Belong & Invent Pride Workshop

Pride Workshop

The CGT Circle x The Honeycomb Works, Hosted at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst

SCi Partners consultant Bethany Latham was in attendance at last weeks Belong & Invent pride workshop organised by The CGT Circle, led by The Honeycomb Works & sponsored by MFX to discuss and promote how business can create cultures of inclusivity and innovation. Here are Bethany’s thoughts on the event:

It was a pleasure and a privilege to attend the Cell and Gene Therapy Circle’s first event in honour of Pride month on Wednesday, hosted in collaboration with The Honeycomb Works. The focus of the session was Belonging and Inventing, and how a scientific approach to creating strong cultures is instrumental in the biotech space. As Melissa Sabella, the CEO of The Honeycomb Works, pointed out, there is a strong irony that this element organisational health is not approached in a scientific manner with practices based in research and logic, even in biotechnology companies.

The idea of ‘creating culture’ may seem daunting. Indeed, culture is often formed, at least in the first place, without any intentional effort at all. Especially in life science organisations, that may begin with two co-founders who have worked closely in labs and share a passion to further their research, there is often a culture built on strong core values. However, difficulties may begin to arise as new team members join who have taken alternative paths to join the organisation. The team at Honeycomb discussed how it is never too early to ensure you are creating a positive environment for your employees, as you will have a variety of needs present in an organisation of even three employees.

During the panel, Pedro Correa de Sampaio from Neobe managed to succinctly express this by suggesting that a heterogeneity of experiences will create a heterogeneity of needs and therefore a variety of experiences and outlooks are fundamental for creating a well-rounded organisation, this is by no means a new idea. However, just because this is ideal does not mean it is easier. In fact, as Pedro expressed, it will surely require more work to create a harmonious organisation when so many varying opinions are involved. A commitment to organisational strength is also understanding that culture is not a one-time fix, but rather a long term component of leadership and support.

It remains true across the board, that any work surrounding identity or community cannot be done half-heartedly. There can be temptation, especially by larger corporations, to ‘rainbow-wash’ in pride month: ‘we’ve changed our LinkedIn logo to a rainbow variation and offered a cursory post on our timeline, so we can tick that off the list.’  

While this may seem to offer an outward message of support, these acts of lip service without any meaningful support offered are actually counterproductive to making LGBTQ+ employees feel recognised by the organisation, as the act is very transparently transactional and enacted with little thought or effort involved. Instead, companies wishing to actually engage with the LGBTQ+ community, internally or externally to their company, need to make commitments to marginalised communities that remain core tenants of company culture long after the month of June ends.

As part of the workshop, there was a group discussion around impact and effort, and the relationship between the two when it comes to actions for creating both a safe and innovative organisation. The afore-mentioned rainbow-washing would be considered both low effort and low impact, and of little merit for the organisation to carry out.

James Kusena from MFX mentioned their internal choice to carry out a 360 feedback week every 6 to 8 weeks, in which every member of the organisation both provides and receives feedback. While this is a high effort endeavour, increasingly so as the organisation continues to grow, the impact could be immense. By cultivating an environment in which everyone is receptive to constructive suggestions, as well as feel safe to contribute their thoughts even if they go against the grain, MFX can be confident that their employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, and by showing up in this way feel empowered to perform at their best.

Showing up for your colleagues is not a responsibility simply held by leadership; support and meaningful change comes from actions of every member of the team. Melissa brought up an interesting statistic that it only takes 25% of a group to cause a shift in attitude. That is to say if in a group of 4, one individual chastised another for bigoted language, the views of the entire group could be impacted.

This speaks to the importance of allyship in organisations. Furthermore, this allyship is most important in situations where providing it may come at a personal cost. Widely accepted actions, such as the aforementioned rainbow-washing, are very low effort and highly unlikely to result in any conflict. On the other hand, calling out a senior member of your team for using bigoted language in a group setting may be highly intimidating and take a lot of effort and courage, but could have an immense amount of impact upon the team member who has, until this point, not felt comfortable making their sexual identity public knowledge with anyone at work.

Overall, the event was an excellent forum to share and discuss our thoughts on creating safe spaces for every member of the organisations we are a part of, and how these responsibilities exist every day of the year, not just in pride month. If a bullet-style list is helpful for reminding you of the strong qualities an ally possesses, this helpful graphic is a wonderful place to start.

Pride Workshop

Please reach out to Bethany directly if you would like to discuss further.

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