help us become better allies and are so deeply committed to making us a better place to work. The increase in our Stonewall rating is not down to me, or our leadership team: it’s down to the passionate individuals who have dedicated their time, energy and effort, and I couldn’t be prouder to be their ally.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.