16 June 2021 Company News, Employee Spotlight

Pride 2021: Q&A with Head of Marketing, Penny-Howell Jones

pride 2021

Last week, we announced an update of our core values, representing a small but impactful change that more formally recognises and celebrates our differences as a group of employees, and coincides with our support of LGBTQ+ Pride 2021 throughout the month of June.

This week, in an extension of our support for Pride – and indeed Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as a whole – we talk to our Head of Marketing, Penny Howell-Jones, who is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.Penny tells us about her relationship with Pride, what she’ll be doing this year to celebrate (with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to hamper the large social gatherings and carnival festivities that Pride is so renowned for!), and the importance of EDI in the workplace.

Hi Penny! Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the LGBTQ+ community and what Pride means to you?

I love that I get to be part of this community! The amazing colours (including the symbolic Pride flag, and glitter generally everywhere…), the talent, and creativity that seems to come hand-in-hand with Pride and the wider LGBTQ+ community is always inspiring.

Something I’m very proud of is my subscription to Diva magazine. You can’t beat that pang of excitement when your monthly subscription to something you love falls through your letterbox. Remember Smash Hits?!

What I enjoy most about is the connection I feel with the community by being a subscriber, as well as the brilliant topical content. I’d urge anyone who is interested in equality, diversity and inclusion in the LGBTQ+ world to give it a go, I’ve certainly learnt a lot.

It’s human nature to want to belong. I think that plays a big part in some people not feeling comfortable identifying as LGBTQ+ because it has, and sadly often still is, considered “other” or “not normal”. But I can tell you that I’ve never felt more part of something than I did at my first ever Pride festival, which was Manchester 2014. When you go to an event that’s run by, or aimed at, the LGBTQ+ community there’s a real sense of inclusion and that feel-good factor which makes you proud to be who you are. Everybody is there to have a good time.

Perhaps what I love the most about Pride is the fact so many people find their opportunity to relax and truly be themselves – that is a fundamental right we all have. That is what Pride means to me.

How will you be celebrating Pride this year amid the ongoing pandemic?

Well, I like to make a conscious effort to share some of the great content that gets released during Pride month every year (and the other 11 months too, for that matter!). I’d also like to find an authentic brand that’s selling clothing or something similar which donates proceeds to an LGBTQ+ charity because usually our Pride tickets would result in a small donation.

As far as events go, sadly COVID seems to have thrown a spanner in the works for the second year running. We are considering a smaller event – that still seems be going ahead in some capacity – called ‘Mardi Gras – Proud in the Park’ which is held in Roundhay Park, Leeds. My wife is from Leeds so if we go it will act as a great opportunity to see our friends and family up there as well. If we don’t go anywhere this year, then you can bet I’ll be getting tickets to two different Pride festivals in 2022 to make up for lost time!

What’s the importance of greater Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the workplace, in your opinion?

Given that those of us who work full time spend more of our waking day within the workplace than we do anywhere else in our wider community, I think it is absolutely paramount. It is so ironic that LGBTQ+ people are still considered a minority, because the more accepting we make our communities, and therefore workplaces, the number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ is increasing. As a result, society is rapidly changing to reflect that nobody is what you might call “normal”.

What we all are is human! Humans with intense, opposing, complex emotions that place us all along a very wide spectrum. If we see and celebrate this rainbow of humanity every day, then the notion of “us and them” will fade – and that is essential to a more equal and inclusive future, both inside the workplace and out.

Read more about Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at SMS