Trying to write a bio for Linda Riley requires footnotes. She’s been there and done it all! One of only two British directors of US based LGBT campaign group GLAAD, and a former adviser to the British Labour Party on diversity issues, Linda is also a patron of the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity which helps homeless LGBT youth in the UK, Action Breaks Silence, which empowers women in the developing world to protect themselves against physical and sexual assault and Diversity Role Models a LGBT anti-bullying charity.
A former Stonewall award winner, Linda founded the Alternative Parenting Show, the British LGBT Awards, the Diversity Careers Show, and Opportunities for Women, is the owner and publishes the iconic lesbian title DIVA magazine and LGBT news site Out News Global. She is also the founder and director of the European Diversity Awards and the Australian LGBTI Awards. A new project, the Diversity in Media Awards, launched in June 2017.
A former publisher of g3 magazine, Out in the City and First Time Buyer, Linda collaborates with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, the Guardian (with whom she co-founded the Diversity Hub) and The Economist on various diversity initiatives.
We are pleased and honored she took the time to share some of her insights with us.
You may qualify as the hardest working woman in… Publisher, Events, CoFounder – what drives you?
Because my work is based on promoting the values of equality and inclusion, I’ll never stop being driven by the desire to make the world a better place for those who sit outside the majority. Whether someone is disabled, belongs to an ethnic minority, is LGBT+ or fits any other strand of diversity, nobody’s life chances should be stifled by lack of opportunity brought about by the prejudice of others.
What are you most proud of?
Hard to say, but perhaps two things spring to mind. First, looking at my various diversity initiatives such as the European Diversity Awards, I’m proud that – from a standing start several years ago – we’ve managed to engage with some seriously large organisations who embrace our commitment to D&I. I’m talking about companies like Vodafone, Royal Bank of Scotland, Heathrow Airport, Coca-Cola and others, and when companies like that get involved, it sends out a hugely positive message not just to their staff and customers, but also to society as a whole.
Secondly, I have to talk about the readers of DIVA. Hardly a day goes by when I’m not stopped in the street and told how DIVA has changed someone’s life for the better…young gay or bisexual women who had felt so alone, and in many cases have found DIVA to be a lifeline.
Why is it important to be out at work?
There’s no reason whatsoever not to be yourself because of the prejudices of others. The more of us who are out and proud at work, the more that non-heteronormative lifestyles are considered part of the mainstream rather than – as used to be – a freak show. Nobody should have to pretend to be something they’re not in order to conform to outdated notions of ‘normality’, and every single one of us who is out at work makes life that little bit easier for those who come after us. What’s more, living a lie is not good for our careers or our mental health.
With so many competing interests, how does the LGBTQ come together for equality?
To quote the late Jo Cox MP, there is more that unites than divides us. Of course, different people have different priorities, and different parts of our community have different challenges to face. But at the end of the day, we all want the same thing: equality, fairness, and justice for all.
Did you have a mentor?
I wouldn’t say I have a mentor, but I’m constantly inspired by people I meet. I’m lucky enough to have met top business people, campaigners, and politicians, and words cannot say how much I’ve learned from some incredible individuals.
If you could talk to a younger version of yourself, what advice would you offer?
Keep going, don’t take no for an answer, and stick to your principles.
Why are LGBTQ awards important?
Until we have achieved equality – not just here in the UK, but overseas where in some countries the death penalty still exists for homosexuality – we must continue to send the message that being LGBT+ is no barrier to success. The more we reinforce this message, the more we will change hearts and minds.
How has being a parent changed you?
I’m not sure if parenthood has changed me, but it certainly gives you a different perspective on life.
What is one thing you would change about Pride celebrations?
This year I was so proud that the Radio DIVA Women’s Stage was in Leicester Square. Let’s hope that, one day, we’ll get pole position in Trafalgar Square. But, other than that, I know the organisers of Pride in London and other Pride events really well. They do an amazing job and it’s not for me to criticise anything!
Where can people learn more about your work and projects?