This article has been co-authored by Deborah Lough (Sanofi UK Culture Change Lead) and Stephen Bolton (Sanofi UK Oncology brand lead & UK LGBTQ+ Ally Employee Resource Group Lead)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the UK's first official PRIDE, organised by the Gay Liberation Front. Like many others, we are recognising and honouring this historical moment which sparked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ+ liberation movement and demanded equal rights and protection against discrimination.
PRIDE is, and has been, about celebrating our authentic selves, honouring trailblazers in the LGBTQ+ community, and continuing the fight for equality and justice for people of all gender identities and sexualities. In the past, and even present day, across the world, people are not free to be their full and truthful selves for fear of persecution in many forms.
50 years on from the first march in London, the fight for equality is far from over. Across the world, LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination in every aspect of their lives – from accessing healthcare services to employment and are at risk of jail, abuse, harassment and even death. According to Stonewall, the largest LGBTQ+ charity in the UK and Europe, more than a third of LGBTQ+ staff hide that their sexual orientation or gender identity at work for fear of discrimination.
One way to help address some of this is by embracing authentic allyship, both as individuals and as an industry. But often, the meaning of this gets misinterpreted - so what does authentic allyship look like? The definition of allyship is “the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of marginalised groups in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view under its leadership” This must be felt throughout our every fibre.
In our workplaces, we want LGBTQ+ people to feel and be safe, valued and embraced. In our work, we want LGBTQ+ people to continue benefitting the business through their contribution, by leading innovations and solutions, and reaching their full potential, uninhibited by prejudice.
For us, allyship holds the same values as friendship. The extension of an open-minded approach that advocates and creates an environment for people to be their true selves. Equally, allyship is a continuous journey, paved with proactive intentions and acts; not a destination that we are trying to reach. Importantly, we must acknowledge that allyship is a contribution to ourselves, to others, and our society as a whole.
At Sanofi UK, we’ve seen a commitment across all levels of the company to join in this journey, that goes beyond just investing resources. Increasingly, we see that allyship is becoming a driving force, creating an ever-growing landscape of equality and fairness within everything we do.
This has been most visible in the work carried out by our ERGs (employee resource groups) which exist on a global and local level. Our ERGs are a first, founded with inclusion and accountability at their core, with an external DE&I holding Sanofi leaders to account. They provide a vital platform for our efforts to positively impact the dynamics of inclusion by giving a voice for those unrepresented at Sanofi and have shown a 45% growth in membership numbers since 2021.
Beyond making changes within our workplace, we work with organisations like G-Work to diversify our talent pool – something which has led to initial successes, even bringing in applications from countries where LGBTQ+ communities face widespread discrimination and violence. We also work closely with external organisations like Stonewall to create opportunities for learning that can take place in an atmosphere that is constructive – meaning there’s no such thing as a stupid question as long as education is the end goal.
Ultimately, we are striving to be a leading business that paves the way for what equality looks like and supports each employee to be their true selves. We want to create a space that doesn’t define identities by one aspect, but instead helps people to show up in the full spectrum of their personality – today and everyday moving forwards.
We encourage you to join us in committing to action. Research shows that self-education about gender identity, sexuality and bias is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate allyship at work. Here are a couple of community-led resources to get you started: