10 years of Aviva Pride – Top 10 moments

10 years of Aviva Pride – Top 10 moments

This year Aviva Pride, insurance company Aviva’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff network group, celebrates its 10th birthday. This makes the network one of the longest running corporate LGBT staff network groups in the UK. To celebrate, Inclusive Networks asked ten Aviva Pride members what their best moment of Aviva Pride has been…so far.

Peter Markey

Brand Communications & Marketing Director and Non-executive Sponsor, Aviva Pride*

In 2016, Aviva proudly joined forces with Stonewall’s TeamPride coalition as one of the founding members, firmly believing that everyone can participate and enjoy sport, whoever they are and whatever their background.

Through our sponsorship of Aviva Premiership Rugby and Norwich City Football Club, we used in-stadium branding and pages in the match day programmes of each club to promote awareness of the campaign, and ensured that the clubs back the campaign through their own social media and online channels.

Aviva volunteers spread the Rainbow Laces message at both Bristol Rugby and Norwich City by supplying fans with over 7,500 pairs of laces to allow them to show their support, and influential ambassadors such as Stephen Fry endorsed the work which was undertaken.

A tailored media partnership with the Metro newspaper saw Aviva create a unique rainbow theme and co-branded messaging across the sports pages over the campaign weekend.

Over 8,000 pairs of Rainbow laces were distributed to Aviva employees across the UK, led from the top with the Aviva Group Executive Committee proudly lacing up to show their support.

Followed by endorsement from both the Premier League, Football League and Rugby Premiership, the #RainbowLaces campaign went viral across social media channels worldwide, spreading the belief that sport is everyone’s game.

*Peter left Aviva in May 2017

Angela Darlington

Group Chief Risk Officer and Executive Sponsor, Aviva Pride

My most memorable Aviva Pride moment was the first time I spoke at an Aviva Pride event. It wasn’t long after I had decided to be more out at work – a decision which was prompted by a challenge from one of the Aviva Pride members who made the very valid point that as I was a senior leader who didn’t openly talk about being gay, I was (unintentionally) sending out the clear signal that it wasn’t OK to be out at Aviva.

We had a fantastic joint event with other employers from the York area. It was memorable for me not only because it was the first time I had spoken in public about my coming out journey, but also because it was the first time I had spoken in public with my wife in the audience. That was the start of a joyous personal journey which has ultimately culminated in my being placed on the FT LGBT Role Model list for the last four years. I wouldn’t be there without the challenge and support from all of the marvellous members of Aviva Pride.

“I was a senior leader who didn’t openly talk about being gay, I was (unintentionally) sending out the clear signal that it wasn’t OK to be out at Aviva.”

Ben Scotter

Trading Underwriter and Deputy Chair, Aviva Pride

Being appointed the local lead for Norwich in 2015 was an exciting time in my career at Aviva, however it came with some interesting challenges – mainly the reputation Norfolk had as a late comer to a more diverse community (or so I thought).

I came from a background where I was regularly an observer of bigoted and xenophobic language/behaviour. However, I was wrong – the attitude towards change in Norfolk is quiet, but fully supported by most in our community. Aviva is the biggest private sector employer in Norwich (4000+ employees), and has wide reaching influence in the community.

I’m proud of Aviva Pride because of the evident impact we’ve had in our community, best seen at events in 2016. We hosted local companies for an LGBT History Month event which saw over 70 people attend. We had fifty employees volunteer to march in the Norwich Pride parade (both LGBT and allies), we played a significant part in influencing Norwich City Football Club to fly a rainbow flag on match day/pride day and we’ve co-founded a local employers network for LGBT+ support.

As a large company, we do a great job of accepting our responsibility in leading the way for cultures and communities.

