Pride to me isn’t about a month or even a movement, it’s about feeling empowered to be the best version of yourself without judgment or prejudice. Pride is about celebrating individuality and enabling each of us to own an identity that feels real and natural, and resonates with every particle of our mind, body, and soul.
I’m not a fan of labels. We’re all human beings, with unique outlooks and purposes, and with differences that are far more interesting than our similarities. We need to breathe life into one another’s passions and aspirations, not stifle them for fear of change or ‘otherness’.
As a recently retired athlete, I’m at a crossroads in my life. Everything I’ve known for 25 years is in flux. I’ve been part of a system, an institution, a structure that has defined pretty much every minute of my every day in some way. My goals as a rugby player and my commitment to representing my country drove my every decision.
Now I’m forging a new and unknown path; one which, if I’m honest, brings with it uncertainty, confusion, and a decent dose of hesitation! All I know is that to navigate it successfully I need a purpose true to who I am and the right people around me who support me unconditionally, even when I’m not sure where I’m going or what I’m doing.
I’m a strong person and I have big ambitions to change the world for the better, but if I couldn’t be myself, if I were made to feel ashamed of my identity, then any anxiety I already feel over the challenge ahead would be amplified to the point of suffocation.
I’ve always felt ‘different’ but that doesn’t and will not define me. My difference is what lights the fire inside me that has always driven me to achieve the highest level, to help others, and to want to leave an imprint bigger than myself.
What bothers me is when others project their version of ‘difference’ onto me — maybe because I’m a female who’s lost her hair due to alopecia or because of the muscles I’ve always needed to compete at the highest level of sport, maybe because I embrace all sides of my character and share them openly with everyone I meet.
I’ll never know what goes on in other people’s minds, but what I do know is that everyone has the right to feel proud of who they are. Corporate backing, parades, panels, and many other platforms that raise our voices during Pride are essential, but what’s most important is that all year round everyone has the right to be true to themselves and the freedom to change their corner of the world in a way that only they can.
Activist, Speaker & Olympic Rugby Player
Here’s what you need to know this week…
Our most ambitious Europe Summit to date was a smashing success last April in London. Whether you were unable to attend or had the opportunity to participate, we are pleased to present the Europe Summit Post-Summit Report.
The report encapsulates the vibrant atmosphere, engaging discussions, prevailing themes, and valuable insights that unfolded during the summit. Read the report and see how Out Leadership is convening an amazing cohort of business leaders to harness the power of business to drive LGBTQ+ equality.
The Out Leadership Europe Summit 2023 was hosted and sponsored by:
NEXUS is delighted to announce the Q3 NEXUS Breakfast, kindly hosted by PwC, on Thursday, July 13 from 8:00-10:00 AM GMT. The event will take place at PwC, located at 1 Embankment Place, London, WC2N 6RH, and will feature an exciting lineup of speakers including Ken Janssens, Martin Smith, Birgit Neu, and UK Black Pride.
Out Leadership’s partnership with NEXUS is helping drive LGBTQ+ equality by connecting Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders.
NEXUS began as the LGBT Network of Networks, inspired by Vanessa Vallely’s Gender Networks, with the aim to create an informal forum for LGBTQ+ network (ERG) leaders to learn from each other. Since day one, NEXUS co-founders Dan Ricard and Alicia Millar have challenged themselves to bring new and innovative programming to ERG leaders and to connect corporate stakeholders with LGBTQ+ charities.
Last week Out Leadership Director of Member Experience Kenya Simon had the pleasure of joining member firm Reed Smith in London at the fabulous Quantus Gallery for their marquee Pride celebration.
“With the gallery packed, the team from Reed Smith spoke about their dedication to LGBTQ+ inclusion and encouraged folks to use any challenges the community is facing as motivation to double down and continue work towards equity and community in the workplace.”
Reed Smith Pride Celebration at the Quantus Gallery in London 2023
“I also was able to talk about Out Leadership and highlight some of the great work the firm has done with us from hosting events to being one of our largest champions in the legal space. It was truly a fun and inspirational evening of Pride!” said Kenya.
Ruth Jacks, #OutLEADER, recently assumed the role of head of Diverse Segments for Commercial Banking at Wells Fargo in June 2023. Ruth and her team are responsible for overseeing the commercial banking relationships with Black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, Native American, Asian, LGBTQ+, veteran, and women entrepreneurs across the U.S., developing solutions to help them achieve their financial objectives through access to Wells Fargo’s capital, network, and expertise. Her family is her top priority, and she enjoys spending as much time as she can with her wife, son, three grandsons, and three daughters, who she is currently in the process of adopting.
OutNEWS interviewed Ruth about her successful career and how her personal story impacted her professional life. Here’s some of what she shared:
“It’s everything. How you were raised, what you’ve experienced, what you’ve learned – these all determine how you show up as a professional. My modest upbringing and family gave me perspective on what I wanted in life, and that was to not be poor and to really see and treat people for who they were.
My father was deaf. He was a proud and confident guy, but others saw someone with a disability. My mother had four kids, and after my parents divorced, she got involved with a woman – at a time in the late 60s when that wasn’t so accepted. We also volunteered every summer with the Special Olympics. Seeing how these athletes showed up and competed taught me that I have no excuses when it comes to my own success. So, I did everything.
I played in the band, sang in the choir, played sports, and joined all the clubs. I was determined one of these paths would get me a scholarship and a better life. And I did earn two scholarships, but I was also now a mother. I left college early and picked up work wherever I could until I eventually ended up joining the Army, which ultimately allowed me the opportunity to attend college again and was my first real entry into a traditional career.”
To see Ruth’s full interview, click on the blue button below.
If you’d like to celebrate #OutLEADER at your company, you may nominate them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pride in Türkiye 2023
In the shadow of a high-stakes election during which President Tayyip Erdogan propagated homophobic rhetoric to help secure power through 2028, thousands of Turkish activists took to the streets of Istanbul to celebrate Pride. Despite threats of police raids, arrests, and a population emboldened by anti-LGBTQ+ messaging, Pride parades proceeded undeterred. Although journalists were prevented from attending many of the weekend’s events, the parade ended without any reported instances of violence.
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