The month of June doesn’t only signal the start of summer in many parts of the world; it’s a 30-day celebration of love—in all its forms.
June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual people, plus all other sexual orientations and gender identities or expressions.
Our Lindsay Harris, Nathan Horan and Rachel Rowe share their perspectives on inclusion and diversity at Accenture, what people should know about the “B” in LGBTQ+ and ways we can work together to kick conscious and unconscious bias out of the workplace.
What should people know about the “B” in LGBTQ+? What are some of the most prevalent challenges that the bisexual community faces?
Lindsay: Often in the LGBTQ+ community, there’s a spotlight on gay and lesbian people, with a stigma that bisexuality is not “a real thing”. People should know that the “B” in LGBTQ+ is not silent. Bisexuality is a real thing, not a “phase” or a catch-all if you don’t want to come out as gay or lesbian.
Bisexual people have the same struggles as the rest of the community, and our issues should be treated the same as those faced by the rest of our LGBTQ+ family.
Nathan: Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of labels in general. I think that sexual orientation is a spectrum and while some people may be exclusively at one end or the other, there are many exceptions to the rule, and people can sit somewhere in that “gray area” in the middle. Where you identify can be fluid and change. And that’s OK!
Rachel: I don’t see gender as binary. I think that bisexuality has evolved over time to include being attracted to all genders, and that’s how I would define my sexuality.
I think the biggest challenges that the bisexual community face are that it is so easy to dismiss someone who is bisexual (sometimes known as bi-erasure), and there are prejudices against bisexual people, even within the LG (lesbian gay) community.
Do you face difficulties talking openly about your life at work?
Lindsay: I don’t really face difficulties talking about being bisexual at work; however, I don’t make it a main point of conversation. If someone asks about my sexual orientation, I will usually self-identify as bisexual or just say that I am a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Nathan: We’re all human. It’s important for a workplace to provide an inclusive environment where people can speak about personal issues and have the right mechanisms in place to support that. This is obviously applicable to individuals across the board, but I think it’s an important distinction that an LGBTQ+ colleague should feel just as comfortable talking about their personal life as any other.
Rachel: I feel that I’m able to bring my authentic self to work, and I have not really found difficulty talking openly about my life. I generally feel comfortable speaking my mind, and I work with a very accepting team at Accenture. When I speak about my personal life and my female partner, some people may seem surprised, but their reaction is not negative.
Regarding inclusion, how is Accenture doing? How can we improve?
Lindsay: The best thing about working at Accenture, besides the people, is our commitment to ensuring that we are an inclusive workplace for every single one of our people—and that we are a leader in our communities when it comes to advancing diversity and inclusion across the globe.
I believe that our people can bring their authentic selves to work, but only if they feel comfortable enough to do so. That starts with having policies in place that ensure Accenture is a safe place for all.
Nathan: Not only have I been encouraged to be “out” in the workplace at Accenture, but for the first time in my life, I’m actively trying to be visible and share my story as a bisexual man. I’m now an active member of the UKI (UK/Ireland) Pride Committee, something I would never have done at a previous employer.
Rachel: I think that Accenture as a whole has definitely made huge strides in pushing inclusion and diversity in recent years. There is a lot of misinformation about the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s important to ensure that the right information is reaching people.
What should people know about conscious and unconscious bias—and how can we all do better?
Lindsay: People should know that it is OK to have unconscious biases; it’s human nature. But what is important is that you acknowledge these biases and actively work to correct them.
Diversity training is a good start, but it really takes a conscious effort. Open yourself up to talking to someone who looks different than you or who comes from a different background. Challenge your own beliefs and learn about the beliefs of others.
Nathan: In many ways, unconscious bias is unavoidable. I think the best way to deal with it is by creating a safe environment where individuals are empowered to be their authentic selves.
Rachel: Unconscious bias affects everyone. It’s something that we should all be constantly aware of—and take the steps we need to change it.
What can allies and the LGBTQ+ community do to better support the bisexual community within the workplace?
Lindsay: In the workplace, we can all start to better support members of the bisexual community first by simply acknowledging our existence. The best way to be an ally to someone who is bisexual? Ask how you can support them.
Nathan: As with any other form of sexual identity, don’t make assumptions of people who are bisexual, and avoid speculation on an individual’s sexual orientation; it’s not appropriate in the workplace. Avoid using gendered pronouns when talking about a colleague’s partner if you don’t actually know their gender.
Be a visible ally. If you encounter a situation that may make a bisexual colleague uncomfortable, try to address it in a professional manner.
Rachel: I think that we need to move beyond awareness and into education, which hopefully will create empathy. Awareness allows people to recognize words and concepts, but education is the key to forming a true understanding of each other.
Allowing our LGBTQ+ people to tell their stories is a big step forward.
Lindsay Harris, Manager-People Program and Global Ethnicity Lead, based in New York, currently works with inclusion & diversity teams in the United States, United Kingdom and South Africa, helping to strengthen the ethnicity landscape.
Nathan Horan, Analyst-Business and Integration Architecture, based in London, is currently part of the United Kingdom/Ireland Technology Analysts Group. He predominantly works with clients in the financial services sector, in project management office and in commercially-focused roles.
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