The role of the co-disrupter LGBT+ ally

In Pride season Chris Ireland, JLL UK CEO, talks about his journey to understand more about the Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans (LGBT+) community and the importance of being an active ally.

Almost forty years in the property sector and I’m still learning

Earlier this month, I attended my first Pride event hosted by Savills. It’s fair to say that when I look back on 2019 I’ve come a long way to better understand the LGBT+ community and what can be done to support LGBT+ individuals to aid a more inclusive society. The LGBT+ conference we hosted with BNP PRE, further highlighted the gaps between where we’d like to get to in order to be truly LGBT+ inclusive employers and where we currently are.

I’ve always considered myself to be an LGBT+ ally but when reflecting on what I’d done previously, my support was reactive at best – I never hesitated to show my encouragement when prompted, but I was rarely asked. That’s not good enough. It’s vital that JLL is a ‘place where everyone can be themselves’ and I must encourage this, I need to be supporting everyone day in and day out.

Upping the ally ante

When attending the LGBT+ conference I heard the views of Chloe Davies from UK Black Pride and it really struck a chord. She called on us allies ‘to think like co-disrupters’.  I interpreted this as an ask to be more active in supporting the LBGT+ community, working together to strive for greater LGBT+ inclusion and the irradiation of all inequality; to visibly and vocally challenge all unacceptable treatment of LGBT+ people and where necessary help shake things up for the better.

A disruptive mindset is something we’ve been using in property for years to describe those trailblazing new solutions. Typically, the traditionists stand around the edge, looking on in amazement wishing they could be more disruptive. Thanks to Chloe I understand what it is I need to do to be a better LGBT+ ally and as a result I’m calling on other leaders at JLL to be more disruptive by relaunching our allies programme.

Top tips for LGBT+ allies

Here’s some practical advice from Stonewall:

  1. Educate and empower yourself

Read up on the issues. Look to see who you can learn from Pinsent Masons and Aviva are shining examples of driving LGBT+ inclusion, being listed in the Stonewall Top 100 employer index regularly in the last decade

  1. Listen to understand

Challenge yourself to listen to different points of view and more engaging conversations will result

  1. Be visible and challenge

Wear the badge, walk the talk and call out non-inclusive behaviour

  1. Influence others

Use whatever platforms you have available to you to amplify your support or to help to put a spotlight on any issues

  1. Being an ally goes beyond just LGBT+

There are other people that are subject to inequality and being a LGBT+ ally is a great place to start

Stepping up our commitment as a business

Under the wider remit of Diversity & Inclusion, LGBT+ became a JLL UK boardroom agenda item in 2018 and in 2019 we’ve all ramped things up. It was the right thing to do and what our colleagues and clients wanted to see.

Our business strategy is now thoroughly aligned to our Diversity & Inclusivity plan. JLL UK leaders, including myself, have undertaken training to challenge our thinking and we’ve evaluated ourselves internally and benchmarked JLL UK against the industry and broader business community.

Always more to understand

I acknowledge becoming an LGBT+ ally has been a stretch at times, particularly the breadth of issues, but I’ve always had a warm welcome and those I’ve engaged with have been refreshingly honest. I’ve still got a long way to go but I’m motivated by the encouragement from colleagues who are grateful I’m more present and I’m proud of what we’ve collectively achieved.

Ultimately the premise of listening to and learning from someone else’s experiences, showing support for them and putting yourself in their shoes, goes to the heart of good leadership and something we all need to invest in.

About the Author

Chris has over 30 years’ experience in the UK investment market and specialise both in up and let investment product including portfolios as well as development funding projects. Chris has worked with a wide range of institutional property company and international clients including GIC, M&G, Hermes, Schroders and Legal and General. Chris has also been at the forefront of the development of the Alternative Investment areas within JLL (Student Housing, Health, Senior Living and Platform deals). Within the JLL Capital Markets offer the investment teams now work hand in glove with the sophisticated Debt Advisory business and the Corporate Finance and M&A side. Chris was Chairman of the Investment Property Forum from June 2015 - June 2016 and then sat on their Strategic Advisory Group. Chris joined King and Co as a graduate in 1979 and has worked his whole career dealing with various aspects of the UK Investment Property Market. He ran the Investment teams at King Sturge and became Joint Managing Partner and subsequently Joint Senior Partner prior to the merger with JLL in 2011.

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