You have the power to change the workplace

I think a portion of my upbringing was relatively “normal”, with a nuclear family consisting of me, my half-sister from my mum’s first marriage, my mum and my dad. We lived in a nice house, went on family holidays each year and often had sibling style squabbles with my sister, one time she even put me in a suit case and threw me down the stairs; but that’s what little brothers are there for right?!  

However, my Dad’s “coming out” was not a simple one for anyone in my family to say the least. I was in Year Five at school, nine years old when I found out - and I was the last person in the family to know. I was having a childish argument with a neighbour and was thrown back with “At least my Dad’s not gay!”. My sister, only four and half years my senior, had to sit me down and explain what being gay meant and that my Dad was actually gay. On reflection, I don’t think I truly understood the impact of this at the time, but also in the same breadth my 14-year-old sister having to comprehend and explain this to me really astonishes me. It wasn’t until a year or so after that I told my Dad how I found out about him being gay.  

My Dad’s sexuality didn’t really become an impact for me until his boyfriend moved in a couple of years after his coming out. We both knew that having a gay father had the possibility of opening the door to bullying from other children, as I received from when I found out about his sexuality. So for many years my dad’s boyfriend was known as “The Lodger” in the house.

When I was fifteen, I did confide in one my best friends and after a few months, this news had spread round my friendship group. At the time, I was very hurt and concerned what the fallout would be, but I never got any negative comments from my friendship group about the situation. To be honest, it was never spoken about, which may appear to signal I wasn’t supported, but my friends understood I didn’t really want it made a big deal of at that age and I am so very grateful.

I didn’t really come to terms with my own sexuality until around the age of sixteen when I started to think about it more and started to have confidential conversations with close friends and everyone was always very supportive of me. I am not going to sugar coat things, I did get the odd comment from strangers I came in into contact with, however with my hardy personality and my exceedingly dry sarcasm, I never had any issue in shutting the negativity down.

Having an LGBT+ parent is actually a very positive thing; it enabled me to be very open minded when it came understanding who I love and not having to feel that I have to be in a heterosexual relationship. Although this is not exclusive to having an LGBT+ parent, my Mum would always say to me “When you find that person that you love”. This is one thing I have to encourage any parent, please use open language with your children, let them know you will love them no matter the gender of their partner. By doing this, you will allow them to grow up knowing they can love who they want and will be a lot more forthcoming as it has already put the groundwork in to remove that fear of potentially difficult conversations.

I always find “Coming out” such a funny phrase, as to me, it sounds like there is a massive surprise party with balloons and banners and it’s a one-time occasion. In my case, I came out to my Dad, my Sister and my Mum at different times and in very different ways. When I joined the LGBT+ network when I was in Retail five years ago, I was lucky enough to win a trip to Amsterdam Pride with Vodafone Netherlands. I called my Dad to let him know and I said I had won it through the network and he asked me how come I had joined; my response? “Look Dad, you know, I know you know, let’s not make a big deal of it, alright?”. He just laughed and that was that.

Later on that year, I was having drinks with my Sister for her birthday and I told her, she was so happy I had come out to her and wished I had told her sooner, but also called me a thunder stealer for coming out on her birthday! The sibling banter forever lives on.

My Mum, on the other hand, was the hardest person to come out to, people always assume having a gay parent makes coming out a total breeze; however, what about the other parent, whose life was turned upside by finding out their partner was gay? I didn’t actually have the power to come out to my Mum, I had actually come back from Uni after having a relationship break down and she was the one who asked me if it was with a guy and as soon as I said “Yes” and broke down into tears. Due to what had happened with my Dad, I felt like coming out to her would have added insult to injury and didn’t want to hurt her any further. She dispelled this fear as soon as I said it, she was my mum, she loved me no matter what. As you can see here, coming out is not just different for different people, but also different to the people they come out to.

I believe my relatively unique/complicated upbringing has actually me a very well rounded person and has enabled me to be very open minded when it comes to building relationships with people. We can never make assumptions on people based on how things appear on the outside, be this the happy family in a four-bedroom house who go on holidays, to the person who is always smiling and chatty. Things could be happening behind closed doors and effecting people quietly, always be supporting, engaging and always try and understand things from their perspective.

For me, being exposed to a wide range of situations and relationships has given me the drive to support others who are or have been in similar situations. Being involved in the LGBT+ Network at Vodafone isn’t just for me, but also for people like my Dad. I know him coming out at work was one of the hardest things for him to do, especially after being married in a heterosexual relationship and having children. People always ask why we need an LGBT+ network at work, but if a colleague came out to you like this, do you think you’d take that news without blinking? This is the type of change in perspective and perception I want to try and influence.

