By Emma Searle

This year, 2017, marks 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales (37 for Scotland and 35 for Northern Ireland). Although this was just the beginning of a long process to gain equal rights for same-sex couples, the anniversary serves as a timely reminder of how far we have come and how much things have changed. That being said, not everyone realises that same-sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries and worse still, punishable by death in eight.

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Pride this year will be a celebration of all that has been achieved but also a show of support, a chance to stand united with our LGBTQ+ family, for those that are still fighting for the right to be themselves without prejudice.

On a more personal level, Pride for me always feels really special.  It’s the time of year when I can be completely unapologetic for who I am - I get this overwhelming feeling of pride at being part of such a unique community that has stood tall for the right to love whoever they want to love, and I can go out there and feel totally accepted. It’s a weird feeling to describe as I am accepted every other day by the people in my life, but at Pride you just feel so...well, so free.

Inclusivity should be forever, not just for Pride

It’s so important! Unless you’ve had to do it, no-one can comprehend the anxiety and sometimes frustration that can come with continuously having to come ‘out’ to the people you meet. I am openly gay and most of the time I have no issue with talking freely about my same-sex relationship, but it’s not always the case. I first came ‘out’ at work within my first week (so long ago now!) but it’s not a one-time experience – every new person that joins and every new client I meet can bring up new situations for me to deal with and you just never know what reaction you will receive.

Thankfully, so far I haven’t had any bad reactions. They haven’t all been perfect; they’ll always be ‘those’ questions someone wants to ask. But they’ve never been bad; and while day to day I know I’m fully accepted for who I am (in fact, the sex of the person I’m dating is such a complete non-issue as it is for my straight colleagues, which is one of the coolest things), it’s events like Pride week that help remind everyone how amazing it is to have such fantastic allies in our team. It also reminds everyone what a diverse workforce we are and how all forms of diversity are fully accepted and celebrated here.

As I said, I didn’t stop coming out after the first time I told someone I’m gay.  Celebrating Pride goes beyond a one-week event, it should be part of the fabric of truly inclusive companies, as all diversity topics should be.

Companies are doing more and more to encourage diversity and inclusion 

There’s still more to be done. Whilst there will always be prejudice in the world, I really think those entering the workplace within the next few years are going to challenge employers like never before, and diversity will be one of the areas they do it in. The events Merkle have done this year have been fantastic and having an employer that invests time and resources into the issues that matter to their employees gives such a positive feeling.

Apple has recently appointed Denise Young Smith as the Global Head of Human Resources to focus on diversity across the workplace, hiring practices, and other HR-related business aspects to be more open to and conscious of women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community. Like many tech companies, its workforce is predominantly white and male — Apple's latest diversity report indicates that the company’s workforce is 68 percent male and 56 percent white (only 12 percent of the workforce identified as Hispanic and nine percent as Black). But Tim Cook is the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, so naturally, he’s a particularly strong champion of workforce diversity.

Meanwhile, Deloitte has introduced ‘Diversity Networks’ across a number of minority groups. There are ten groups in total which connect people who share affinity indicators such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, parenting or caring responsibilities.

Diversity is a topical issue for all companies, big or small. It’s important to encourage everyone in workplaces to feel like they can be whoever they want to be.

This week we’ve celebrated Pride at Merkle which has been fantastic. We are by no means perfect, but the efforts being made this Pride week are just the start of wider discussions on diversity and working towards being a fully inclusive employer. Having visible events and celebrations within the office is great as it shows unity and determination to build an inclusive and diverse workplace. Whilst it isn’t always going to be a smooth ride, I’m glad to see society take strides towards embracing an array of identities; I’m proud to be a gay woman.

Photo credit: Peter Hershey

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