Talking Pride with the Virgin Atlantic LGBT+ community

By: Dave Gunner

August 1, 2018

“At Virgin Atlantic, when people ask about my weekend, I talk about what I’ve been doing with my boyfriend rather than saying ‘my partner’. That’s really important to me. I’d be less happy if I couldn’t be fully myself. I’d undoubtedly be worse at my job too, given authenticity and the ability to build genuine relationships is important for all our roles.”

Those powerful words were written by Anthony Woodman, our Head of Alliances, and perfectly sum up why being a discrimination-free workplace is incredibly important to us.

At Virgin Atlantic, being thoughtful, caring and open-minded is at the heart of everything we do. Travel is about broadening your horizons and exploring the planet. It’s about having a world view, a healthy curiosity and appreciation for the joyous kaleidoscope that is the human race. This is embodied in our company purpose: ‘To embrace the human spirit, and let it fly’. We cherish all of our customers and people and want them to feel respected and appreciated in return.

Pride in the skies

Mario enjoying Pride in London

“Having worked for other corporations in the past, I can safely state that Virgin Atlantic is a better than average place to work for the LGBT+ community. I wouldn’t have stayed around for eight years and counting if that wasn’t the case,” said Mario Forgione, a member of our cabin crew. “At Virgin Atlantic I am encouraged to be myself, to allow my personality to shine through. Being a homosexual man is part of my individuality and something I embrace.

“The care I give out there when I am at work is a direct result of the struggle I’ve endured while growing up in a small village in southern Italy, listening to whispers directed at me in school. I care because I know what it means to be an outcast in your own skin. Surviving that hardship provides me now with the empathy and emotional intelligence to be exceptional at what I do in my role as cabin crew.”

Walking the Walk

For a few weeks every summer the world celebrates the LGBT+ community and culture by painting cities around the world in the rainbow colours of the Pride movement. A couple of weeks ago we marched in London with our airline partner Delta Air Lines. This weekend Pride comes to Brighton. As we get ready to rock our favourite seaside city we spoke to a few of the people who are leading the way in making Virgin Atlantic a place where LGBT+ people feel safe and accepted.

Front row centre , Nick and Kiel at Pride in London

Kiel Lillie, who works as part of our Customer Centre operational development team has recently set up our internal LGBT+ network with his colleague Nick Johnson. Called G-VPRD, its mission (and hats off to whoever came up with the first line of this) states:

‘Let’s get one thing straight. We’re fabulous, and we know you are too. So let yourself fly with our LGBT+ network. We’re here with help when you need it, information when you want it, and tons of brilliant events to make being part of the Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays family as downright awesome as you are.’

We caught up with Kiel after Pride in London.

“On the whole, we’re a really open company. Very inclusive. People feel they are accepted for who they are, and it’s a comfortable place where you can bring your whole self to work. I’m not sure that can be said for a lot of companies,” said Kiel. “But there is more to do. One of the goals of the network is to measure ourselves on the Stonewall Equality Index. No other travel company has made the top 100, so that’s an aspiration.”

Mark Anderson is our Executive Vice President of Customer. He is the executive sponsor of G-VPRD, recently made the 2018 Pride Power list, is a judge for the British LGBT+ Awards and was featured in the 2017 OUTStanding Leading LGBT+ Executives list.

Mark (centre) at Pride Brighton 2017

“I’m really proud and excited to see the launch of G-VPRD and pleased to be our group’s sponsor. When I think about all of the LGBT+ UK and international initiatives we’ve supported in recent years, it’s vital that we make sure everyone in our team can truly be themselves – that we don’t just talk about this, or believe we have an open and supportive culture, but that we can actively demonstrate and prove it,” said Mark. “I’m honoured to be part of an organisation that truly wants to do business for good, and that invests time, resource and energy into making this happen – allowing all of us to play whatever part we want to in helping to make a difference. We’re certainly not there yet but the Be Yourself work that we are doing, along with our new G-VPRD network, gives me huge confidence that we will be soon”.

See you in Brighton?

The global Pride marches are a celebration, a party and a great day out. More importantly, they’re a movement born of a struggle for recognition and inclusion. It’s a serious message wrapped up in the most glorious, colourful, joyous celebration of what makes us good human beings. As Linda Riley, founder of Pride Power List put it, “Our fight has evolved to include fair-minded businesses, politicians and private citizens who want to support what is undoubtedly right.” It’s a no-brainer that we’ll be there at Brighton this weekend. Be good to see you there too.

Our official policy

We’re committed to promoting equality of opportunity for all of our people – including current employees and those who apply to come and work for us. We aim to create a working environment in which you’re all able to make the best use of your skills, free from discrimination or harassment, and in which all decisions are based on merit. We won’t discriminate against anybody on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. This policy applies to all aspects of our relationship with you and to your relations with colleagues at all levels. This includes job advertisements, recruitment and selection, training and development, opportunities for promotion, conditions of service, pay and benefits, conduct at work, disciplinary and grievance procedures and ending employment. The principles of non-discrimination and equality of opportunity also apply to the way in which all our people treat those outside the business, including visitors, customers, suppliers and former employees. We all have a duty to treat our colleagues with dignity at all times, and not to discriminate against or harass colleagues, regardless of their status.

Dave Gunner

Dave Gunner

I love telling the story of our people, our planes, our places and our planet through Ruby Blog.

Categories: Our People