As headline sponsors of the Bristol Pride again this year, Unite Students hears from our very own Louise Lloyd, our VAT Manager who is an active supporter, and has been right from the start 10 years ago. Her experiences as a member of the LGBT community over the years give a real insight into how perceptions of diversity and inclusivity have evolved and shed light on even more positive developments in the coming years.

“I started working for Unite more than 20 years ago and back then, it didn’t even occur to me that I could go to work and present as my authentic self. Getting ready for work meant putting on a disguise, a carefully constructed image of suit, heels, jewellery. I just accepted that being in work meant hiding who I was and not talking too much about my personal life.

Thinking about how things were then, really does feel like remembering a different lifetime. There has been such a significant shift in culture since then, both within the workplace and in our wider society.

I think that for me, the real change started when 10 years ago, three determined people within the LGBT community got together and decided to organise Bristol’s first Pride event.  A call for volunteers went out around the community and I went along to a meeting with about 20 others, all of us there to offer our own particular skills and our time, to help get the event together. Bristol Pride was born.

In the 10 years since Bristol Pride started, the environment within Unite Students has altered beyond recognition. We have introduced an LGBT network and engaged with Stonewall to help guide us in making staff policies more inclusive and in writing a Terms of Reference document. Staff at senior management levels have received unconscious bias training and a few members of our Board have declared their intention to improve our approach to diversity and inclusion matters.

I made a very public declaration of my identity when I asked Unite to sponsor Pride, 3 years ago. This feels like a tremendous personal achievement because it demonstrates that I can be myself at work. I also feel really proud that the company I work for recognises the importance of investing in becoming a more inclusive, diverse and accepting place for all staff.

As with many companies, we still have some way to go on our journey, to fully mature in to the inclusive and diverse organisation that we aspire to. But the hardest steps have been taken and we have commitment and determination at all levels of the company, to continue our progress.”

- Louise Lloyd, VAT Manager, Unite Students