June is Pride Month. And whilst to many, it’s just an opportunity for shops and businesses to use rainbows to make themselves look more appealing, it’s actually much more important than just a commercial branding exercise.
I was born in North East England and grew up in a former mining town – if you know the movie Billy Elliot, then you can picture a bit of what it was like. Despite knowing I was gay from about age 13, I couldn’t do much about it. In the mid-90s, being out at school just wasn’t an option. This followed me into University and my early career, where I lived a life of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Not being honest with myself or with others. Always being careful about what information I revealed. Unable to actually be myself, and so never really being happy or fulfilled. It was actually exhausting.
Fast forward a few years and I eventually started the process of coming out, and immediately, the burden I had been carrying around began to lift. There was also a direct correlation between how open I was about my sexuality and my performance at work. After becoming Chair of Prism, the Rolls-Royce LGBTQ+ employee network, I was arguably the most visible LGBTQ+ person in this huge, global organisation. And with it came multiple promotions, a growing reputation for delivering results, and a career change that sees me working in HR – not something I expected whilst doing my Mechanical Engineering degree!
Today, LGBTQ+ people are discriminated against the world over. We can still be punished with death sentences in some countries or imprisoned in others, just for not fitting the perceived norm. Incredibly, conversion therapy is still legal in the UK, and same-sex couples continue to face verbal and physical attacks for things as simple as holding hands in public. As for trans people, the media hate campaign against them is louder than ever, and they continue to be one of the most marginalised groups in society.
This brings me back around to Pride Month and why it’s important. It’s crucial for all LGBTQ+ people who are too scared to be themselves. The double life. The hiding in the closet. The stress and the mental health. The fear. Pride Month is one big collective show of support to the LGBTQ+ community, and the message is simple: we support you for who you are, and it's okay to show it. Showing your support for Pride Month will make someone else’s life that little bit better, and you might not even know it.
And if you’re unsure how to support Pride Month, here’s a few suggestions from me.
Happy Pride Month!
Greg Turner-Smart (he/him/his), Group Inclusion & Diversity Lead, Rolls-Royce plc
Greg graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering before going on to achieve an MSc in Engineering Management. He joined Rolls-Royce in 2006 and worked in multiple technical roles within the Civil Aerospace sector. In 2015, Greg was instrumental in the launch of Prism, the Rolls-Royce LGBT+ employee network, which he led until 2021.
Following the success he has overseen with Prism, and combined with his passion for diversity, inclusion and belonging, Greg accepted the role of Group Inclusion and Diversity Lead in 2020, allowing him to support the global Rolls-Royce inclusion strategy. He was shortlisted in the category of Exceptional Inclusion at the 2021 British LGBT Awards.
Greg will be speaking at our annual conference. Governance 2022 will take place on 5-6 July 2022 at ExCel London. Look out for the session ‘Diversity and inclusion: how can we make it stick?’