• Michelle Pallas, Associate Director |

Networks have proved hugely important for LGBTQ+ people during the pandemic. When you are LGBTQ+ you rely heavily on your friends, allies and colleagues who respect you for who you are. With physical contact limited or non-existent during lockdown, some of our community has had to go back into the closet or return to unsafe living spaces. Which is why we have made an extra effort to keep our networks running virtually, providing support, to show people they are not alone and that they are ok and safe.

As someone who came out relatively late in life at the age of 35, I’ve tried to make up for lost time by exploring the richness of queer culture and driving KPMG’s Pride Network in Canberra and across Australia. I’m a co-convener, leading projects, connecting with partners in the firm, making sure our LGBTQ+ people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. I’ve worked with some incredible people to raise awareness and offer mentorship and coaching, while our Pride@KPMG Steering Committee contributes significantly to our inclusion and diversity goals.

A lot of it is about being visible, wearing pride pins and rainbow lanyards, and attending network events, demonstrating that if you are LGBTQ+ you’ll be safe and can navigate the firm and have a fruitful career.

One amazing recent Pride@KPMG initiative involved a number of LGBTQ+ colleagues anonymously writing a ‘letter to your younger self’, each of which was read out on video by a leader in KPMG. Apart from being incredibly moving, reducing many of us to tears, this required a lot of trust and vulnerability from the partners involved. One partner said the letter had “reached my heart, not just my head” and helped many to better appreciate their role as an active ally to challenge discrimination of any sort.

For me, this is the essence of allyship: to speak up and remove barriers. To be accessible. And to start with a mindset of “I believe you” in conversations about microaggressions. The best allies lend their voice to everything we do. They give the most precious commodity of all: time. They turn up at events, listen and speak up with openness and generosity. They are prepared to change policies and systems to make them inclusive for all of our people. From a personal perspective, without the partner and director I have had, I would not be where I am today. They gave me freedom to be my authentic self, empowered and trusted me, valued and sponsored and, ultimately, elevated me. It’s this combination of networks and allyship that is shaping an exciting future for KPMG where everyone feels respected and valued, and ultimately feels like they belong.

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