Sue Douthwaite - Pride Month Blog

Pride Month 2022 - What allyship means to me

As part of Pride Month 2022, we are sharing the experiences of our LGBTQ+ colleagues. We are also shining a light on the progress we have made as an organisation and how we can support each other, no matter what our role in life.

As part of this, Sue Douthwaite, Chair of NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), talks about the importance of being an ally in the workplace. As well as highlighting key ways to be an advocate at any time.

As the new Chair of the NHSBSA, I have been meeting as many of our amazing team as possible over the past 6 weeks and trying to learn and understand as much as I can. I have been impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm everyone has for the organisation and its vision and purpose.

I have learned about and met some of our colleagues who are part of the highly successful Networks across the organisation. Last week, I joined the LGBTQ+ Network strategy meeting and met the steering group, who are amongst other things, planning for a return to Pride events in our key locations. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with these networks throughout my Chairmanship and working with their representatives more formally in the Shadow Board meetings which I also Chair.

To mark Pride Month, I wanted to share with you all what being an ally, in relation to LGBTQ+ issues, means for me.

Organisations across the world have been proven to make better risk decisions and in turn create better outputs, when their workforce represents wider society. A diverse organisation should represent the citizens it serves and their access to equal opportunities. Achieving this brings a sense of belonging, value and inclusion which, to me,  means welcoming, supporting, respecting, and valuing all individuals.

So being an ally, in my opinion, means listening to and understanding LGBTQ+ issues, as well as supporting work to advocate for equal rights and fairness. I have spent much of my corporate career as the lone female voice around the leadership table. I hope I understand, in part, the challenges around harmful preconceived ideas and assumptions that many of the LGBTQ+ community face.

As an ally, here are some things which are important to me: -

  • Being proud to be an advocate and supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and our network.
  • Staying informed and being careful not to impose labels or terms on the people I meet. Letting people identify themselves in ways that make them feel safe. This feels like a good way to ensure people can be authentic.
  • Speaking up and challenging when words and actions are not acceptable. As well as encouraging others to speak up and speak out.
  • Supporting equality and development through policies. These help everyone understand why it’s important to have protection from discrimination.
  • And finally, being honest and helping everyone around me to be honest and comfortable speaking openly.

I also represent the NHSBSA on the NHS ‘Arm’s Length Body’ Diversity and Inclusion Board Network and attended my first meeting last week. We heard about challenges from other sectors and industries, and it was great to reflect on how far we have come on our journey already and how exciting to see all the great things our Networks plan to deliver in the future.