John Lewis : Pride in the Partnership

John Lewis : Pride in the Partnership

Abby Chicken is Chair of ‘Pips’, the LGBT network at the John Lewis Partnership. She’s also a Department Manager. She lets us know more about their awesome network.

When we set up Pips (Pride In Partnership) in 2012, I don’t think any of us believed that there was a ‘need’ for a diversity network. With visible gay role models at all levels of the business, most of us were happy that John Lewis Partnership (JLP) was already really inclusive and for the most part we thought a network would be a fun and social thing to start.

However, as is true for most retailers, London is its own bubble and the isolated nature of any outlet business meant that we quickly got emails coming in from Partners (this is what all our staff are called) in remote branches who, while not suffering abuse or harassment, were reassured to find that there were other people out there who they could talk to. We had emails from Partners who didn’t want to come out because they worked in a small village and their mum works in the same branch. We had emails from Partners unsure whether to be out, how to be out and relieved at the acceptance that a network brings: if the business endorsed Pips, then it must be ok. And inevitably, we get the odd email from Partners whose experience hasn’t been so positive where we are able to intervene, speak to line managers and help ensure that things are resolved in as positive a way as possible.

Photo : Abby on the front cover of the John Lewis Partnership internal magazine, Gazette. A great and powerful example of visibly engaging with all employees.

To help with this, we wanted to focus on our supply chain – notorious across industries for being a close but occasionally macho culture and seen as less than safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Waitrose Director of Supply Chain, David Jones, came on board with Pips as a Senior Sponsor and following a programme of reverse mentoring, became passionate about changing the culture and the perception to be as inclusive and as friendly as he knew his team could be. Our transgender rep, Debbie, is a driver for John Lewis and has a truly inspiring story about her experience of transitioning within the business.

Photo : ‘Freedom To’ celebrate 150 years. Showing their pride at Pride in London in 2014.

Meanwhile, we’re addressing other issues to ensure we are as inclusive as we can be for all Partners. Someone pointed out that we seem to have high levels of LGBT role models at senior levels, but in reality these are all G role models, with L, B and T more or less invisible.

Being a female network chair does challenge this. At the beginning of 2014 I appeared on the cover of our relaunched staff magazine, ‘Gazette’, and this easily had the greatest impact on our female membership. Our events do tend to be boy heavy, but the girls can count on there always being at least one other female there and we’ve had some successful all-female events which are better attended.

Photo : The network members are smiling with pride at Pride in London.

To date, we have recruited over 600 members to the network. Over the past two years, Pride in the Partnership (PiPs) has marched at Pride in London, has had rainbow flags on the roof of its flagship store, has influenced policy decisions and has paved the way for networks in other diversity areas.

The truest measure of success is always how many people follow you, so this year we are excited to support the launch of three other diversity networks on gender, faiths and beliefs and ethnicity within the Partnership.

There are exciting times ahead as we push still further to improve, enabling everyone to have the best experience of working here, whoever they are.

“Being a female network chair does challenge this. At the beginning of 2014 I appeared on the cover of our relaunched staff magazine, ‘Gazette’, and this easily had the greatest impact on our female membership.”

It was announced on 12th February that the Pips network was one of forty networks to me honoured with our Inclusive Networks Awesome Network recognition.

On hearing the news, Abby said:

“The John Lewis Partnership is widely recognised as a great place to work, so I am over the moon to have Pips recognised as an Awesome Network. We have been keen to champion diversity and inspire others to follow us, so 2015 will see the launch of new networks within other diversity streams – hopefully next year they will be Awesome too!”

Connect with Abby on Twitter :


Find out more about career opportunities at the John Lewis Partnership :

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 was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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