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"Allies are critical to make sure that everybody is treated with respect and dignity.” - Zak Austin, Head of Project Management, ASEAN.

Our Stronger Together conversation series has celebrated the stories of hundreds of our colleagues, sharing their experiences and what they’ve learnt as they push for change.

At Reckitt, we believe that all of our colleagues should be given the Freedom to Succeed. Diversity and inclusion plays a huge role in that. Ensuring that every colleague can bring their true self to the workplace is incredibly important for individuals and the company. So last year, we introduced our Stronger Together conversation series to spark discussion, enact change at Reckitt and to give colleagues the space to learn and grow. Together.

We’ve covered a range of topics during the series and this month, we’ll be shining the spotlight on all things LGBTQ+ to recognise Pride month!

For some, this month is a time to reflect on progress, freedom and equality for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies - as well as a time to recognise the need to keep pushing for true equality for all communities everywhere. For others, it’s a time of celebration, coming together with those they love – something that couldn’t be more important now.

Today, Zak Austin (he/him), Head of Project Management, ASEAN based in Singapore who shares why he believes that allyship is so important.

Tell us a little more about you...

I’ve worked across Health, Hygiene and Nutrition during my time in R&D. In my personal life, I’ve embraced some quintessential working from home trends including marathon running and gardening.

What does Pride mean to you?

For me, Pride means the freedom of being the true version of yourself with confidence and fearlessness.

What does being an ally entail? What kind of things have you done as an ally?

Being an ally is all about being inclusive and supportive of others, plus promoting equal rights. Being an ally is quite straightforward – it just requires equal, respectful treatment of other people and calling out prejudice against sexual orientation or gender identity when you see or hear it. It should go without saying that this applies year-round, not just a show for Pride month!

Why are allies important?

Allies are critical to make sure that everybody is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s also important to ensure that minority groups have a voice, even if they aren’t present in the room. Acceptance and normalisation of all sexual orientations and gender identities is going to bring more diversity to our lives and work – this will lead to more varied teams and different points of view, which can only benefit us all!

During your career, what have you seen change on LGBTQ+ matters?

I have seen a lot more visibility and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community within companies globally, especially in PR and marketing campaigns. That’s great news! My worry is that companies do more of this versus making actual meaningful changes in diversity policies. At Reckitt, I have seen representation groups emerge for discussion year-round on LGBTQ+ which is a positive step forward.

What are some of the most common misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community?

I think the misconception that LGBTQ+ people conform to certain stereotypical personality types or appearances is quite common – when, this is totally untrue. Additionally, the misconception that LGBTQ+ is a “western” concept is a strange one that I’ve heard a few times! LGBTQ+ people are everywhere that people are.

What more needs to change in society for LGBTQ+ people to feel empowered?

I think many countries’ laws are still not progressive enough for LGBTQ+ people to feel comfortable in their own nationality or culture. In my view, that needs to change.

Additionally, prejudice and discrimination need to be stamped out immediately whenever seen or heard – we all have a responsibility to our fellow human beings.