Talking Pride: Jude Ota
Tell us about yourself. What you do at Virgin Atlantic
I first started with Virgin Atlantic Holidays back in 2018 within the Customer Centre. I applied for the job in the spur of the moment, I didn’t know too much about the company or the people within it but it was definitely one of the best decisions I have made! 3 years on, I have met some incredible people and done things I never thought I would have had the opportunity to do.
I now work as part of the Customer Care team within the operations control centre, making sure we always keep our customers at the forefront of what we do, even in times of disruption or when we are facing challenges such as what we have experienced over the last 18 months.
I feel incredibly lucky to work for Virgin Atlantic, where we are encouraged and supported to bring our truest selves to work every day and have the opportunity to take part in events such as Pride.
What does Pride mean to you and why is it important?
For me personally pride is about celebrating the many LGBTQ+ communities around the world and being grateful to be able to be unapologetically me! But importantly it’s also about remembering those who have fought for LGBTQ+ rights, acknowledging there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to enable everyone within our community to be accepted for whoever they are.
Describe a Pride event for someone who hasn’t been there? Why should everyone attend at least one Pride event in their life?
I find it really hard to describe a pride event, I think it’s because there is just so much to take in and there’s an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and love with both those from the LGBTQ+ community and allies come together.
Pride events are an amazing opportunity to show your allyship for the community, allowing you to experience how incredible the diversity and people within it are!
But pride events are about so much more! They are about continuing to push for change, fighting for those who cannot safely be themselves within the communities they live in and continuing to ensure our community is accepting of everyone within it. By showing up as an ally you can make a big difference and there are so many other ways you can support the community; taking part in local pride events, supporting LGBTQ+ networks and charities or taking time to better understand LGBTQ+ history, how we have got to where we are today and what needs to be done to ensure everyone in this world is accepted for who they are.
How important is our Pride network?
Our pride network enables people to feel comfortable bringing their true authentic self to work, but it’s also about so much more!
The network increases the visibility for all those within the LGBTQ+ community and enables allyship from our colleagues and leadership. Providing a place for those from the community and allies to come together and have open and honest conversations about who we are, our experiences and what the next steps are to make Virgin Atlantic and the world we live in a more inclusive and accepting place, regardless of who you love or how you identify.
It’s often said that Virgin Atlantic’s secret is our people, by providing a workplace and environment that accepts everyone for who they are, celebrating what makes us unique, we are able to bring our best selves to work and allows our customers to see how truly incredible we are!
How have things improved and what needs to happen next?
Since Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera (two key people in LGBTQ+ rights movement) and many other brave members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies took a stand in the 1969 stonewall uprising, we have seen lots of positive and important changes & milestones for the LGBTQ+ community, especially in recent times. As of December 2020, 81 counties had laws against discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation, twenty years ago there were only 15. In 2014 same-sex couples could legally get married and there is now a huge LGBTQ+ representation in media and TV, whereas it was only in 2003 that it was prohibited to promote homosexuality.
Although we have made a huge amount of progress, there is still so much we need to do. In over 69 counties it is criminalised to be homosexual and in 11 of them, it is punishable by death. Closer to home we still see attacks and discrimination on members within the community based on their sexuality or how they identify, there are still times that I feel uncomfortable being myself when I am out in my community.
As an LGBTQ+ person, how do you find working at VA?
Since joining Virgin Atlantic just under 3 years ago, I instantly knew this would be the place for me. Although I hadn’t come out at this point in my life, 3 years on, with the support of a manager and my colleagues I can proudly be my most authentic self and just be me!
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to come into work and feel accepted for who I am, as well as having colleagues both from the community and allies who work to ensure we continue to have a workplace that is inclusive for every single person within it.
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