Jan Gooding

Global Inclusion Director, Aviva plc

When I was Chair of Aviva Pride, I was asked to join a panel discussion to help launch LINK – the LGBT insurance network. I found myself sitting alongside experienced practitioners in this space like Ben Summerskill, then CEO of Stonewall and Liz Bingham, a senior partner at EY. No-one knew how many people would come, or whether there would be sufficient engagement to create momentum to establish this new cross industry organisation.

It was packed. And for the first time I heard the eloquent arguments made, based on evidence, articulating the vital role organisations and individuals could play in making the workplace somewhere everyone could be themselves.

We talked about the risk people felt they were taking in ‘coming out’, uncertain of the reception they might have. The main theme was the importance of people (and companies) making their visible support in advance by supporting networks, reviewing their policies and recruitment processes, training managers and communicating mutual respect and tolerance inside and outside the organisation. Ben Summerskill was clear that if the people inside the organisation were diverse, it would naturally flow into the way they did business with their customers.

I remember saying that as a marketer I was naturally competitive with everyone in the room when it came to winning customers. But when it came to LGBT inclusion I was up for someone doing better than Aviva. We are all proud that Aviva has been the only insurance firm in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index top 100 employers list for the last ten years. But I am equally proud of the leadership and generosity of spirit Aviva Pride in sharing best practice and helping our direct competitors do better too. #goodthinking

“I remember saying that as a marketer I was naturally competitive with everyone in the room when it came to winning customers. But when it came to LGBT inclusion I was up for someone doing better than Aviva.”

Laurence Beckett

People Business Partner and Chief Ally, Aviva Pride

I am incredibly proud of the launch of our “Be Out as an Ally” campaign in May 2016. We asked people to do ‘one small thing’ to show their support for their LGBT colleagues to be out at work (e.g. wear a distinctive new lanyard or accessorise their laptop, iPad, or phone with stickers). We launched the campaign across Norwich, London, Bristol, Sheffield and York as well as a virtual launch with our other locations.

The results were phenomenal. We had ordered 5000 lanyards and it quickly became apparent that this wouldn’t be enough. The vast majority of people were very happy to be out as allies and explicitly show their support for our LGBT colleagues. As well as giving out 5000 lanyards and numerous stickers, we also increased the number of people signed up to the Pride mailing list by 50% and had a number of people offer to support the local and national Aviva Pride committees (essentially giving up their time to help us further the cause). It is incredibly rewarding to go to different sites and see how many people are now wearing the lanyards and encouraging everyone to spend energy being themselves, not hiding it.

Suzy Robinson

Business Analyst and co-lead for Bristol, Aviva Pride

I’d never worked at a company with an official LGBT Group before Aviva. Back in April 2015, Lauren Peel posted a great article on our intranet about coming out which inspired me to get involved, and the rest is history!

We launched Aviva Pride in Bristol in 2015, following a company merger, and we have gone from strength to strength. Stand out events include our launch with the Chair of Aviva Pride and one of our Managing Directors, a fascinating talk on ‘The Recent History of Intersex’ for LGBT History month, and spearheading the allies launch in Eastleigh, Dorking and Bristol.

We’ve represented Aviva Pride all around the country, from Bisexuality in the Workplace talks up in York, down to the Stonewall Equality Walk in Brighton, and back via Student Pride in London.

Closer to home we’ve been flying the flag at Bristol Pride (parade and gala), handing out rainbow laces at the Bristol v Leicester Tigers Rainbow Laces event, attending the Orlando vigil, the 401 Challenge and Trans Pride South West.

Personal highlights have been quieter moments – individuals emailing to let us know that we’re making a difference, colleagues coming out and growing in confidence as a result, developing connections with internal and external groups that are leading to a real community of support.

“Personal highlights have been quieter moments – individuals emailing to let us know that we’re making a difference, colleagues coming out and growing in confidence as a result, developing connections with internal and external groups that are leading to a real community of support.”

