Meet Linzi Blakey. She joined GSK just over a year ago as Vice President HR operations GBINA (UK, Ireland, US and Canada). As a passionate advocate for the LGBT+ community, she understands the power straight allies can have in supporting LGBT voices.

Acceptance without exception

I was drawn to GSK because I strongly believe in our company’s purpose and the difference we make to patients and consumers. I also believe that we all have our own purpose in life and that in some way we can all make a difference. When I found Spectrum I knew this would be one of those opportunities where I could make a difference.

The Spectrum rainbow lanyards at GSK House are hard to miss. There are literally hundreds of employees wearing them, including many in my own team. As I’d been previously involved in getting the LGBT strategy and agenda going at both Shell and Vodafone I was curious to find out about GSK’s LGBT approach, luckily my team were able to help. They directed me to our employee LGBT network. Before I knew it, I had my own rainbow lanyard and was signed up as a member of Spectrum (all in the first week!).

Believe it or not I had my Spectrum lanyard before I had my security badge.

Jewel in the crown

Spectrum isn’t just an employee resource group (ERG), it’s the jewel in the crown of our LGBT ‘agenda’. I’m in awe of the passion, and relentless time and energy that the ERG members, who are all volunteers, put in. Being recognised by Stonewall as the 2019 ‘Best LGBT+ employee network’ is testament to that dedication, however there is still much to be done to ensure that the balance between volunteer time and company support is right. This is where I feel I can make the most impact.

I’m very aware of my white heterosexual and ‘positional power’ privilege I have within the company and society. I see it as a chance to support others who don’t have the same. That’s why I not only lend my support to Spectrum as an Executive Sponsor and ally but do whatever I can to help raise awareness of what we stand for and further the LGBT agenda by being relentless, provocative and unapologetic. After all it’s the only way we will be successful in driving change. I also put myself forward to be part of GSK’s Global LGBT Council, a body set up to champion and drive change within GSK toward cultural competence on LGBT issues in the workplace.

Everyone has a right to be themselves and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Standing up and standing out

Living in the UK, which is seen as more progressive and forward-thinking, it’s hard for some to understand why it’s so important for the LGBT community to have allies. Everything is rosy for the community, right? Wrong. You just have to look at the news to see examples of discrimination even in multicultural cities like London or Cardiff. This is not to mention other parts of the world where it’s illegal to identify as LGBT.

Whether it’s outside or inside the gates of work, for many in the LGBT community having the support of a colleague who understands can be a game changer. It doesn’t have to take up a great deal of time, you just contribute as much or as little of your time as you see fit. Anyone can do it. When I use the term ally I think of someone who will be a role model for inclusivity, who believes passionately about not standing on the side-lines, who is visible, who will speak up when faced with opposing views, seek knowledge (understand more about the LGBT community and what the acronyms LGBT – lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual – really mean), provide friendship and non-judgemental support.

Allies

Straight allies can be honest and speak hard truths to the straight community without the perceived agenda attributed to that same message were it to come from a member of the LGBT community.

In the workplace allies can help to create a more inclusive, understanding work environment for all in the LGBT community. You can have the best policies and legal rights in the world however if you have a leader or work with people who are afraid of a certain community or are judgemental towards others, we will continue to see a workplace where people don’t bring their whole selves.

Although I have specifically chosen to be an ally for the LGBT community, it’s important to recognise that there are many other minority communities for whom having the support of allies are equally as important. GSK has a number of ERG’s covering a variety of minority groups which are open to employee supporters. If you are a member of one group, you can also join another as an ally, as we are seeing an increase in intersectionality as diverse communities stand up for each other and speak with one voice.

My one piece of advice to anyone considering becoming an ally:

Be curious and courageous to understand more about the community and what they value from an ally and go for it – we all have a moral duty to make a difference and a stand!

GSK is a corporate partner of myGwork, the LGBT+ business community. Find out more about myGwork with this handy video:

 

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