HeForShe: Philip Baldwin | Human Rights Activist

Philip BaldwinPhilip Baldwin is a human rights activist.

He was diagnosed with HIV in 2010, at the age of 24. Philip is healthy, happy and successful. Christianity is an important part of his life. He attends St John’s in Waterloo and is a Church of England altar servant. For many years Philip defined himself as an atheist or an agnostic. He began to reappraise the role Christianity could have in his life at the end of 2013. There are four main strands to Philip’s activism: HIV awareness; Hep C; youth homelessness; and faith for LGBT people.

From 2009 to 2015 Philip worked in financial services in London and New York. His career in the City followed on from an undergraduate degree in Modern History from Oriel College, Oxford, an M.Phil in History of Art and Architecture from Peterhouse College, Cambridge and a law conversion in London. Philip’s activism, charitable work and faith are now the main focus of his life.

Charities Philip supports and campaigns for include Stonewall, the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Terrence Higgins Trust, Positively UK and the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. Philip is a Stonewall Role Model. Philip has a column in Gay Times. He has a gay rights and HIV awareness blog on the Huffington Post. He has contributed a chapter to a book on faith called The Power of My Faith. He is currently finalising a semi-autobiographical book on stigma entitled Positive Damage. Everyone has the right to live with dignity, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, disability, age or creed.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign?

As a human rights activist I believe that we should aim for a world free from discrimination. As a gay and HIV positive man I have encountered a lot of stigma, although fortunately not in the workplace. I stand in solidarity with anyone who has encountered prejudice, be that on account of their gender, ethnicity, disabilty or sexuality. It is by taking a united stance on these issues that we will achieve full equality.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

In my twenties, before I became a writer and campaigner, I worked for the international law firm White & Case. White & Case had a very international and diverse outlook. I worked alongside many stunningly intelligent female lawyers. Men have traditionally enjoyed a privileged position in our society and it is important that they speak up as allies for gender equality.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

It is important that men speak up in support of women’s rights, but there are careful nuances to be observed here. An interesting comparison would be the campaigning that I do for bi and trans people within the LGBTQ community. I am fortunate to have a number of magazine columns, which I often use to highlight issues impacting bi and trans people. However, I try to include authentic bi and trans voices in my writing. I speak up for other groups within the LGBTQ community, because I’m fortunate to have a public profile, but I don’t ever take platfotms away from them. Women’s voices should always be at the forefront of the conversation about gender equality.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

White and hetrosexual men, for millenia, have enjoyed positions at the top of commercial, faith and political hierarchies in the UK and beyond. We need to shatter barriers preventing women from succeeeding. Any male who is indifferent to gender equality is, apologies for my bluntness but this is an area I care about passionately, either ignorant or stupid.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Businesses should aim to treat everyone in an open, honest and meritocratic way. Sometimes people do need educating and an environment should be encouraged where, if men are not well informed, they feel comfortable asking questions. For example, an individual might be enthusiastic about being an ally, but not know how best to go about this.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I try to encourage women and amplify their voices across my campaigning and have learned much from them in return. An example of this would be the event that I hosted with the amazing HIV charity Positively UK in Parliament in May 2016. Women are in lots of ways the silent face of HIV in the UK. There are approximately 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, a third of whom are female. A number of the women involved in that event have had transformative impacts in their local and faith communities. Positively UK do a lot of work with women, often some of the most marginalised women in our society. If any of your readers are looking for charitable partners, or seeking ways in which they can help women less fortunate than themselves, I would encourage them to check out Positively UK’s website.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

One of the HIV activists who I admire the most is Silvia Petretti, the CEO of Positively UK. I have often turned to her for advice, when I was still coming to terms with HIV a few years after my own HIV diagnosis, but also later during my campaigning. There are a number of women who have played a guiding role in my trajectory as an activist. Male, female or non-binary, we can all sometimes do with someone to encourage us.

Follow Philip’s journey on social media: @philipcbaldwin

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