What Pride means to us

Kevin Henwood, Senior Manager, Valcon UK. Ina Köller, Principal, Valcon Denmark. Stefan Twigt, Manager, Valcon Netherlands.

Kevin Henwood, Senior Manager, Consulting, Valcon UK

What does Pride mean for you?

Fun and protest! Pride is not only a time to celebrate diversity and show the world who you are, but also a time to demonstrate against inequality and prejudice both at home and around the world. 

How do you think the world has changed in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance since Pride month was officially established in the US in 1999?

There have been many advances around the world, particularly in new laws supporting same sex partnerships and marriage. However, there have also been setbacks, with recent laws causing extreme anti-LGBTQ+ violence and deaths in countries like Russia, Uganda, Afghanistan, to name just a few. When I joined the London Pride march in 2003 there were around 80 countries where it was illegal to have same sex relations in some form. Today, over 20 years later, there are still around 65 countries that criminalise LGBTQ+ people. So, there is still a lot to do. 

Have you suffered any LGBTQ+ prejudice in your 20+ year career and how did you deal with it?

Yes, one example from much earlier in my career was with a senior business leader who I worked directly with. We were getting on very well, and he often used my work as an example to the wider senior team. However, during a professional dinner meeting one evening, I came out to him as gay. From the next day onwards, his behaviour towards me flipped to being very negative, bullying and unsupportive. I dealt with it by voting with my feet. After a few months of continuous negative and mentally harmful behaviour, I left that business.  

What would you say to the 18 year old you, on the cusp of leaving home and embarking on your career?

I would say, take risks early, you are capable of far more than you know and don’t put up so many barriers, just be yourself at work!

Ina Köller, Principal, Technolgy, Valcon Denmark 

What does Pride mean for you? 

Pride is about celebrating us all for who we are and about celebrating diversity.  

At the same time, it’s being out and proud and visible, to make sure it stays that way i.e. through political protest and raising awareness. Pride is a place to be and be seen publicly – it’s visual representation and demonstrates acceptance for a new generation of queers and those who may not yet know they are part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s fun and at the same time, politically important. 

How do you think the world has changed in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance since Pride month was officially established in the US in 1999? 

In general, I think LGBTQ+ acceptance has risen and rights have become more equal. But it is sad to see, that rights are getting rolled back in some places, so it’s important to keep fighting for equal rights everywhere and to celebrate recent victories in equality. For example, same-sex marriages are now legal in Thailand.  

What is your favourite way to celebratePrideand will you go to Copenhagen Pride this year? 

In previous years, I have gone to events and also walked the whole Pride parade with my partner – after painting glitter rainbows and flags on everyone who wanted face paint! This year, we have a little baby, so our participation will look a little different. We will probably meet up with other LGBTQ+ families somewhere near the parade to catch the vibe, and watch some of it, but have enough space for the little ones to roam around 😊 

What would you say to the18-year-oldyou, on the cusp of leaving home and embarking on your career? 

It’s okay not to know who you are yet. Act like the person you want to become and you will become her. Be yourself, be authentic and you will find yourself surrounded by good people.  

Stefan Twigt, Manager, Consulting, Valcon Netherlands 

What does Pride mean for you? 

For me, Pride means celebrating the freedom to love who you want to love while being who you want to be. It is also about raising awareness for those LGBTQI+ people who don’t enjoy this– there is still a lot of discrimination against our community in so many countries.  

Have you suffered any LGBTQ+ prejudice in your career and how did you deal with it?

In my career, I have experienced certain microaggressions, such as “Who is the man in your relationship?” or “You do not look gay.” These remarks weren’t meant to be hurtful, but by addressing it directly, I was able to help people understand their comments were wrong. But I never felt these incidents hindered my career.  

Working with clients in the EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) space, I have witnessed prejudice towards LGBTQIA+ individuals. I have also realised how important it is to have senior leadership support for EDI initiatives. Allies are extremely important in helping our cause and should be seen as an integral part of the LGBTQI+ community.

Do you feel you can be your authentic self at Valcon?

I feel that I can be my authentic self. Since joining Valcon I have been open about who I am, which may be down to me being an open book. I realise not everybody might feel the same way and I acknowledge that I am lucky in this regard.  

In the Netherlands, the ED&I team ran a campaign in June to create awareness for Pride during the Impact Week. Authenticity was an important theme, where we raised awareness about being your authentic self and how everyone in the office should contribute to an environment that embraces uniqueness and authenticity.  

What would you say to the 18-year-old you, on the cusp of leaving home and embarking on your career? 

Don’t be afraid to show the world who you are. Embrace your uniqueness, the world needs your authenticity!