Emma Salkild (she/hers/her), who works as a UX Copywriter for Vodafone, remembers a particular experience she had at an end of year celebration with a previous company.
“I was at a work party and my partner was about to pick me up and they sent me an SMS asking about the best location. I asked the person standing next me what was the name of this street as my partner was coming to collect me.”
“He replied, ‘Tell him to park around the corner.’”
“In that moment I was a little bit taken back. I wondered whether I should say something given that this is someone that I’m going to be working with more and more. I decided to correct him. “
“I said, ‘She’s coming to pick me up. I’m partnered with a woman.’”
“It got a bit awkward, and they became embarrassed, and I carried it a little bit too.”
“This happens about once a week looking at all the different aspects of my life. It is exhausting,” said Emma.
Emma is not alone in her experience. Many LGBTQI+ people encounter unconscious bias on a regular basis. There’s no malice or ill intention in these interactions – it’s just that individuals make assumptions about others based on their own perspectives, experiences or what is perceived as the societal “norm.”
At TPG Telecom we want everyone to feel comfortable being themselves at work. That’s why our Connect: LGBTQI+ Friends Network launched an internal campaign to draw attention to the unconscious bias that LGBTQI+ people experience and to raise awareness around making assumptions without knowing or seeking clarification.
This campaign focuses on the feeling of #exhausting – having to correct people on a regular basis is draining. We want everyone to make the effort to go from #exhausting to #exhilarating. Because when LGBTQI+ people feel included, it feels #exhilarating.
Kristy Kelly is the Head of Belonging and Inclusion for TPG Telecom.
“Members of our Connect Network drew my attention to the impact that unconscious bias can have on our team members through their everyday interactions. When they came to me with an idea for the #exhausting #exhilarating campaign, I was fully supportive. It’s so important that our teams make the effort to support a more inclusive experience for those around them through their choice of language,” said Kristy.
“Last year we launched an inclusive language guide so that our teams are supported with the right information to inform them of the best options to use when they’re having conversations.”
The inclusive language guide ensures that we don’t leave people out of our conversations and acknowledges the diversity of people we work with and the people we serve.
At TPG Telecom, we encourage everyone to use language that encompasses diverse relationships and families. For example, instead of using “husband” or “wife” use “partner”. Or, instead of using “mum” or “dad” use “parent” or “carer”.
Similarly, pronouns are often used to indicate a person’s gender; however, assumptions are often made about people’s genders and assigning pronouns, based on what we see or even on their name, and sometimes this is incorrect. For example, instead of “I met him/her yesterday” you could say “I met [the person’s name] yesterday” or “I met them yesterday”.
As part of the unconscious bias campaign, members of the Connect Committee are sharing their experiences of #exhausting #exhilarating to give the wider business an opportunity to understand the impact first hand.
Jasper Ngo, (he/they), recalls an experience they had.
“I once received what was supposed to be delivered as a compliment. The person said to me, ‘The sheila at home must be really lucky to have you.’”
“I remember thinking that I don’t have a sheila at home. The assumption was made that because I am a masculine presenting person that I have a girlfriend.”
“I responded, ‘It doesn’t have to be a sheila.’”
“They replied that their nephew was gay and they’re supportive. It was a little bit awkward. I understand that they didn’t really know about me and just assumed,” said Jasper.
On the other hand, Jasper felt #exhilarating when they started a new role
“My manager immediately started using my pronouns correctly and it’s honestly the biggest love for me. It really did help with not having to explain what my pronouns were. I felt really respected and it was definitely #exhilarating,” said Jasper.
Emma recalls an experience which was also #exhilirating.
“At work, someone happened to mention their birthday and I said, ‘That’s the same day as my partner.’”
“And he replied, ‘They must be awesome.’”
“I realised then that I didn’t have to do that mental struggle of do I tell them right now, are they going to be embarrassed, or do I correct them?”
“I just replied, ‘Yes, she is awesome,’ and that just felt really good, it was exhilarating.”