As we celebrate Pride Month this June, Demetris Kyriacou, Consultant at Agilisys, discusses the theme of allyship and why it’s so important for people across Agilisys.
One of the main themes of this year’s Pride in London campaign is You! Me! Us! We! For me, this and the subject of allyship that is encompassed by the messaging, is vitally important. No matter your identity, it calls on each of us to reach out, understand and support one another, demanding us to be better allies, whether you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, the Agilisys family or anywhere for that matter.
Allyship is, for me, integral to normalising something like being LGBTQ+. It doesn’t necessarily have to be overt in the sense that you go out of your way to do something to be an ally, but it is just about the day-to-day normal where we accept people – and support them – regardless of their sexuality, gender identities, religion and so on. It’s about demonstrating that everyone’s the same. At our core, we’re still people, we’re still human, in whatever way we define our own normal.
The good news is that attitudes are changing for the better. Even in cultures where LGBTQ+ is not seen as “normal”. However, occasions like Pride Month do still matter in raising awareness, because it’s good to talk about the issues that still exist.
For example, while working for Agilisys, I’ve noticed that every time you go to a new client, it can feel like a new coming out experience. I never know how clients will react to my sexuality, because at the end of the day, they are individuals. They’re humans with their own preconceived notions, ideas and beliefs. As someone who is LGBTQ+, this is a topic I have in the back of my mind, due to my own personal experiences, whenever I do go out to a new client. You always hope the matter will be a non-issue and that, one day, we reach a point where we never have to think “what if…?”.
I had an experience with a client where being foreign was already an issue to them. Apparently, my accent wasn’t English enough! When you see that kind of behaviour, it’s natural to think ‘well, if they’ve got that kind of attitude towards a “foreigner”, what do they think about diversity and inclusion as a whole? What do they think about LGBTQ+ people?’ It definitely adds a certain strain when you do go out to clients. You’re never sure what reaction you’re going to get. At the same time, your focus is always on creating and maintaining good working relationships with clients.
Happily, if this ever became a problem, I am confident that I would receive the support I need. Not least because we have a wonderfully diverse and supportive team across Agilisys and in senior leadership, some of whom also identify as LGBTQ+. This shows the value of diversity in the workplace – my answer would likely be different if we didn’t have that LGBTQ+ presence across the levels of the organisation. I would like to see, as part of any contract, more around non-discrimination and the enforcement of any breach. We’re an equality-driven organisation and we should expect the same of our clients.
That’s why I welcome opportunities to challenge thinking and bring the topic to the fore. Importantly though, it needs to be an ongoing discussion point throughout the year. Education, knowledge, and exposure are vital to creating a diverse and inclusive environment. Those organisations – and Agilisys definitely isn’t one – who only pay lip service because it’s Pride Month run the risk of defeating the whole concept of allyship. You need to live and breathe diversity if you are to develop an inclusive mentality.
Therefore, the work of the Agilisys Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee should be welcomed. I put myself forward to be part of that Committee to see if I could make LGBTQ+ inclusion a focal point, because there’s so much work we can do in that space. We do work in a relatively siloed way in Agilisys, so you don’t necessarily know everyone across the business. I’m hoping that the initiatives being taken by the D&I will lead to us getting to know the business better, simply because our people will be more connected and able to share experiences. That support network is important to normalising who we are and highlighting how we’re not alone, which in turn will go a long way to making people feel safer, non-discriminated and more welcome at work. That can only be a good thing for everyone!
“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.” – Barbara Gittings
Read more thoughts from across Agilisys in another of our series of interviews to celebrate Pride.
We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Read the first in our blog series where Louise Ah-Wong, Senior Partner – Digital Transformation, details how Agilisys is committing to support staff and fight racism.