Talking Pride: Emily Stephen
Tell us about yourself and what you do at Virgin Atlantic
I’m a senior specialist within the Be Yourself and Community team, having joined Virgin Atlantic in July of this year. Prior to that, I worked at Virgin Money in a similar inclusion role, so it’s brilliant to continue to be part of the Virgin family. For me, it’s a given that everyone should be able to come to work as exactly who they are and be given the support they need to thrive. That’s what inspired me into the role that I’m in and energises me every day.
What does Pride mean to you and why is it important?
For me, Pride is about communities coming together in celebration, protest, unity and solidarity. It’s about being able to celebrate who you are and being proud in doing so. Everyone should be able to be who they are without discrimination, without question. For me as an ally, Pride is also a reminder that despite years of struggle for the LGBT+ community to get where we are today, the job is still not done.
How important is our Pride network? What does it do?
The Pride network is there to support an inclusive culture and open working environment, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The network is an open forum to promote equality, ensure that our LGBT+ people can have their voices heard and get peer support when they need it. The network is also there to raise awareness of LGBT+ challenges to all, which is why regardless of sexual orientation or gender, everyone should join to keep on learning from each other.
How have things improved and what needs to happen next?
We’ve definitely come a long way in recent decades, from equal marriage to the right to be protected at work and to raise a family, all of which have improved the lives of LGBT+ people living in the UK. Despite the progress made in the UK, there remains a divergence globally. While some countries are becoming more tolerant, others aren’t. That’s why we need to continue to work together, share experiences and learn from each other to drive meaningful change forward for everyone.
This is just as important internally too. The network has made some great strides creating awareness and supporting each other, reinforced with brilliant support from our executive ally, Juha. Going forward, we should all help the network grow and partner with them to drive meaningful change internally and in our communities.
How can someone be a good LGBTQ+ ally?
Listen: Be curious, open-minded and ready to learn. Listen to your friends, do some research, spend a bit of time on the internet learning about the LGBTQ+ community, or even follow a few prominent LGBT+ people on social media. This will give you insight into some of the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
Learn: Understand that you may trip up. There’s a lot to take in and you can and will make mistakes. When that happens apologise and ask for guidance.
Speak up: When you see behaviour that’s offensive, don’t be a bystander. Silence allows oppression to continue. This includes social media too. If you see something offensive online, make sure to report it.
Acknowledge your privilege: This could be that you're able-bodied, straight, educated. It could be racial or your class. That doesn’t mean you haven’t had to face challenges in your life. But recognising them enables you to better empathise with oppressed or marginalised groups.
Make a difference: No act is too small, and there are loads of LGBT+ charities out there that are fundraising for good causes. Across the world, LGBTQ+ people suffer terrible discrimination and hardship. Even imprisonment and murder.
Take practical action: One thing we can all do from today is join your LGBT+ network group. Pronouns are another great way to show your support too and are particularly important now we’re all working more virtually. You can find out more here learn about pronouns
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