Members of aerospace engineering company Leonardo’s LGBTQ+ network group Pride have praised a new “corporate champion” for making them feel more represented in the company’s working culture.
Pride members said the quality of listening skills used by Paula Clarke, engineering and projects director, have been exemplary. February is LGBT History Month, an annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements, detailing the stories of the people who pioneered change in society.
However, beyond celebrating the month, Paula wants to create lasting change within Leonardo, by making sure members of the community feel seen and heard, so their voices can inform future policies, towards establishing a more diverse and inclusive working environment.
Paula volunteered to act as the senior sponsor to the Pride network for the company, which makes the Wildcat and Merlin helicopters, at its sites across the UK, including the Yeovil base at Lysander Road, and has already developed trust with Leonardo’s LGBTQ+ community by focusing on listening first and speaking later.
Sam Bone, chair of Leonardo’s Pride network, who first initiated the use of pronouns in the company’s emails to indicate personal identity (he, she, they, ze), said Paula has already made an enormous impact on Leonardo’s Pride network.
Sam said: “Paula focused on listening patiently to each individual, allowing them to express themselves fully without any interruptions.
“With her executive experience, she is also bold enough to challenge the norms and put forward our ideas at senior management level and sometimes senior management need role models as much as we do, because she is showing those right behaviours.
“It doesn’t matter whether Paula is LGBTQ+ or not as an individual, it is the fact that she has stepped up and asks us questions like ‘do you need budget for this or do you want me to speak to this person about that’. I am just off the graduate programme, so having someone able to advocate for us at that level is a real game changer.”
Sam said Paula’s advocacy is lifting members of Leonardo’s LBGTQ+ community to a level where they can be better seen, by providing a platform for them to speak.
This has given the community a direct line of communication with senior management to influence change at a policy level, from the network at grass root level and from top down through senior management.
But they don’t want the listening to be a one-way process, they are keen to engage non LGBTQ+ employees to hear their thoughts, since they are aware their input is needed as they will see things from a different perspective.
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That means throwing out the assumption that you need to be LGBTQ+ to join the network, a message they are keen to communicate, which has become easier to do since lockdown with informal virtual face-to-face meetings possible where they didn’t exist before.
Sam said: “Before you either had to speak on the phone or hop on a plane so you could catch them in the office, but in lockdown where we’re all online, we can have those instant chats and talk more spontaneously.
“I know I can easily have a face-to-face chat with Paula via Skype if we need to discuss something. When lockdown ends we will still have those skills. “
Paula said: “My job is to listen, then try and open some doors and be an enabler for ongoing improvement. The team has done a fantastic job of defining what we need to improve and how – my role is supporting them in achieving those aspirations.
“I don’t think we should get too comfortable, as comfort breeds complacency and some may think that because we have a Pride network that it isn’t part of their day job.
“They assume it is all taken care of, however it may still leave room for behaviours to start creeping in that could impact people if they go unchallenged.
“Everyone will say that the concept of discrimination in the workplace is abhorrent. It’s a common-sense, moral and ethical statement. Where we can do more is to be conscious of how we live and interact each day as human beings, beyond the rhetoric.”
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