To mark LGBT+ Pride month, we asked members of our Pride, Culture and Gender Alliances to share their thoughts on what allyship and being an ally means to them.
Gary Clark – Executive Chairman, Group Executive Committee member and Chair of Inclusion@Miller
As a white straight man in a senior role, I recognise both my privilege and my responsibility to act as an ally.
To talk about something unfamiliar to you can be daunting and the fear of getting things wrong is natural. You may already have or will make mistakes in your use of language for example, but having an open mindset to listen and learn will help make these instances less.
Education is fundamental. Start by reading an article, watching a video or speaking to a colleague from a different community who is willing to share the challenges they face. Seek to understand. Simple changes in your biases, language and behaviour can make such a difference.
Allyship is about action and my advice is to think about what we can all do to make a difference. I’m proud to Chair our Inclusion@Miller committee and to support the great work our alliances are doing to ensure an equal and inclusive working environment for all.
Arnold Pulle - International Property broker, member of Miller’s Culture Alliance and Inclusion@Miller Committee member
I can say hand on heart that allies have been important in my life.
I have developed mechanisms to deflect the daily micro aggressions that come with being in a minority. You have to if you want to live your life to its full potential. Sadly I have experienced an overt racist incident in the working world that cut too deep to deflect. As hurtful as that was, what was encouraging was the support that I received from people at all levels who couldn’t know how I felt but made the effort to vocalise the fact it was wrong.
Allies are important because even for the strongest human being with the greatest sense of humour, not every incident can be dealt with alone.
Danica Leach - Project Assistant and member of Miller’s Pride Alliance
Two of my closest friends and my cousin are part of the LGBT+ community so I’ve always considered myself as an ally. Who they love has no impact on how much I love and care for them, but it did make me think about how I can do more to support any struggles they might have and it really made me question how much of an ally I actually am. I’ve always tried to be supportive and treat them like they are no different from me or anyone else, but I recognise that there’s more I can actively do.
Without allies, people in the LGBT+ community may not feel that they can truly be themselves and be accepted, something that to me, is a basic human right. Being an ally is about standing up and actively supporting the community, even when it may not feel like the easy thing to do. I think that I’ve always been an ally to the community, but maybe not the best ally that I could be. That’s why I joined the Pride Alliance here at Miller, so that I can continue to educate myself and be an ally that my friends, family and colleagues may need.
Standing up for what is right, for equality for all and just standing up for people who may need support more than others shouldn’t be something that needs discussing. But it is, and I’m happy to be part of it to help drive positive change.
Louis Stevenson - Marketing Executive and member of Miller’s Pride Alliance
Allies have helped me bridge the gap between my perception of the ‘normal life’ and reality. I grew up in a society that made me believe that my destiny was to have a wife, two kids and a semi-detached house in Essex. I thought that by being gay I wasn’t part of ‘normal life’ and that I didn’t really belong. My friends, colleagues and role models (who I now recognise as allies) have helped me realise that ‘normal life’ isn’t really a thing, it’s just our perception. The reality is that we’re all different, and someone’s difference doesn’t mean they’re right or wrong, but sometimes we need to hear it and to be treated equally to believe it.
To me, key elements of being an ally are to support and educate. I’ve learned a great deal through spending time with allies and people of the LGBT+ community and I no longer question whether I fit in or not (and I certainly don’t question if I want a wife or not!).
Rebecca Harborne - Head of Communications and a member of Miller’s Gender Alliance
To me, an ally is someone who takes the time to educate themselves on the challenges that others face and then uses this understanding to be an advocate. It’s taking the time to pay attention to small actions which can have a big impact.
I see the power of the ally as something of great importance in making steps towards change in our sector and I am proud to work for an organisation that attaches great importance to our inclusion & diversity initiatives.
Sue Taylor - Complex Claims and member of Miller’s Pride Alliance
For me, ALLY stands for being a people person and wanting to understand all types of people:
A = asking questions
L = listening to the answers
L = learning from the responses
Y = you then need to consider whether you need to change yourself in the form of actions, words or attitude
Why do I believe in being an ally? For my 18th birthday a friend gave me a book called ‘Manwatching: Field Guide to Human Behaviour’ by Desmond Morris, with the words “your favourite hobby” inscribed within. A few months later at university, I then read the ‘Rise of the Meritocracy’ by Michael Young.
I have always been interested in people and their behaviour and I think these two books had a great influence on my life. If I can help someone to feel more comfortable in their own skin and to remove any barriers that may inhibit them from achieving what they are capable of, then I will by whatever actions, words or deeds are necessary.
Susan Downey - Head of HR and Inclusion@Miller Committee member
I’ve learned a lot about the importance of allies while working with the members of Miller’s diversity alliances.
For me it is about listening to and understanding others’ experiences, challenging my own perspectives, recognising my own privilege and using it to remove barriers. Being an ally means being prepared to speak in support of others but not for them.
Working with our Pride Alliance has been very rewarding for me and I thank them for helping to make Miller a place where we can all be ourselves.
Vanessa Horne - Marketing Manager, member of Miller’s Pride Alliance and Inclusion@Miller Committee member
Someone recently shared with me the following definition of an ally, and I feel that it summarises it perfectly:
A = Always centre the impacted
L = Listen and learn from those who live in the oppression
L = Leverage your privilege
Y = Yield the floor, let them have their say
Within the workplace, allies offer huge support to their LGBT+ colleagues by calling out behaviour or comments that even unintentionally can cause harm. They stand up despite any potential negative consequences, add new voices to old battles and bring strength in numbers. They acknowledge the difficulties LGBT+ individuals still face, without making the conversation about them.
Outside of work, allies continue to play a critical role in the advancement of LGBT+ rights more widely.
I’d personally like to thank allies for all they do and to remind those of us within the LGBT+ family that we also have the power, and in my opinion responsibility, to be allies to other members of our own community, as well as others.