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Andy Wardlaw & Flavio Cursino
18 Jun, 2021 |
You may have noticed that a few brand logos have been repurposed for the month of June. That’s because it’s Pride month, which Wikipedia usefully summarizes as the ‘promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as a social group.’
Some brands have gone so far to launch products. Perhaps one of the most notable in recent years has been Skittles, from Mars Confectionery.
As two gay employees here at MMR, the concept of Pride matters. In our collective experience, we still live in a world where acceptance, dare I say indifference, to our sexuality isn’t taken for granted. Most LGBTQ+ people have stories to tell. Stories that have shaped our personas; our self-esteem.
For Flavio, growing up as a young gay man in Brazil wasn’t easy. He suffered bullying before the term ‘gay’ even existed. He grew up with frequent feelings of hurt and shame. For many years he struggled to see any positive meaning in life.
For Andrew, growing up in suburban Britain, the picture was no different. Also bullied. We all know kids can be cruel, but these early life experiences never really leave you.
When I decided to come out and be myself, everything became more beautiful. I could start enjoying life in a way that I couldn’t possibly imagine.
The decision to be true to ourselves and those around us was pivotal, but could only be done when it absolutely felt right. And that can take a lot of time. It can never be rushed, and the build-up can be agonizing.
For Flavio, it was one of the best things to ever happen to him. “When I decided to come out and be myself, everything became more beautiful. I could start enjoying life in a way that I couldn’t possibly imagine.”
Andrew was in his mid-twenties before he took the plunge with friends, and his early thirties when he finally confronted his parents. “I recall my dad leaving the room immediately after. It made me feel empty and that I had suddenly driven a wedge in our relationship. It took me months, and a personal development course before I could get things back on track. My dad was actually fine with it. He just didn’t know how to react to something he had no experience of.”
Beyond friends and family, for any LBGTQ+ person, there is the often daunting prospect of coming clean with work colleagues.
Andrew was at General Mills at the time. It was 2005. “General Mills was and still is one of the most inclusive employers you will find, but I still found myself holding back. My relationship with colleagues was great, but there was this ‘great unsaid’ that followed me everywhere. Something that prevented more honest relationships.”
Having some experience of amateur dramatics, I decided that if I were going to come clean, I would do it with style. I rounded up as many people as I could, dragged them to the pub after work and made the announcement standing on a table. And I have to say, it was the best thing I have ever done. From then on, if a colleague asked what I had got up to at the weekend, I no longer responded with edited highlights.
“Working for MMR, I am allowed to be the person I really am. It’s the authenticity thing that matters so much as I go through life. I have never felt so welcome by any company more than MMR. There’s nothing better than working in a team who support and accept you for being part of the LGBTQ+ community. My skills, knowledge and professionalism are the only things that really matter. My team has been wonderful and very supportive.”
We’ve all seen those studies that show the benefits to organizations that actively pursue diversity and inclusivity. Companies should reflect the world around them. A rich mix of backgrounds creates a more vibrant set of ideas and perspectives. It’s genuinely beneficial to the health of the organization.
In recent years, MMR founded a Diversity Committee to ensure that the message is not lost. “I’m very proud to be part of the Diversity Committee”, says Flavio. “It’s a powerful mechanism to ensure that we actively explore ways to incorporate diversity into our operational plans. Diversity is not only about acceptance. It’s about being respected and heard.”
We have debated whether the world should continue to mark Pride at all.
After all, surely the ultimate sign of inclusivity is that there is no need to mark ourselves out. But, with inclusivity an inconsistent reality, we are not there yet.
And in any case, the world can always benefit from a little more color.
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