Be Completely You – Shine LGBT+

Maxine Taylor
By , - Responsible Business

Profile picture of Martin YorkIt’s the final day of our Diversity and Inclusion week at Fujitsu. Today we hear from Martin York, the Chair of our Shine LGBT+ employee network.

What are the objectives of the Shine network?

We contribute to nurturing a truly inclusive environment for all employees, enabling everyone to feel valued and respected at work. We have a number of focus areas: to educate and inform, to empower, to challenge, to represent and to encourage a cultural shift in thinking.

A lot of people are aware of the Stonewall strapline about bringing your whole self to work. We’ve a slightly different one across the D&I groups which has the same essence: be completely you.

When you spend less time worrying about self-censoring or having to hide aspects of your life, you become more productive and at ease. Diverse and inclusive teams statistically outperform homogenous ones – and who wouldn’t want that benefit? And of course it’s increasingly important for other organisations we do business with.

By demonstrating that we are serious about diversity and inclusion we are able to have conversations with customers, suppliers and partners on an entirely different basis. It comes down to the premise of doing well by doing good.

What have you got out of being the chair of your network?

More grey hairs! Joking aside, I’ve met lots of new people who are passionate about this inside Fujitsu and in other organisations. For instance it’s given me a great deal of pleasure to develop the relationship between Shine and Celebrate, which is the LGBT network in Action for Children (Fujitsu’s charity partner) – I feel like I’ve gained some friends there and we support each other’s network development.

I have a different level of understanding about how Fujitsu operates and an opportunity to engage with many senior colleagues in this capacity. It’s reassuring to know how much visible support we have at the top of our organisation, including from our Executive Sponsor, Steven Cox:

‘I feel really passionately about the power that difference brings to our company and for our customers, as well as what it means from a personal perspective for every person in our company to feel able to be themselves at work.  

I’m proud to be able to work with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) colleagues who are making a real difference inside and outside of our company as part of Shine – contributing to ideas, shaping our agenda, and raising awareness of the subject.

In my customer facing role leading our Public Sector and Transport business I can also attest that our senior customers enjoy engaging with us on all aspects of our D&I programme and it brings a richness to our relationships which undoubtedly supports Fujitsu’s growth aspirations.’

In my role as chair, I’ve also developed an improved understanding of the wider global picture. Internally I’m involved in creating global D&I links and externally I’ve become far more aware of how difficult life can be in other countries. I recently attending a Stonewall-hosted event with Russian LGBT activists. That session really highlighted how fortunate we are in the UK.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet inspirational people such as John Amaechi OBE. He was our keynote speaker for an executive event and was so well received that he was invited to deliver a keynote at a Regional Management Meeting.

Forming new relationships with work colleagues that are passionate about D&I is also something I value. For this to be successful we have to work well together. We have some great people involved in the network groups and it’s a pleasure to continue developing and maturing our approach together.

Why is awareness of your group so important?

Even in the more tolerant and accepting society we live in, people who identify as LGBT+ still experience negativity, hostility, bullying and worse. Simple throw-away comments that may seem like jokes or banter can cause considerable discomfort and alienate those on the receiving end. Comments may be made at the expense of a third party (perhaps a character on television) which can be damaging to someone who may not have disclosed their sexual orientation. By making minor adjustments to our language and how we approach others we can have a hugely positive effect.

For example we’ve all been in conversations where work colleagues talk about what they’ve done at the weekend with their husbands/wives – to an LGBT person this invariably leads to self-censoring, choosing gender-neutral pronouns or disclosing. When I worked on an assignment at a local authority a few years ago I got into this type of conversation with a member of council staff who asked me about my “partner”.

This signalled to me that he understood not everyone has a heterosexual relationship, which in effect gave me permission to choose whether to disclose. Of course the fact that he’d signalled his understanding led me to share about being gay with him. It’s a simple thing – and I know that my difference may not be the same as your difference, but I recognise that differences are ok and can be valued.

