As an Ally, my perception of inclusion has changed

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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