In the middle of 2013, I was very lucky to meet Alan Walker. I had been Chair of OUTfront since 2009 but had not yet succeeded at getting a senior sponsor. During an online YamJam about Diversity & Inclusion Alan and I started talking about LGBT issues and OUTfront and how to move us forwards, I could spot a potential sponsor when I spoke to one and asked Alan to become our Senior Sponsor for OUTfront. Thankfully this appeared to align with when Alan was also looking to do more. I recently spoke with Alan about how he became such a staunch ally for OUTfront.
“Peter is one of my oldest friends. And he’s gay. We met over 20 years ago, when we were both at EY. Peter was a new Senior Consultant, and I was the Managing Consultant on his first job. We hit it off from the beginning – though I did have to knock some rough edges off him at first. You see, Peter’s very opinionated, and also rather competitive. Some might say we’re very similar. As it happens, it was this competitive streak in each of us that eventually led to me becoming an ally. But that was much later.
In the early days, I didn’t even notice Peter was gay. It wasn’t even a question that crossed my mind as relevant to ask. He was just a colleague I got on with really well.
Anyhow, we formed a firm friendship and, once I’d met Peter’s now-husband, the social side of our relationship both accelerated and deepened over the years.
Meantime, our careers diverged. We both joined Capgemini through the EY Consulting acquisition, but Peter then moved to IBM – one of the most advanced companies, worldwide, when it comes to LGBT issues. I left Capgemini for a while, then rejoined after 7 years elsewhere.
The trigger to me becoming an ally came when I rejoined Capgemini. Peter, by now a trustee of Stonewall as well as being a leading light in IBM’s LGBT community, was still as competitive as ever. So he couldn’t resist needling me as soon as I re-joined Capgemini, saying that he felt we still had work to do. I was horrified by this suggestion and, still a little competitive myself, I set out to prove him wrong. Surely the whole gay equality battle was over long ago, and no one, anywhere in the business world, still felt discriminated against – least of all at Capgemini?
But it turned out Peter was right. The battle was not won. We were on a journey, but we still had a way to go in our efforts. I talked to people who felt uncomfortable because of the unconscious biases of their colleagues – colleagues who were good people and didn’t appreciate the negative impact they were (unintentionally) having. I was shocked to discover that something I thought was no longer an issue actually causes distress to members of the LGBT community on a daily basis. I realised that we needed to continue and broaden the conversation, so I became an ally. And by saying this, I mean I announced myself as an ally – we all need to be involved to move to a more inclusive environment, and whilst I’d been supportive quietly for years, I wanted to make sure that I was as vocal as I needed to be, and educating others in our business.
And I am really proud of where we are now – we’ve moved up more than 70 places in the Stonewall workplace equality index in the last year, and we are hosting our first ever Trans*Code hackathon on Trans Day of Visibility 2017, and a joint event with a major client for IDAHOT in May… I must update Peter…. “
Last year Alan moved to our North American offices and has stepped down as the UK OUTfront sponsor, to make way for Daylon Lutzenberger, who has been in role since the middle of 2016. I will soon be speaking with Daylon too about how we are moving upwards again in 2017.