Stories and features28 September 2022
Allyship and creating an inclusive culture
To mark UK National Inclusion Week we caught up with Eka Gvimradze, a founder board member and proud ally of B United – the LGBT+ employee network at BAT.
September 26-October 2 marks National Inclusion Week in the UK – a week dedicated to “celebrating inclusion and creating inclusive workplaces.”
At BAT, our diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy is well-established and focuses on ensuring our employees can flourish regardless of their gender, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation or other differences.
To mark National Inclusion Week we caught up with Eka Gvimradze, who is a founder board member and proud ally of B United - the LGBT+ employee network at BAT.
Eka, who is Talent, Organisational Effectiveness & Inclusion Manager at BAT, tells us why LGBT+ allyship is so important and what it means to her.
Hi Eka. What motivated you to become a board member for our LGBT+ employee resource group B United?
I was a newly appointed Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager at the time, so it was very important for me to make sure D&I came to the forefront of the BAT agenda. I was very lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who included me in forming B United and who gave me their trust to support them as an ally.
How would you describe being an ally?
Being an ally means understanding the challenges that LGBT+ people can face in society and the workplace. Passive acceptance of the LGBT+ community (saying, for example, “I don’t have a problem with gay people”) is very different from being an active ally who supports LGBT+ inclusion. The role of allies is to actively promote a fair and more inclusive culture where everyone is comfortable to be themselves and achieve their potential.
Why is being an LGBT+ ally so important?
For me this question is the same as ‘Why is it important to support equal opportunities?’ Especially as a global organisation, having access to a network of people all over the world gives us the opportunity to support not only people in countries where there is a lot of allyship, but also in the countries where there are still some stigmas and legal implications for being LGBT+.
How does your allyship fit in with your regular job?
It’s a great fit! I appreciate the trust my colleagues put in me to be an ally. It means that I get to represent their rights and it’s a huge responsibility. I’ve had cases of people contacting me for advice on how to come out at work and what it would mean for their career. At the same time, Line Managers have asked for guidance on how to support their employees who’d come out at work only recently. Being able to help at least one person makes all the work I do worth it.
Tell us more about B United
Pride parades and face-to-face events have thankfully been able to take place this again this year. So being able to fly the B United flag again at London Pride was a huge moment for us. B United has continued to support LGBT+ employees through working with the business, its functions and suppliers to improve policies, facilities and training materials. We continue to drive visibility of the BAT LGBT+ community by working with the business to light up Globe House in Pride colours every year and getting their support in hosting and participating in panel events. It’s the things like this that make BAT such a great, inclusive place to work!
- BAT will be hosting its own inclusion week for our people worldwide in October, which will feature a host of digital events and the launch of an allyship guide for employees.