22 June, 2018

STANDING TOGETHER

Suzie was a co-founder of the M&S Buddy Network Wellbeing Diversity & Inclusion, and now works closely with other groups covering race, gender and LGBT+. She’s heterosexual, but you won’t find a stronger or prouder ally of the LGBT+ community, attending numerous events including London Pride and external speaker events.

Coming from Generation X, Suzie was a teenager when HIV/AIDS hit the headlines and remembers how it fostered a culture of fear and mistrust at the time. And now? “I think with every subsequent generation that sense of fear and shame is diminishing, which is great,” she says. “There’s more information now available to those of us outside the LGBT+ community, which has led to greater understanding of life as an LGBT+ person. There’s less stigma, too, as new generations have grown up seeing LGBT+ people in the public eye.”

Our LGBT network now has over 800 members connecting M&S employees across the country, and running its own Facebook and Twitter accounts. ” Establishing the M&S LGBT+ network was the start of shining a torch on issues that hadn’t been raised before,” says Suzie. “It’s the ideal place for people to direct ideas, suggestions and concerns. And the network is doing more for the community. Last year, a group of us used our paid volunteer days to support the Terrence Higgins Trust with their preparations for London Pride. We gave a donation and made up some 4,000 safe-sex packs to hand out. And more volunteering days are planned this year in a number of cities.”

This will be the third year running that M&S has been involved in London Pride, and we’re also supporting events in Manchester, Edinburgh and Chester, among other places. But Suzie wants more straight people to come along: “We need everyone to be involved. London Pride is the best party in the capital after all, full of joy, fun and hope! Last year, we had a big trolley of Percy Pigs that we threw to the crowds as we went along. If you’re going to London Pride, or any Pride event, give us a wave and a big cheer – it will be great to see you!”

Suzie also believes that joining Stonewall was a turning point for LGBT+ at M&S. “Stonewall facilitated a confidential listening group with our LGBT+ community and worked with us to start an action plan on all aspects of LGBT+ inclusion. Year on year, we’ve seen amazing jumps in our rankings within the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index – it will be fab to see them grow further and further.”

That sums up Suzie’s view on LGBT+ inclusion at M&S: that we’ve done a lot but we can do more, not just at grass roots’ level but at every level. “We need more people to stand together, more initiatives like the same gender wedding cards to make M&S the most inclusive place to shop and to work.”

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