News | 20 May 2021

‘Being misgendered feels like wearing shoes on the wrong feet’

At Vodafone UK’s first virtual ‘Partners With Pride’ event in partnership with Accenture and Cisco, LGBTQ+ colleagues advised businesses on how they can foster inclusivity and allyship across their supply chains.

“The biggest thing you can do today? Add your pronouns to your e-mail signature and help to remove the stigma,” advised Robert Gall, Vodafone UK’s Supply Chain Business Partner and event presenter, highlighting the brand’s own optional signature policy, available to all UK-based employees. 

The webinar was open to businesses who provide products or services to the technology communications company, in a clear message from Vodafone’s Procurement Director, Ninian Wilson, that championing diversity is a “critical element of the supplier relationship”. 

“I simply cannot stand prejudice,” Vodafone UK’s Consumer Director, Max Taylor said, “that’s why we’re here; to learn, share ideas and explore best practices together.”  

Executive spokespeople were joined by LGBTQ+ employees from the three multinational companies, who shared their own experiences of discussing preferred pronouns, gender and sexual identity, and why visible allies are so important. 

James Harding, a communications specialist in Vodafone Business, explained that being misgendered was a bit like “wearing shoes on the wrong feet. Uncomfortable and just not quite right.”  

Introducing yourself with your preferred pronouns can still feel difficult, James explained, who, as a non-binary person uses them/they. Normalising this as standard business practice would be an important step forward, they argued. 

Throughout the event, leaders and employees alike made it clear how important it was for brands to be vocal and visible in this space if they want to attract a diverse workforce. 

“First things first, does my new employer celebrate diversity? Where do they rank on the Stonewall list?” asked Vodafone’s Tilly Banks, echoing the thoughts of employees from across the diversity spectrum when considering a new role or employer.  

But where can businesses start, particularly if they don’t have the size and scale of a Cisco or Accenture? 

“First crawl, then walk, then run. Start with the right intentions and your people will feel that and be uplifted by it,” said Mark Murphy, Senior Manager and Co-Lead of the Cisco Pride community. 

“We should allow ourselves and others to be clumsily human. Assume good intent and have the conversation,” agreed Patrick Rowe, Chief Compliance Officer and Deputy General Counsel at Accenture. 

When making purchasing decisions, it’s clear that diversity and inclusion is as much a factor as suppliers’ carbon emissions for these tech giants. 

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