Diageo’s Andrew Porter on championing LGBT+ people in business
Diageo’s Recruitment Transformation Lead and the Europe Lead of their Rainbow Network, Andrew Porter has been featured in the 2017 FT and OUTstanding Top LGBT+ Future Leaders list. We took the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about the importance of championing LGBT+ people in the workplace.
Why does being an LGBT+ friendly employer matter for Diageo?
We know that for our business to thrive we depend on having diverse talent with a range of backgrounds, skills and capabilities in each of the 180 countries in which we operate and that our employees must reflect our broad consumer base – and that of course includes LGBT+ people. We view diversity as one of the key enablers that helps our business to grow. Our values, purpose and standards set the conditions for us to respect the unique contribution each person brings.
My experience of Diageo has been overwhelmingly positive and I am incredibly proud to be involved with our Rainbow Network where I have seen so much fantastic work done by so many people in the last year. Of note, I am particularly proud of our Budapest Chapter, who, despite a challenging cultural context have done some amazing work to champion the LGBT+ agenda at Diageo and even attended Budapest Pride for the first time in 2017.
Tell us about Diageo’s Rainbow Network and the work you have been doing?
Diageo’s Rainbow Network is our dedicated LGBT+ employee group which I head up in Europe. It is focused on raising the profile of LGBT+ issues as well as the broader inclusion and diversity agenda. The group’s purpose is “to unleash the potential that being able to be yourself can bring to all of our lives and to Diageo’s performance ambition.”
So far the Europe Rainbow Network has established chapters in London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Budapest and Scotland – with plans to launch a further chapter in Madrid in the coming months. We regularly connect with our colleagues in the US and have become a more connected global network sharing ideas and best practice each month. Our markets and cultural contexts may sometimes be very different but our ambitions for a world where difference is celebrated as part of a truly inclusive culture is a common goal that drives us all.
This year saw us launch our inaugural INC. week, to mark London Pride. Over the course of the week our London HQ was transformed to host a series of events including lively debates and TED-style talks sponsored by Smirnoff. We were joined by notable speakers including figures from organisations sharing their views on unconscious bias, gender equality, disability, and flexible working, as well as representatives from London PRIDE and OUTstanding. The week was organised by a small group of passionate and determined people – and the reaction from colleagues has been overwhelming. We’re in discussions on what we do next to keep the focus on accelerating an inclusive culture front and centre.
What inspires you?
I am continually impressed by some of the stories I hear from people who have encountered challenging situations in their everyday lives. In June we held a breakfast event in association with Pride in the City at our London HQ talking about the Power of Allies in fighting homophobia and other types of exclusion. Following the event, one of our colleagues who attended the session encountered a fellow passenger being harassed on the London Underground “for dressing gay” a few days later. I was so proud to hear that she took note from our speakers and had the confidence to ask the bullies to get off at the next station. Her fellow passengers supported the request and the men left. It’s amazing to think we helped change the outcome of that situation simply through running a breakfast session!
And finally, what advice would you give to young LGBT+ people who have aspirations to become business leaders?
Be yourself! Never apologise for who you are and most importantly be proud of who that is and all the amazing things you can offer. In my experience, no-one is “just” the label people make you wear, we are all beautifully complicated, unique and different and thankfully there is a growing realisation that embracing difference makes us all richer. We all have bias but learning to understand that and be conscious about it rather than unconscious, means we become more connected with people around us.
Purpose led leadership is critical to inspire and motivate and it’s important that authenticity underpins this. Earlier this year, I heard the phrase, “you can’t be, what you can’t see” which I think fantastically represents the fact that we all have a part to play in encouraging others, whether it’s a visible senior out role model, a senior ally leader or being a colleague who simply leads by example and encourages others to be 100% authentically themselves every day.