I’m glad to say that negative behaviour in Fujitsu is rare. It’s more likely that someone will be a little clumsy in their choice of wording whilst being well-intended. This is something that’s far easier to address. And it’s important that we don’t get caught in an analysis-paralysis situation of constantly checking our words and actions.

People make mistakes – it’s what we do to learn from them that’s important.

What have been the main highlights for your network over the past year?

I’ve already touched on the event that John Amaechi spoke at – that was wonderful. We explored with four guest speakers and around 60 internal and external guests about what motivates people and how and why to make the workplace more inclusive. There was a real buzz and everyone I spoke to said it was a great event.

Taking part in London and Manchester Pride parades as Fujitsu for the first time was amazing. Adopting Alan Turing as our Pride Hero was a good choice and I’m proud of that. Of course the icing on the cake was having Claire (his great niece) and Tom (his great-great nephew) walking with us at the London parade. The response from the crowds was more than we could have dreamt of. And we’ve kept in touch with the family as we donated equipment to a school in Kenya via the Turing Trust just before Christmas.

In terms of Shine development it’s been great to welcome Caroline Shrader on board as Co-Chair. I know she’s just as passionate about seeing Shine mature and grow, and she’s already launched a very successful LBT Book Club event which is scheduled throughout the year. This includes guest speakers and whilst it’s focused primarily on lesbian, bi and trans women, all employees (including men) are welcome.

We also now have our trans element up and running. Whilst this is still somewhat embryonic, Charlotte Crawley has been a great trans champion and is engaging regularly with other organisations to share learning with them. We have also recently formed a Core Working Group which will help accelerate our growth and reach within the company.

We are also being recognised more externally as a positive influence. We succeeded in getting into the prestigious Stonewall Top 100 Employers list which recognises our hard work and determination. Inclusive Networks also made us an Awesome Network.

What do you see as your main challenges?

Finding ways of enabling more members to play an active part in Shine’s development is always a challenge. The network groups are run on a voluntary basis so we are reliant upon goodwill and availability in people’s spare time for most things.

We need to continue developing the message that D&I is an integral way of how Fujitsu chooses to do business and that it needs to be woven into business as usual. We’re getting there but we still have some way to go. We also need to be more explicit in how this links to the bottom line, which always needs to be a focus for any organisation. We need to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question succinctly.

How do you work with the other Fujitsu Diversity and Inclusion networks?

At a formal level we all participate in the D&I Steering Board so we jointly agree strategy and ways of working. And of course we’ve recently established the 5R Working groups which focus horizontally across the networks on Recruitment, Retention, Reputation, Realisation and Representation. These will help us collectively extend our reach and embed what we do into the wider business.

We all help each other out on a more informal basis too. For example I hosted a webinar to share learning on SharePoint site administration, and we’re collectively looking at refreshing our respective intranet sites so visitors will have a more consistent experience no matter which areas they visit.

At a Chair level I frequently share with my counterparts on good practice. It’s very much a group effort and we have a lot of complementary skills between us. When we’re out and about we also look for opportunities and new contacts for each other.

What are you looking forward to over the next 12 months?

Seeing the continued growth of specific aspects of Shine so that it’s more representative of all its constituent elements. Finding more opportunities to work together with the other network groups in Fujitsu, and to building stronger LGBT-related relationships with our counterparts in our customer, partner and supplier organisations. Developing the Action for Children Celebrate relationship further. And that leads nicely onto London and Manchester Pride – we’ve invited Celebrate to join us again.

We are also thrilled to be taking part in the first ever Digital Pride. This week-long series of events and activities is happening at the end of April and many global organisations are participating. The purpose of Digital Pride is to provide an online version of the familiar physical Pride events that take place in many countries. This gives people based in locations or who are in personal circumstances that mean they are unable to take part in other Pride events. We will be contributing some collateral to the event and hosting a global video conference which is being live-streamed. Watch out for more announcements about this soon.

Find out more about LGBT+ diversity in Fujitsu.

To learn more about LGBT+ in the workplace visit the Stonewall website.

Keep up to date with our latest news and activities by following the Shine network on Twitter.

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