LGBT equality is a massively important issue at many corporate companies and here at NatWest we know there is loads to do however, as part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group we want all of our people and all of our customers to feel welcome. All of the time.
I'm not gay. But I'm an ally of the LGBT community. I have been from a very early age when I was brought up in Africa, the only white girl in my school, and learned - first hand - what it's like to be treated differently and feel like I didn't 'fit in'. I was never persecuted the way some LGBT communities have and continue to be, but I was pulled out a ditch once or twice on the back end of being followed home from school and taunted for being white. I was also lucky to live in parts of the African continent where being gay has been embraced for a very long time (they exist) but it meant - in the 70's and 80's - I got an early education on tolerance which led me to ask my parents why we didn't see same sex couples holding hands in places like Scotland. My young, naïve view was that - if more folks could simply hold hands and kiss in public - eventually no one would bat an eyelid. We're still trying to get to that place now in the 21st century.
All this gave me an insight which I'm lucky to have... my travels have meant I've seen, first hand, how people can be judged: for the colour of their skin, their cultural beliefs, their faith or their sexual orientation...the list is endless. I chose back then to value difference; not to fear it. To embrace it and to encourage it. I'm not sure if that's why I'm in the job I have today - it certainly wasn't a deliberate career path - but I do know it's a role I love and that being more inclusive is something big organisations benefit from.
Some might feel that speaking out on issues of equality is not the place of corporate business. I disagree - and never more so than when I visited Pulse nightclub in Orlando last month to pay my respects and saw, first hand, the comfort folks were taking from the support of their community, including big name organisations who stepped in to help in the aftermath of the atrocity.
Big organisations can play a role - we can role model inclusive behaviours and sound business practices and encourages others to do the same. That's why The British LGBT Awards are a great way of drawing attention to those that do this well and encourage improvements where they're required.
At NatWest we're working hard on becoming a better bank for our customers and - through these awards - we'd encourage others to call out examples of great behaviour that is helping to shift the dial.
To nominate an organisation or individual for a British LGBT Award please visit www.britishlgbtawards.co.uk