Polly Shute is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, having formally worked as a Board Member of Pride in London for four years and now being the Co-founder of Out and About LGBT and Out & Wild Festival. Polly is passionate about LGBTQ+ rights and holds inclusive events across the country. To celebrate Pride month, Polly hosted a workshop for YOTEL HQ and crew to get us thinking more about LGBTQ+ history, challenges and how to be a good ally. With her insights now being incorporated into YOTEL's own employee training programme year-round, we wanted to ask her a few more questions!
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR ROLE AS AN LGBTQ+ AMBASSADOR
I am what you might call an accidental activist. I did not come out until I was 41 and as Pride was a big part of the journey, I joined the Pride in London board in 2013. It was then that I really saw some of the challenges the community faced, and how I could use my skills and passion and privileged position to help drive change and support others. As well as my Diversity and Inclusion work, I now work part-time for Pink News, the world's most read LGBTQIA media and also run Out and About, a company that connects LGBTQIA women and those who are non-binary, through shared experience. In June we launched the UK's first LGBTQIA Wellness and Experience Festival.
WHAT DOES PRIDE MONTH MEAN TO YOU?
A lot, as going to Pride in London, back in 2009, was a pivotal moment in me coming out and being more public about my sexual orientation. It's a great platform to speak to brands and the wider public to educate and inform on the LGBTQIA community.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU'VE RECEIVED THAT'S STAYED WITH YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
Yes, that you should seize the moment. I have learned that sometimes you just need to get on with making something happen, and it does not need to be perfect first time. That's not to say you should not plan and prepare, but if you have a great idea, and the skills, energy and drive to make it happen, then moving to action quickly is important.
Listen and educate yourself about other people's lived experiences. This may feel uncomfortable at times, but it's really important to gain a better understanding of others. Polly Shute
YOU RECENTLY HOSTED A WORKSHOP AT YOTEL HQ ON LGBTQ+ HISTORY, CHALLENGES AND HOW TO BE A GOOD ALLY. IS THERE A CERTAIN PART OF YOUR WORKSHOP YOU THINK EVERY BRAND / COMPANY SHOULD KNOW?
The slide that is most important to me is the one that shows the growth of the LGBTQIA community and highlights how young people are increasingly non-binary when it comes to gender. This may feel strange (and uncomfortable) to those of us that are older, and grew up with very defined gender terms. But if we want to create brands that engage with young employees and customers, it's really important to understand how they express their identity.
WHAT'S THE MOST POSITIVE CHANGE YOU'VE SEEN WITHIN / TOWARDS THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS?
More companies engaging. I know there is often a backlash against 'commercialisation' and 'pink washing' but I believe brands supporting the LGBTQIA community make such a big impact (as long as they do it in the right way and year round not just in Pride month). We all spend a lot of time at work, so it's important it is a place we feel we can 'belong in' and be our true selves.
HOW CAN WE ALL BE BETTER ALLIES?
Listen and educate yourself about other people's lived experiences. This may feel uncomfortable at times, but it's really important to gain a better understanding of others. Empathy is the no 1 leadership skill, not just because it's the right way to be, but because it creates a more profitable business.