Hannah Rashidi

We sat down with Hannah, Chartered Management Degree Apprentice to talk about how we can do more as allies when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ colleagues and friends. Hannah gets candid and tell us that ‘allies recruit allies’ and how we can and should do more to show our support.

Tell us a little about your job and what you do at BT?

I started my career in September 2021 on the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship scheme, where I work full-time at BT whilst completing a BSc in Professional Management and a CMI accreditation.

I’m just over half-way through my first rotation in Wholesale, where I own a billing transformation programme for my team’s product line in Professional Services.

I’ve had the honour of being in the ‘Enterprise Excellence FY21/22 Hall of Fame two months into my role - where the “the very best of the best” employees across the whole of Enterprise, our B2B division are recognised for their work, and a ‘Q2 Apprentice Winner within Enterprise Early Careers (EEC)’ - where I was one of a select few  Enterprise Apprentices/Grads/Placements to be “recognised for their efforts in going above and beyond in their roles” by my manager.

Outside of my day-to-day role, I’m a comms lead for the Gender Equality Network (I write our internal newsletter), events lead for the EEC D&I team (we organise creative and engaging internal learning sessions surrounding topics of Diversity and Inclusion all year-round), and I’m a Mental Health Awareness champion.

How did you find out about the Pride network at BT?

When I first joined BT, I was briefly introduced to the various people networks available. I did some digging into the networks and found that I could relate to many of them through my own first and second-hand experiences, so I joined them. By the way, first-hand refers to “living the experience” and second-hand “directly supporting somebody living the experience.”

However, when it came to the Pride network, I hesitated. I identified myself as an ally, but I felt like an impostor: I didn’t have much experience with the LGBTQ+ community outside of reading stuff online, some of my friends, and saying “I support LGBTQ+ rights”. A couple of months in, after meeting LGBTQ+ colleagues and seeing Pride initiatives on Workplace and through other People Networks, I realised that I felt uncomfortable calling myself an ‘ally’ because I wasn’t actually doing anything to justify that title. I joined the Pride network in order to change that.

What does LGBTQ+ stand for and why is it important to know this?

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and more (for example: Intersex, Non-binary, Bigender, Pansexual, Asexual). These are the labels for the spectrums of identities that are naturally part of being human. By putting in the effort to learn about LGBTQ+ identities, you start the journey of becoming an ally. Everybody should have the safety and the liberty to identify in the way that feels right for them. To make that happen, we need to understand what those identities may be, and then how we can establish their normalcy. 

What does it mean to be an ally?

In general, as an ally, you show that anybody can be their authentic selves around you. Most importantly, you have their back. Being an ally means taking action to support the LGBTQ+ community. It’s more than saying “I support LGBTQ+ rights”. It’s actively campaigning to support LGBTQ+ individuals to attain social equity, instate their human rights, and call out bigoted behaviour.

Examples of this could include sharing LGBTQ+ comms and information all-year round. Lending your skills to support organising a platform for LGBTQ+ voices within the business. Formally highlighting how a system or process may have limitations that affect LGBTQ+ users. Talking to somebody in private about certain language they use.

Furthermore, to me, allies are the bridge between people who live LGBTQ+ experiences first-hand, and those who don’t. How do you get somebody to walk that bridge too? Support them through that learning journey. Allies recruit allies.


As an ally what actions can you take to stop feeling helpless when it comes to supporting your peers who are part of the LGBTQ+ community?

I think that the fear surrounding the learning process is what hinders the growth of an ally. How do I ask questions without sounding malicious?

Like all things, you need to learn about LGBTQ+ to talk about LGBTQ+. No shame in it. I believe that it’s my responsibility to make it clear that I’m asking in good faith, and to look for an appropriate time to do it. I search for and reach out to prominent champions (inside and outside of BT), I ask questions online. I may ask friends if they feel comfortable to discuss and, I read books, articles, and forums with LGBTQ+ themes. 


What advice would you give to those wanting to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community?

It can be hard to find a starting point for your learning journey, but guilt is not a proactive feeling. Want to take that first step at work? Join the Pride Network. Look for some resources on the Workplace page (if you work at BT). Participate in events when you can. Outside of work? Read people’s experiences online – Stonewall is a great resource for all allies. See what your local community has to offer.

Another step? Join your departmental or divisional Diversity & Inclusion group and put your hand into organising a Pride event.

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