In July I led Fujitsu’s participation in the 42,000-strong Pride in London parade with 60 people from Fujitsu and partner organisations. The day was proof that the business community can make a real difference on LGBT+ issues.
As chair of Fujitsu’s LGBT+ network, Shine, I’m passionate about making sure people feel respected and valued in the workplace whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity. And with hate crime sadly on the rise in the UK following June’s EU referendum vote, and the terrible recent shooting in Orlando, this show of solidarity is even more important.
Solidarity is exactly what I saw at last month’s parade, from both the participants and the crowds watching. And it was absolutely brilliant to see.
I caught up with some of those who attended the parade with me to find out why they think it’s important for businesses to be involved in Pride and how it personally impacted them.
A show of solidarity
One of the key things people highlighted was how important it is for businesses to show solidarity with the LGBT+ communities.
“There are many countries where you’re not able to be open about your sexuality at all,” Fujitsu’s Sheema Segal said. “It’s great that we can do this in the UK. Being at an event like this celebrates that diversity, so it’s really important for businesses to be involved.”
Emma Lawrence from Action for Children said it’s a way to help people remember they don’t have to be isolated, even though LGBT+ people only make up 2.5% of London’s population.
“That can be quite intimidating when you think about it,” she said. “But when you go to Pride and see everyone there, individuals and organisations, it makes you realise you’re not alone. Everyone – LGBT+ or not – is there to show that the world can be a tolerant and inclusive place. It’s so important for businesses to be part of that show of solidarity.”
BITC’s Elena Espinoza believes it’s all about helping LGBT+ people feel comfortable at work and allowing them to be open with that side of themselves.
“People do a better job if they feel like they can be themselves,” she said. “That’s a strong message for companies to share with the public: ‘if you come and work for us you can share your sexuality and gender identity with your co-workers and they’ll accept you no matter what’.”
I’ve been part of the LGBT+ scene for many years, so I’ve seen my fair share of Pride marches and parades. But for the majority of people in our group this was their first time attending the parade.
Some were apprehensive at the start, but soon inhibitions began to dissolve and by the end of the parade they were running around, waving flags and high-fiving the crowd. It was an amazing transformation.
“At first it’s a little intimidating,” said Fujitsu’s Angel Almao Montemurro. “When you’re walking down the street and you realise everyone is staring at you, you kind of feel like a celebrity.
“But I couldn’t have felt more proud being there with Fujitsu – it’s a company that embraces different cultures, regardless of sexual orientation or anything else. It was a great moment for me as a gay person – knowing you’re there with a company that genuinely accepts you for who you are. I’ll definitely go again!”
Holly Fox from Fujitsu who is at the early stage of transitioning, was nervous at first. But soon the infectious atmosphere of acceptance kicked in and she was able to enjoy herself.
“When we got to the event it completely blew me away,” she said. “I’ve never experienced anything so big.
“To start with I was nervous. I thought: I’ll just hide in the middle with all my colleagues where nobody can see me. But within 10 minutes I found myself right at the front of our group holding a big banner that said ‘Feel proud to show people who you are’.
“It was unbelievably empowering. I definitely want to go again.”
Elena Espinoza commented on how touching it was to see the Royal Air Force flying over the parade in support of the LGBT+ cause.
“To see that the armed forces being so supportive about Pride and everything the day represents was incredibly uplifting.”
Others left the parade with a whole new perspective. Sheema Segal, whose daughter is gay and recently started university, said the day made her much less worried about her child’s future.
“As a mother, my knee-jerk reaction (to finding out my daughter was gay) was concern – how is this going to impact her life and career?
“But being part of Fujitsu, getting to know the LGBT+ network and celebrating Pride on that day, I left with a strong sense that actually she’s going to be just fine. It was quite a journey.”
The march goes on to Manchester!
Once people engage with Pride it opens their eyes to how much fun it can be, but there is also a powerful message here: we as the LGBT+ communities, or any minorities for that matter, need to be strong, we need to stick together and support each other, and that’s why we do this.
This is the message we’ll be taking to the Manchester Pride parade this month, so watch this space!
One final comment from Holly really highlighted the power of this event for me, and the reason it’s so important for businesses large and small to get involved.
Talking about the lasting impact the day had on her, she said:
“It has shown me that you can be comfortable with who you are, and people will accept you.”
A perfect example of our Fujitsu inclusion campaign: #BeCompletelyYou.
Follow the @ShineLGBT Twitter account for lots more updates about Pride and more!
And be sure to check out the Fujitsu Facebook page for all our selfies with the crowd from the day. We’ll be updating the page with loads more selfies once we’ve been to Manchester’s parade this month!
He is a BITC Business Connector alumnus, has played a leading part in development of Fujitsu’s Responsible Business and Diversity and Inclusion approach, and is engaged in enhancing Fujitsu’s UK STEM engagement approach.
Martin joined Fujitsu in October 1996.
Latest posts by Martin York (see all)
- What I’ve learned from 3+ years of Chairing Fujitsu’s LGBT+ network - November 18, 2016
- “From dull grey to technicolour” – why we’ve published a trans* inclusion guide - October 11, 2016
- Pride in London 2016: solidarity, empowerment and inspiration! - August 3, 2016