Stephen Creighton

Customer Experience Manager and Lead Aviva Pride Ireland

In 2016 we were so proud that Aviva Ireland took part in Dublin Pride Festival for the very first time. It was completely an employee led initiative that was open to colleagues, family and friends. This was also a great way to introduce and launch the Aviva Pride Network to Ireland.

Over 70 employees, friends and family joined our Aviva Pride branded bus to take part in the annual parade which was attended by over 100,000 people. It was a fun filled colourful day and an amazing way to celebrate to contribution of the LGBT+ community to our business. The engagement with employees, family and friends was amazing (a mix of LGBT+ and allies) – it really showed the importance of being free to be yourself.

Each of us in the network in Ireland have been working for Aviva for 10+ years, and this was without a doubt our proudest moment here.

To top it off we were delighted to receive and Aviva Ireland award for the promotion of Diversity & Inclusion within the workplace.

Marnie Sparkes

Propositions Manager and ally, Aviva Pride

I have always been an ally by way of active support for my LGBT+ friends and family. So when I joined Aviva I was so inspired to hear about the Pride network, and the impact it has to our colleagues and customers.

My favourite times with Aviva Pride have been the events we’ve hosted and attended, and my top Aviva Pride moment was sponsoring and attending Student Pride in 2016. The event is held annually for LGBT+ students across the UK, and we focus on promoting our Global Graduate Scheme and opportunities to join Aviva. Our business sector is often seen as ‘male, pale and stale’, so to have a colourful careers event for the LGBT community was something I was particularly proud to be a part of.

Plus, I got to meet some more allies, the fabulous ‘Warwick Rowers’… wow!

“I remember the first meetings being held at external venues so that people didn’t have to worry about being seen to be attending, and thereby “outing” themselves. That’s a million miles away from where we are now, and so much has been achieved over the last decade.”

Lauren Peel

Digital Propositions Manager and Chair, Aviva Pride

My proudest moment as part of Aviva Pride is quite a personal one. When I joined Aviva, I didn’t come out for three months because I wasn’t sure how people would react. These worries were all of my own making, and when I did come out my team were just shocked I hadn’t told them sooner. After joining Aviva Pride, I attended events across the UK, meeting new people who shared similar values and growing my personal network (a huge benefit to being involved with an employee network) as well as developing my own skills.

After attending the Stonewall Equality Dinner, one of the grandest events I have ever been too, I was speaking to my parents and my mum, who had previously been nervous of the impacts of me being out, said to me “all of these amazing events and opportunities you get, it would be worth pretending to be gay even if you weren’t!”. I have never felt more proud of our network and what we create for our members – not only do we show that everyone should spend energy being themselves, rather than hiding it, we also create a better experience for our members and straight allies than if they weren’t involved!

Simon Rodgers

Head of Diversity and Inclusion and former Chair of Aviva Pride

I’m one of the few people still involved in Aviva Pride since we launched. I remember the first meetings being held at external venues so that people didn’t have to worry about being seen to be attending, and thereby “outing” themselves. That’s a million miles away from where we are now, and so much has been achieved over the last decade. I feel incredibly privileged to have been part of the journey, having started off as a member, then going on to be a network lead, the deputy chair, and then the chair; I’ve seen first-hand the profound impact Aviva Pride has had across Aviva, across our industry, and across the communities in which we operate.

Over the years we have raised tens of thousands of pounds for the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), a charity supporting young people who are made homeless because they are LGBT. The idea of being thrown out by my parents because I’m gay is just unimaginable to me, but a reality for the young people AKT support. Through our fundraising we were able to help them open and maintain the first safe house specifically for LGBT young people, which gave them accommodation and the support they needed to get them back on their feet. It is amazing to see first-hand the generosity of our colleagues at Aviva and the impact it has made on young people during their most desperate times.

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Nobody is more influential when it comes to communicating your company’s brand and workplace culture, than the employees themselves. If you’d like to share your workplace, employee and community engagement and network group news and updates with our readers, then we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us here!

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He is a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards.

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