Alexander Cheng, an Associate in our Sydney office and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, tells us what Pride Month means to him, his favorite elements of the Pride community and the important role listening plays in becoming an ally.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride to me is about accepting, affirming and celebrating all the parts of us that make us who we are. It is recognition of the journey that I have made in accepting and celebrating the many facets of my identity, as well as the journey that our communities and society more broadly have made in valuing and celebrating what makes each of us unique. It is also a recognition of the ongoing journey that we still need to go on, and particularly the importance of embedding intersectionality in our advocacy so that we can create equitable environments where all marginalized folks can feel proud of who they are.
What is intersectionality, and why is it important?
Intersectionality acknowledges that all oppression is linked, and that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and marginalization. As the queer son of Cambodian refugees, and the first in my family to attend university, my experiences are likely to be entirely different from, say, someone else from the Pride community who is from an established family in Australia or is not a person of color.
It is important to recognize that we all have unique experiences related to discrimination and must consider all factors that can marginalize people (e.g., gender, race, class, sexual orientation, ability), which at times can overlap, so that our interventions do not end up perpetuating existing power structures or inequities.
How has your identity played a role at L.E.K.?
As a person at the intersection of multiple identities, I am passionate about bringing the lived experience I have to help shape L.E.K. to be a more equitable and inclusive environment. I co-founded Pride and Mosaic (an affinity group for racial and ethnic minorities at L.E.K.) here in the Australian offices, and in less than a year, we have run a range of programming like panel events, potlucks and book clubs which have explored both queer and cultural identity at L.E.K., as well as becoming involved in recruitment and awareness sessions.
What I am looking forward to this year is playing a part in making Pride programming more global, as well as helping L.E.K. Australia formalize our commitment to reconciliation with First Nations Australians as we kick off our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) development journey.
How has your identity played a role in your life more broadly?
In my life more broadly, my identity fuels a passion to help create a more equitable and inclusive world. Outside of L.E.K., I volunteer with Out For Australia (an organization that provides role models, mentors, events and support to aspiring LGBTIQA+ professionals), and previously led their national mentoring program.
Witnessing major global events which have spotlighted the historical and ongoing impacts of structural racism has helped me to reflect on my own experiences and drove me to start my own not-for-profit in the space, Careers in Colour, which aims to support and empower people of color in their career, particularly those at the intersection of multiple identities. Since launching late last year, we have run events focusing on the experiences of women of color in consulting and the state of cultural diversity in Australian workplaces, with more to come soon.
What are some of your favorite things about the Pride community?
My favorite thing about the Pride community is that we are a very engaged community. While we’re very knowledgeable about current and historical issues that have affected the LGBTQ+ community, I’m also proud of the inclusive space that we’ve created to empower queer folks to succeed in their career at L.E.K., create community and celebrate our identities in the workplace.
For people who do not identify as LGBTQ+, what does it take to become better allies, especially as it pertains to the workplace?
The first step is listening to our stories with openness and humility. Conversations about privilege and marginalization can sometimes be uncomfortable to engage in, but they are also a powerful way to embrace vulnerability, learn and connect across differences. Beyond conversations, I also think a big part of being an ally is leaning into that discomfort and being okay with making mistakes along the way. Allyship is a lifelong journey where you will likely stumble many times — but what matters is how you deal with those mistakes moving forward, as well as committing to show up for the LGBTQ+ community when it matters.
What are you excited to do for Pride Month? Any particular events or celebrations?
For Pride Month, I’m excited about keeping conversations going about LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, as well as the importance of incorporating intersectionality in our advocacy. We kicked off Pride Month with our interpretation of ABC’s “You Can’t Ask That,” which led to some really meaningful discussions of what it is like to be a LGBTQ+ consultant, as well as how to be better allies in the workplace. We also plan to run another Awareness and Allyship session in our monthly BTTOD (Back to the Office Day). Beyond that, I am looking forward to Pride@LEK becoming more connected globally to EDI leadership — and, of course, to our Drag Bingo MOF (Ministry of Fun) event coming up in Sydney over the next few weeks!