An LGBT History Month reflection from Lee Ayling
- Posted on February 27, 2019
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
As we celebrate LGBT History Month in the UK during the month of February, we acknowledge that having visible LGBT+ role models can have a transformative impact on creating a truly inclusive workplace. Visible role models, especially at senior levels, help us raise awareness, signal openness and show solidarity with the community, which encourages people to ask questions and normalize the conversation in the workplace.
We are therefore delighted to share this great contribution from Lee Ayling, Executive and part of our UK Leadership Team, originally published as part of Moments that Matter – a UKI initiative highlighting Inclusion and Diversity role models in the workplace.
I’m honored to have been asked to write a blog to mark LGBT History Month in the UK.
I lead our Advisory business in the UK and I am part of our Global Advisory Leadership Team. I’m gay, in a relationship with my partner, Luis, who is a nurse. We have a dog called Harry, who we love very much, and we are thinking of starting a family.
I look back at the seismic changes that have been made in my lifetime. Homosexuality was decriminalized in England and Wales only seven years before I was born. We now have legislation to protect the rights of LGBT+ people in the workplace and against hate crimes and, as of 2014, the right to marry the one we love. I am proud of how the LGBT+ agenda has developed for the better and this has enabled me to thrive as an individual both in and outside of work. We now have many visible positive role models that inspire the next generation around LGBT+ identity and LGBT History month enables everyone to connect with those who have strived for equality in numerous forms over the years.
There have been times over my career when I have felt slightly inhibited. I recall a kick-off workshop with a new client where I was leading the meeting. We started introductions with an ice breaker. The 10 client attendees all talked about their husband or wife, children and hobbies. As the ice breaker was working its way to me I started to panic slightly, building irrational thoughts based around my absence of wife and kids – my perceived differences. When it came to me, I was brave, I told them about my boyfriend. It took guts. Everyone smiled, no one thought less of me and that started a great relationship of many years with that client.
One of the reasons I joined Avanade was our culture of inclusiveness and our passion for people. I remember having an interview in the old London office and seeing people walking around the office with PRISM (our global LGBT+ Employee Resource Group) rainbow lanyards on and thinking that this was a place where I could be myself. In that interview I talked about my partner and my home life – something I wouldn’t have done with such confidence 15 years ago.
I know it’s not always as easy as we would like – and we sometimes still come up against prejudice in subtle forms – but in my personal experience and as an Executive at the company, I feel confident in saying that Avanade cares and is here to support all employees. We are fully committed to LGBT+ equality and we want all employees to feel able to bring their authentic self to work every day.
We support an LGBT-friendly workplace and have many initiatives which underscore this commitment. Avanade also provides inclusive non-discrimination protection for LGBT+ employees regardless of geographic location – often greater protection than provided by local law. Since Avanade's inception, our global policies have been fully inclusive of LGBT+ employees including benefits and programs.
Our Prism Employee Resource Group (ERG) now has over 450 members and allies and is growing at a rapid pace. I encourage everyone to get involved with their LGBT+ ERG and openly confront prejudice and bias. It’s very important to me that Avanade continues growing as an inclusive and diverse community where everyone feels comfortable being themselves.