Amo Lalli is an impressive person. Impressive for what he has achieved in his career and for the compelling case he makes for a workplace where the diversity of colleagues is not just accepted, but understood.
He knows what he’s talking about. A British Asian born and raised in Leicester, he lived and worked in South America for eight years – where he taught himself Portuguese and in 2016 married partner Wallace, who is originally from Brazil.
“Our wedding was a great, fun, diverse experience,” Amo explains. “We followed my Anglo-Indian culture, which is to have lots of celebrations throughout the week leading up to the big day, and we were joined by guests who flew in from overseas.”
“It was a complete mix of Brazilian, English and Sikh traditions that ended with a very emotional marriage ceremony at a beautiful country estate.”
Like many of his gay British Asian friends, Amo faced rejection when he came out to his grandparents. They were concerned about how it would make them look in Sikh society and suggested a course of ‘treatments’ to ‘correct’ his issues.
However, Amo has not experienced the same ill-feeling from others, with his more immediate family and friends giving him plenty of support and love.
In the workplace, Amo has never experienced any direct prejudice over his ethnicity or sexuality during his 19-year career, however getting to the point where he felt able to say he had a husband was far from straightforward.
“It’s not uncommon for people in the LGBT+ community to lead what might be termed as a double life,” he says. “They come into work and simply don’t discuss their personal lives. When people asked me about my relationships or even what I’d done at the weekend, I’d automatically be defensive and try to avoid the questions, partly to avoid embarrassment and awkwardness.”
Even as an experienced director working right at the heart of Jaguar Land Rover in the Commercial and Supply Chain planning space, and someone who regularly presents to senior executives, Amo admits the decision to be ‘out, married and open’ was hard.
“I wanted to break the cycle of not discussing my personal life and using ways to avoid the subject,” he explains. “Trust and understanding are crucial when building strong personal relationships, and essential to getting things done effectively – so it’s important for me to be open and authentic in order to really get to know my colleagues.
“I remember the relief after taking Wallace to a JLR Christmas ball a few years ago, knowing I no longer needed to be ambiguous about my sexuality.”
To make a real difference for others in the workplace, Amo believes there’s a need for role models from the LGBT+ community that others can look up to and ask for guidance.
“I don’t promote or project myself, but I do hope it is helpful that a leader, who has a strong track record of delivery at Jaguar Land Rover, is being open and also taking a visible role in collaborating with many parts of the business to shape a more inclusive work environment.
“Some of the personal stories other people have shared about their experiences at work as a result of being LGBT+ are truly upsetting. I’m passionate about driving an inclusive workplace culture where people can be their authentic selves.”
Amo explains that Jaguar Land Rover and those who volunteer to support the PRIDE Network have taken many positive steps in terms of creating better conditions for LGBT+ colleagues to feel valued and more comfortable, but it is important not to rest on any laurels.
“If you are a transgender colleague for example, it should not be a long and frustrating process to get your security pass updated as it was just a couple of years ago. There should be a clear process, enabling you do to it quickly and without having to explain yourself repeatedly. There are still areas where we can improve and help LGBT+ colleagues, as all everyone wants to do is go to work and do their job, surrounded by great people.”
While it might appear hard to make a ‘commercial case’ to push for better policies and practices given that the benefits can often take years to flow through, Amo believes it ultimately makes sound business sense, as Jaguar Land Rover should aim high and achieve ‘employer of choice’ status with the LGBT+ community.
He says: “We should recognise that a significant number of existing and prospective employees and customers care passionately about these issues. As a company, I believe we’ve got a very good reputation in the LGBT+ community, but it is important this is always supported by an authentic, progressive and inclusive culture in our all of our facilities.”