SHU Allies

How do I become an Ally?

So you want to be a SHU Ally, that’s fantastic!
To sign up please complete the online form. (This is an internal staff network for Sheffield Hallam University staff only. Please open in Google Chrome as IE doesn’t support the form.)
This will ask you a few questions such as your contact details, your area of work, e-mail address etc.
Once this is complete, your allies introduction pack will be posted out to you. This will include information about being an ally, your allies lanyard or pin that we’d ask you to wear with pride and information about how to use the allies e-mail signature.
As this is about being visible, your name and the level of ally you have signed up for will then be visible on the allies page of the SIGNAL blog.

If you just want to find out more before signing up please contact

Welcome from Professor John Leach, ULT Champion for LGBT+ staff

I am delighted that you are interested in joining me as an ally of LGBT+ people at Hallam.

A commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion runs through the institutional DNA of Sheffield Hallam University and I was very pleased to take up the role of PVC for academic staffing and equalities last year.  Building a more inclusive university is central to our strategy of Transforming Lives.

I started my professional life as a school science teacher.  My first year of teaching coincided with the Iceberg-And-Pneumatic-Drill campaign about AIDS, and was followed soon afterwards by the now notorious Section 28 of the Local Government Act (1988) which (amongst other things) prohibited those of us on the public payroll from ‘promoting homosexuality’.  The legislation was very badly drafted: who can say what ‘promoting homosexuality’ actually means?  Nonetheless, as a young teacher involved in health and relationships education I had a number of gay young people come out to me and I was unsure if I was breaking the law by telling them that it was OK to be gay, that they should aim to have full and satisfying lives – in short that they were no less human than their straight peers.  I did tell them this, of course, and I know that receiving support and validation of their identities from an ally was welcome.  I hope I’ve been a good ally to LGBT+ people ever since.

When I was born, sex between consenting men was illegal; sex between women was not acknowledged in law.  Now, discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender assignment is illegal and we even have legal equality in marriage.  This is real progress.  However, my experience is that many LGBT+ people still face misunderstanding, embarrassment or even hostility when inhabiting their identities in public social spaces – in other words, by ‘just being themselves’.  Although there has been progress in the law, we should not kid ourselves that the barriers faced by LGBT+ people historically have disappeared.  A stark manifestation of this is the number of LGBT+ young people who take their own lives, compared to their straight peers.

I believe that universities should be places where all people can be themselves, push their thinking, extend their aspirations, test the boundaries, thereby changing themselves and the world for the better.  This is why I believe that an Allies scheme is important in our University.

During the year since taking up the equalities brief I have had the opportunity to talk to diverse staff about their experiences of working at SHU.  One of the messages that has come through very strongly is that staff in network groups want senior champions to give them visibility.  I have worked with SIGNAL members as part of the Equality and Diversity Committee and am very happy to take on the role of ULT LGBT+ Champion.  This role is new and comes without a job description: between us, we will work out what is needed and what will be helpful.  A starting point will be to establish good 2-way communication so that I can learn more about the experience of our LGBT+ colleagues and bring that into the work of the ULT.  Other ULT members will be championing staff with other protected characteristics.

Welcome to being an Ally!

Professor John Leach

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Staffing and Equalities)

What is an ally?

An ally is an advocate, supporter and friend. Someone that stands up for their colleagues and helps to create a working environment where LGBT+ people feel welcomed and included. An ally stands up for & champions LGBT+ equality and challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Why does this matter?

An ally is someone who believes that LGBT+ people should experience full equality in the workplace. Good allies recognise that LGBT+ people can perform better if they can be themselves and allies use their role within an organisation to create a culture where this can happen. Some LGBT+ individuals fear that if they come out that their good relationships with colleagues will change and their colleagues may treat them differently. Allies help to create a safe environment for everyone to be able to bring their entire selves to work.

Allies can see & influence how the day-to-day experiences of being out as LGBT at work actually plays out.

You shouldn’t assume that all LGBT+ people will have had negative experiences or not be comfortable/confident being ‘out’, and that celebrating an LGBT+ inclusive environment does not necessarily have to mean supporting individuals.

At work it matters because:

  • One in five (19 per cent) lesbian, gay and bi employees have experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation in the last five years
  • One in eight (13 per cent) lesbian, gay and bi employees would not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace
  • A quarter (26 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bi workers are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation
  • Half of trans people (51 per cent) have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination
  • More than a third of trans students (36 per cent) in higher education have experienced negative comments or behaviour from staff in the last year.

Allies really can make a difference, so please get involved.

What it means to be a LGBT+ ally at SHU

Level One

  • Be Visible – the single most important thing you can do as an ally is make yourself visible, so everyone knows that SHU is a workplace where people can spend energy being themselves, not hiding it. There are lots of things you can do to show your visible support, wear the rainbow lanyard or pin, put our stickers in visible places such as you on your PC, laptop, stationary or on your desk or use our e-mail signature at the bottom of all your e-mails. Being visible means that LGBT+ colleagues can see that you are supportive of LGBT+ identities whether this is a new starter or someone you have known for a long time with changing circumstances.
  • Avoid making assumptions about someone’s orientation or identity – This can be hard to remember, but can make a real difference to people. It’s simple as remembering to ask ‘do you have a partner?’ instead of ‘do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife?
  • Don’t “Out” people without their consent – Coming out is personal and different for everyone. Some people are out to the world, others only come out to a select few. It is not your place to divulge someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity, unless you have their consent to do so. Coming out can be hard enough, choosing who to come out to is another dimension of this. Even if you are well intentioned, it is not your story to tell.
  • Embrace things even if you don’t fully understand them – Every person is different, and that means we all come across things that we might not understand, or that are new or different to us. It’s OK to not fully understand a person’s identity as long as you don’t judge them – curiosity will get you further than judgement.
  • Challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and behaviour by escalating this to a level two ally, champion or role model –In the work place, this kind of behaviour tends to be subtle. It can be someone saying “that’s gay”, but it could also be someone being treated differently, or comments being made behind someone’s back. It’s hard to speak up in these circumstances and if you feel unable to do this personally then escalate this to a level two ally, champion or role model (to find out who these are please see the SIGNAL website) who will then challenge the behaviour themselves. This can make a huge difference to our working environment. You should also check if they seem ok.

Level Two

  • All of the above plus:-
  • Challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and behaviour – It’s hard to speak up in these circumstances, but if you do it can make a huge difference to our working environment. You may also be asked to challenge behaviour on behalf of a level one ally who does not yet feel able and confident enough to challenge the behaviour themselves. If you are unsure how to challenge this openly or you feel unconfident, talk to your manager or another colleague to see if they can support you in challenging inappropriate behaviour. In addition further support is available from SIGNAL, the Equality & Diversity Team or the Directorate of Human Resources & Organisational Development.
  • Champion being an Ally and get others involved – It is really important that as many people as possible across the university are aware of the allies programme, what it means to be an ally and why this is important in promoting an inclusive workplace. Encourage members of your team or other colleagues you work with to get involved as an ally, promoting and talking about it and events they can get involved in and support.
  • It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers, but if you want to learn more – get involved! – The more active you are as an ally, the more people you’ll meet and the more you’ll learn about the LGBT+ spectrum, it’s constantly changing. There are number of ways you can get involved, attend ally/SIGNAL events, help organise events, ask SIGNAL, you can e-mail with any questions or visit the stonewall website, the UK’s leading LGBT charity for more information.