I don’t want anyone to read this as a sob story as this is never how I see it. I am so extremely thankful for how I was brought up and for all my experiences, positive and negative, as they have truly made me the person I am today. It has empowered me to build genuine and authentic relationships with people, in and out of work, due to the fact I am accepting of everyone and their backgrounds. If there is every anything you are unsure of, ask the question (appropriately) and gain the knowledge, the understanding and the perspective.

Society has moved along from when I was a child and being LGBT+ is much more accepted these days, however, there is still much more to do. You have the power to change this in the workplace, but also anyone who has children, nephews/nieces, grandchildren, godchildren… the list goes on. You have the ability to empower this generation: they can love who they want, be open minded and supportive to those around them. Being LGBT+, even as a child, doesn’t just affect the individual, but those around them and should never be subject to bullying or prejudice. 

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Life at Vodafone

How Vodafone supports our working parents during difficult times

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Diversity & Inclusion

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5/6/2020

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Today (6th May) marks World Maternal Mental Health Day. Here in the UK, it is also Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week (4th – 10th May), organised by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership.   Perinatal mental health (a mother’s emotional and psychological wellbeing throughout pregnancy, birth, and beyond) is often misunderstood, despite approximately 1 in 10 women being affected. Postnatal depression is thankfully discussed more openly nowadays, but women can also suffer from anxiety, psychosis, PTSD, adjustment disorders, OCD, and other chronic mental illnesses, after carrying, bearing or losing a baby. And sadly not everyone will receive the correct support.   At Vodafone, we recognise the importance of helping our colleagues through any wellbeing challenges they may face at any time. We are also passionate about guiding parents on the tricky balance of work and caring responsibilities. Our support is especially critical when those two components combine, which is why we are actively raising awareness of these maternal mental health campaigns amongst our people this week.   However, we’re not just talking about it for one week! We already have an excellent range of family-friendly policies and some amazingly supportive employee networks. Of course, the current climate will have exacerbated the struggle for working parents, so, now more than ever, we must take extra care of our colleagues’ emotional wellbeing – by updating policies, sharing the burden and getting it done together. Here’s a snapshot of how we’re helping our parents to weather the storm: ·       Our existing Employee Assistance Programme offers confidential 24/7 support for personal or work-related problems, free of charge for all employees and immediate family members.·       Our new Remote GP Benefit ensures employees can continue to receive medical treatment. The service is available to all employees and their dependents, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.·       We have evolved our Compassionate & Unexpected Care Leave Policy so that employees can take leave flexibly.·       We’ve updated our Parental Leave policy, so that time can be taken in days, not just full weeks.·       Our Ready Parents and Carers Network provides colleagues with practical and emotional peer-to-peer support, including tips on working from home and keeping the kids entertained.  ·       Our Wellbeing network is an inclusive internal group that connects colleagues, share advice and signpost to support.·       We’re supporting the work of the UK charity Best Beginnings to increase awareness of its NHS-endorsed app, which provides advice, resources and even appointment reminders for new and expectant parents. All of these services remain available for any colleagues on maternity (or shared parental) leave, so our brand new mums and dads can stay in touch and seek help if they’re struggling. Right now, the most powerful thing we can do is to #stayconnected with each other and really listen to our people’s needs. Vodafone is working hard each day to create this inclusive and flexible culture for all.#maternalmhmatters #supportingmumsduringdifficulttimes

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We recognise the importance of helping colleagues through any wellbeing challenges they may face at any time, as well as guiding parents on that tricky balance of work and caring responsibilities. Find out what we’re doing in support of maternal mental health.

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Belonging & Inclusion in Isolation and Distancing: How can you support your colleagues?

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Diversity & Inclusion

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blogs

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4/8/2020

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The circumstances we are currently living in are unprecedented. Half of the world's population is on lockdown and over 1 million people globally have been diagnosed with Covid-19. There are so many angles to a pandemic, the most commendable being the daily heroics of people within our NHS. It seems pertinent to ask, during this time of self-isolation and social distancing, what are the implications on inclusion and belonging? Stonewall recently said, "Whenever something happens, there are always those of us who face additional barriers through being more excluded than others." Certain groups will experience specific issues and it is important to ensure we are able to support colleagues from these groups to the best of our ability. At Vodafone, we define inclusion as an environment where everyone is respected for their different viewpoints and backgrounds. We define belonging as feeling accepted, appreciated and part of the team. It is a human need and increases motivation, health and happiness. Self-isolation and social distancing are not the opposite of belonging and inclusion, not unless we make them so. We must avoid being exclusionary now, more than ever. We must see this is an opportunity to make colleagues feel more included and we must reassure colleagues that we are here to support them. Vodafone have a zero tolerance approach to any kind of discriminatory behaviour, and we continue to emphasise our commitment towards inclusion for all. At Vodafone, we embrace and welcome everyone. For more information on diversity and inclusion, click here. 

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Hear from our Global Culture & Inclusion Manager and UK Diversity & Inclusion Manager on the support available at Vodafone during this time of isolation.

