Blis' Inclusive Pride Celebration: Fostering awareness & allyship
Blis, a global marketing company, embarked on an inclusive Pride celebration that revolved around two key pillars: education and employee engagement. Under the educational pillar, they hosted a series of events throughout the month, including Pride-themed sessions, employee-led discussions, and an external panel featuring members of the transgender community. Simultaneously, they engaged employees with themed gifts and events such as plant pot painting, sing-along evenings, and pride-themed parties across different office locations.
What did you set out to achieve?
We wanted our Pride celebrations to be inclusive and authentic, representing the current challenges of the LGBTQIA+ community and engendering allyship. We wanted to educate and entertain Blis employees to keep them engaged in the conversation and deepen their allyship. Instead of using the core DEI leads plan we began with a brainstorm with LGBTQIA+ employees to ascertain the most relevant themes and ensure the month addressed any internal or external challenges.
Can you describe what you did?
We developed our strategy based on two core pillars: an educational approach and an employee engagement pillar. For the educational pillar, we hosted several events throughout the month to shine a light on all the topics surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community, including:
Two Pride theme sessions during our weekly all-hands meeting to educate our team in an informative and dynamic way, going from an introduction to the history of Pride and LGBTQIA+ rights to engaging quizzes.
- An employee-led fireside chat where members of Blis based in Portugal, the UK and Hong Kong shared their own experiences. They discussed coming out, prejudice in the community, experiences at work, role models and how we can all be better allies
- An incredible external panel with Fred Langridge and Carmel Fleur, who are both members of the transgender community, moderated by Kelly Jacobson Collins, Fred and Carmel shared their feelings on identity, career, fears & misconceptions, inequality, how to be a better ally, and steps that Blis and other companies can take to be more inclusive.
For our employee engagement pillars, we ran several events and sent out themed gifts to our team:
- Across the globe, we sent out delicious sweets treats (e.g. Tony’s chocolonely, biscuits and cupcakes) with a special Blis branded Pride image which went down fantastically.
- In the UK, we turned our monthly drinks into a Pride-themed special, starting with plant pot painting and bracelet making in the office before heading off to Soho for a FABULOUS sing-along evening of west-end tunes. A few of us were even #brave and did a few duets of our own for the audience!
- In Mumbai, a pride-themed party was organised where team members painted t-shirts with wonderful pride messages. The team's monthly meetings were turned into tea parties with pride-themed sweet treats in other locations.
What was the first step you took to get it off the ground?
Instead of using the core DEI leads to plan, we brainstormed with LGBTQIA+ employees to ascertain the most relevant themes and ensure the month addressed any internal or external challenges. We also secured a small amount of budget so that our ideas weren’t limited to solely no-cost initiatives.
Who are the internal business partners you brought on board? Are there any external stakeholders you spoke to for advice?
Internally support came from our LGBTQIA+ employees, People team and Rise committee. Greg Isbister, Blis CEO, is the sponsor of DEI initiatives.
We had external Trans speakers who shared their expertise and lived experiences with everyone.
What budget/resource did you need?
- Time from our employees to plan and run the sessions
- Budget for sweet treats, nights out and the Trans Awareness panel
How do you keep it going?
We have scheduled focussed sessions throughout the year examining current issues for the LGBTQIA+ community to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges. Based on that, we are able to define and create events with inclusivity in mind.
What positive impact has this initiative or campaign had?
- Much greater awareness of the challenges faced by the Trans community, including an increased understanding of questions that should and shouldn’t be asked by colleagues
- A better understanding of how to be an active ally for the LGBTQIA+ community and colleagues
- Created a safe space to share personal stories and celebrate differences within the company
What did you learn that could help others?
Inclusivity is about engaging with the community as much as you can. So rather than always relying on the executive team, we can and should engage with members of the community. So if we are talking about Pride, we need to rely on our LGBTQIA+ employees to voice their own experiences and concerns. For Ramadam, engage with your muslim employees and so on. You can be the most passionate and compassionate ally but you simply don’t have the lived experience to execute truly
How will you make the benefit of this initiative or campaign endure?
By taking the learnings around inclusion and a balanced schedule of events forward into other DEI events. By continuing to engage and support our LGBTQIA colleagues and refusing only to celebrate them once a year