Meet our People Partner, Chris Brayboy

To round off Pride Month, we took 5 minutes with Chris Brayboy, a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and valued member of our Impact and Inclusion council, to discuss the importance of Pride Month, what it means to be an ally, and his motivations for joining the I&I council.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is important to me because it allows the opportunity to celebrate my progress and journey as a Black man in the LGBTQIA+ community. Like others, the journey has not always been easy, but thanks to those that have made significant strides for us, we now can be open and brave about who we are outside of our community. We have come such a long way, and although we still have a distance to go, the road ahead is bright, beautiful and promising.

Stats show that people are up to 30% more productive when empowered to be their true selves at work. From your own experience, how much does that sentiment resonate and what do you think is the key to companies building an inclusive workplace for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Empowering people to be themselves at work is a huge win when it comes to culture and productivity. Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I have not always felt comfortable being myself because I was worried I would not be accepted or taken seriously. I was taught that I should wear business suits, a nicely pressed button up shirt, and act a certain way to be respected in the workplace. Fast forward to today and that mindset does not apply to most companies. I show up each day in clothes that I’m comfortable in, I speak freely with my team members, and laugh without holding back as I share a joke with a co-worker. I get to focus more on my work and the impact I make rather than others perception of me. This is the environment people want to work in.

Seeing senior leaders dressed casually, engaging with employees at different levels, being genuine, and speaking authentically is a great start to an inclusive workplace. You always hear “it starts from the top down”, and this true in this case. It humanises our leaders and creates a company that people can relate to. A company can have all the DEI initiatives in the world, but if the leaders are not alligning with it, it means nothing.

5MW Chris 2

In your role as People Partner, you work with many different people every single day. How important do you think allyship in the workplace is and what small changes do you think people can make, which would have a big difference to inclusion and belonging at work?

Being an Ally shows your support of the LGBTQIA+ community and wanting equality for all. As our world becomes more diverse and aware of the beautiful cultures and communities in it, it’s important to have people in your corner to support positive change. Change starts by asking questions to understand more. It may be uncomfortable at first, but I believe if your heart is in the right place, I encourage everyone to continue pursuing. When we understand more, we are able to make our own educated decisions and not accept the opinions made by family, friends, or society as our own.

Allies play a huge part when it comes to speaking up for members of all communities. Sometimes members of our community have trouble being a heard amongst certain crowds or speaking up if discriminatory behavior occurs. I am extremely grateful for the allies in my life. They accept me as I am and always want the best for me. They encourage me, advocate for me, and support me in more ways than they know. For me, they are more than my allies. They are my friends.

As part of the Inclusion & Impact Council in North America, what motivated you to join the council and can you tell us about your experience being a part of it?

Growing up in rural parts of South Carolina, I was not exposed to a lot of diversity. It was not until I came to Charlotte, NC that I began to experience different ethnicities and cultures. I got to see how similar we all are, even though I thought we were vastly different. Yes our cultures, skin color, and accents were different, but there was so much more that we had in common. It was absolutely beautiful to see, and I was excited to tell my friends and family about the community I was making here.

My experience with the I&I council has allowed me the opportunity to not only learn more about other cultures, but to share that information with our team members in a memorable way. My hope is that they will take the resources we provide, and share it with their families and friends to make an even bigger impact. I joined the I&I council to help bring awareness to other cultures, and help shift perspectives. It all starts with one person. One voice can make a big change.

How will you be celebrating Pride this year?

I started my celebration with a fun-filled day, joined by people in my community. We had water balloon fights, tug of war, limbo, 4-legged race, volleyball, and so much more! I then had a fun pool day with my friends, and went to a few local bars. Lastly, I’ll be having a cookout with friends (LGBTQIA+ and Allies). There’s going to be music, dancing, and it should be a good time. It’s all love.

I believe at our core, we all desire the freedom to express ourselves, and love who we choose, how we choose. If we can see the similarities that we have, they will outweigh the differences. Regardless of what we don’t understand about another culture or community, we can choose to embrace the differences and celebrate it in love. If everyone in the world was the same, it would be so boring. So why not spice it up, add a little color, and live life together in joy.