The theme for Wear it Purple Day 2023 is ‘Write Your Story’. A member of the 101 Collins community has done just that. Paul Flanigan is Head of Retail Lease Management at JLL Australia. He is also a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We were lucky enough to speak with Paul last week in the lead up to Wear it Purple Day to understand what the day means to him and the importance of being yourself.
Q: What does Wear it Purple Day mean to you?
A: It’s important to show younger generations that they are supported and accepted for being their true authentic selves. Young people can experience mental health issues from the pressures of coming out to family, school friends and the wider community and knowing how this can affect them, they need to know there are safe places where they can be themselves.
Q: This year’s theme is ‘Write Your Story”. How important is placing an emphasis on the importance of personal expression and individuality for youths in the LGBTQIA+ community?
A: We all have our own personal journey and stories, and everyone is different in how they become their true, authentic selves. It’s important to tell those stores as this helps us understand how life pressure and cultural experiences can have an impact, especially in the workplace. Current statistics from Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) indicate that a high percentage of young people entering the workforce feel they go back “in the closet” and are mindful of how they interact with others in the workplace. We need to be open and supportive.
Q: How can we show support and advocate for our LGBTQIA+ colleagues and friends?
A: By wearing purple on Wear it Purple Day and acknowledging the other important days in the LGBTQIA+ calendar. Even something as simple as wearing a ribbon on the day and being a true active ally. As a gay cis male, I’m very much an active ally for other members of the LGBTQIA+ community who may not have a voice.
Being active within your Diversity, Equality and Inclusion network and showing support with other network groups within your industry. For example, in property there are networks like Building Pride and Queers In Property (QIP) and Property Council.
Another network group I am passionate about is LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation which 101 Collins has supported each year on May 28th by lighting the mast rainbow. This is an important day in helping to end violence and abuse within LGBTQIA+ communities by increasing visibility and understanding, and giving hope and courage to victims and survivors.
Q: How has your experience changed over the years in terms of attitudes and support for the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace?
A: The more that companies like JLL are active in their support and workplace culture and encourage everyone to bring their authentic self to work each day and recognise and support the differences we all have, the closer we come to building a better world for all. I’ve experienced not being accepted in the workplace from previous employers but have never felt this at JLL during my 7 years here. Story telling of personal stories and journeys are the most powerful paths to helping others understand and learn.
At JLL we have various Business Resource Groups (BRG) which support our diversity and inclusion business objectives, provide a platform for diverse perspectives, and connect people across the organisation. These employee-led groups are open to all employees, and we encourage allies, advocates, and partners to get involved. We march as JLL Pride in the Melbourne Pride March each year and this is open to colleagues, family, friends and allies as we all come together to show support for the wider community.
Q: What would you say to members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have just begun their professional journey in terms of pressures to conform?
A: It’s important to look at the company culture and what they have for DE&I – Diversity & Inclusion programs. At JLL we believe a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture is one where everyone succeeds. That’s why we’re committed to creating an environment where we all feel welcomed, valued, and empowered to achieve our full potential. Our Pride BRG is an example of this with our mission to create a secure, respected and accepting environment where professionals of all sexual orientations, gender identities and their allies are enabled and empowered to reach their full potential.
Everyone needs to feel that they can be their true selves. For Pride Month this year, our theme was “Be Bold, Be Proud, Be Me” and those are words we need to live by not only for Pride month but every day.
Q: Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community may not feel comfortable being themselves or letting colleagues in, what made the difference for you in feeling comfortable enough at work to open up to your colleagues?
A: For me, it’s working at a company like JLL. An organisation that has true belief in the importance of Diversity Equality and Inclusion and how this leads to positive outcomes for employees and employers alike. Treating each other with respect fosters an environment where everyone’s voice is heard. We celebrate diversity including ability, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation as well as education, generation, experiences and thinking styles. If you have a feeling of belonging and acceptance you will feel more open to be you. It may be just one person at work you open up to. Showing up authentically every day as we are all unique and everyone deserves to feel like they belong.
If you would like to donate to Wear it Purple Day to support at risk rainbow youth, you can do so here.
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