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“I’m extremely honoured to be working for one of the most diverse and inclusive companies"

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Retail

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blogs

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2/5/2020

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“Hi, my name is Sam and I’m the Assistant Manager at the Vodafone Partner Store in Exeter. I’ve worked for Vodafone for the last 5 years. I am in a same sex relationship and have been happily with my partner for the last 13 years. We have 2 dogs Millie and Daisie (both show cocker spaniels) that are the most spoilt dogs in the UK, they eat better than me and my Partner do! I started my career with Vodafone as a Sales Adviser in a newly opened store in Exmouth. I worked hard and kept hitting my KPI’s each month and was rewarded immensely with fantastic bonus opportunities and a full-time position. I was soon offered a six-month secondment role as a Tech Expert at the Newton Abbot store and then I joined the Exeter Store as a Business Adviser; this is one of the busiest stores in the South West. I am still based in Exeter to this day but I have managed to work my way up to Assistant Store Manager. I’ve found the journey really rewarding, especially seeing members of staff that join Vodafone and watching them grow with the aid of coaching and training from Managers. We all pull together as a family unit rather than work colleagues and it’s brilliant to be a part of.  Around 2 years ago I was offered the chance to become an LGBT+ Ambassador for Vodafone. This extra position has brought out the best in me, firstly as a person and secondly as a Manager. I work closely with our Divisional Manager Mark McKenzie and one of our Regional Managers Cathy Corr to promote what a diverse and inclusive company Vodafone is. I have attended Stonewall training programs and have helped deliver LGBT+ discover events at HQ for all our Graduates that come and work for Vodafone. Vodafone even became the main sponsor of Exeter Pride in 2019, which was a personal highlight for me. I am extremely pleased and excited to be working for one of the most diverse and inclusive companies I have come across in my adult working life. The career opportunities I have been given so far are second to none!” Search Retail Jobs

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As an Ally, my perception of inclusion has changed

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Diversity & Inclusion

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blogs

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9/19/2018

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My name is Lucia Bellanti, and I work in Vodafone Group Enterprise Commercial and Operations as an External Communications and Engagement Specialist. I first started at Vodafone as a graduate 2 years ago and have undertaken a variety of interesting roles, but it was my most recent which definitely gave me the chance to develop personally. The role allowed me to experience new opportunities and expand my thinking, for example in March 2018, I undertook a Stonewall Ally Programme. It wasn’t event meant for me, I was only there to help, but I managed to join in the group and it was one of the most eye-opening days I’ve had since joining Vodafone. The whole day aimed to explore what it means to be an authentic and inclusive ally to LGBT+ people in the workplace. I come from what I thought was quite an open background but, it turns out, living in a small village in Italy isn’t that open-minded as I thought, and I had loads of biases that I didn’t even realise. I didn’t know half of the terms Stonewall explained to us on the day or that LGBT+ people had to face so many issues when entering the workplace. At the end of the day, I was able to acknowledge what my biases were and how to act on them. We all made a pledge as active allies and mine was “As an LGBT Ally, I am supportive and the one thing I commit to is making my graduate community aware of this session and the change each one of us can make for LGBT”. A few months later, Vodafone commissioned an international research from Out Now surveying more than 3,000 LGBT+ young people across 15 countries and multiple industries, and found that; "31% of LGBT people admitted they went back into the closet when they started their first job. This figure rises to 41% among 18-25 year olds”.  This data was shocking to many, myself included. For this reason and to act on my pledge, we decided to partner with Stonewall to hold a full day of training with our 400 UK-based Graduates, Columbus graduates and Apprentices across all streams, which we named LGBT: Discover Inclusive Leadership. We want to make the most of our youth community because as Vodafone’s future leaders, we want to leverage this diversity to build an inclusive culture, where everyone is respected, can be themselves and strive to be their best. That way we can create a better future for our employees, our partners, the communities we work in and our customers. This is a pioneering programme as it covers LGBT+ and the power of allies in one session. It gives our youth the knowledge to speak confidently about LGBT+ inclusion and helps them to identify practical ways to ensure that everyone they work with is able to reach their full potential. I can definitely say that organising these days, has been one of my proudest moments at Vodafone and I’m so glad I was given the chance to make it happen. As an Ally, my perception of inclusion has definitely changed and the way I consider minorities, not just LGBT+, in the workplace and outside it has definitely changed thanks to this training. Because of this, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people that have shared their experiences with me and helped me throughout this personal journey. My advice to everyone is: if you think you’re already an inclusive and accepting person, challenge yourself and learn more, you can always be more inclusive! 

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My name is Lucia Bellanti, and I work in Vodafone Group Enterprise Commercial and Operations as an External Communications and Engagement Specialist.

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by

Kate Ward

by

Kate Ward