What inclusion means for LGBTQ employees: This Is Us 2019

Research shows people who identify as LGBT still face significant challenges in the workplace. In global mobility, these are often multiplied by cultural and legal considerations. How can employers and individuals lead on this vital aspect of inclusion?

LGBG flag in a loop
Newly released Home Office hate crime figures for 2018-19 in England and Wales show a significant increase in offences against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.Sexual orientation hate crime – defined as a criminal offence perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on personal characteristic – increased by 25% on 2017-18.Echoing previous years, hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation was the second most commonly recorded crime of this type in the vast majority of forces (38 of 44). Transgender identity hate crimes – although among the least recorded hate crimes in the majority of police forces – were also up 37%.

The multifaceted barriers for people who are LGBT

These latest statistics reflect just one aspect of the challenges people who identify as LGBT might face.In the workplace – despite well-established laws around protected characteristics and the moral imperative to treat everyone fairly and without prejudice – research suggests people who identify themselves as having one or more of these protected characteristics can find life at work harder than most.People who identify as LGBT for example earn on average £6,700 less per year than their heterosexual counterparts. The reasons for this – as with any other pay gap – are likely complex and interlinked. Nevertheless, a third of LGBT people also report feeling uncomfortable in their workplace (31%) while a quarter had experienced some form of bullying (24%).

This Is Us – setting the agenda

This unique conference run by Events Together in October in Milton Keynes sought to address some of these issues from the perspective of diversity and exclusion. Introducing the day’s programmes, Meena Chander, founder of the This Is Us conference, said the event was to bring people together to mentor, support and encourage everyone to learn about how organisations and suppliers can best meet the needs of their employees and customers.Jacqui Gavin, an award-winning role model and public speaker for transgender and gender identity issues working at the heart of the UK civil service, hosted the sessions in her role as chair, explaining why it is more important than ever to “fight with louder words” to ensure the everyone truly is free and equal, as outlined under the Human Rights Act 1948.“It’s been a frightening 12 months,” said Ms Gavin. “We as a collective group have to stand together to celebrate what is great today and what we can make great tomorrow. I see hope and events like this are so important because we can all talk from the heart.”

What is good practice for inclusion as it relates to people who are LGBT?

Throughout the day, delegates and speakers shared their thoughts, experiences and practices around how to advocate for better inclusion of LGBT people in the workplace and highlighted examples of where this is happening in practice.Emily Coates, premier field engineer and co-director, Microsoft and GLEAM – the IT company’s Global LGBTQI+ Employee and Allies at Microsoft network – talked through how under the leadership of chief executive Satya Nadella, Microsoft is hard-wiring inclusive practices into every aspect of its business under a mission “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to do more”.This starts at recruitment, with the slogan “come as you are, do what you love” and is backed by a chief diversity officer who sits in top management meetings and advises on how diversity is impacting the organisation.In a global company where in some countries it is still possible for colleagues who are LGBT to be fired for their sexual orientation, the GLEAM network is proving to be a vital support for its 3,600 members globally and that is helping the company across international boundaries “work as one company”.

Allyship and networks

Earlier in the day, the importance of allyship and internal networks was the subject of the panel chat between Jamie Ades of Visit Britain, Sanisha Wynter, Girlguiding UK, Ata Rahman, Pride in London, Christopher Sharp, Racing Pride, and Tj Richards, Santander UK & Embrace Network.Chair Jacqui Gavin asked whether internal and employee networks are still needed. The panel generally agreed they were because a network can be a safe space and somewhere for like-minded people to share what works, offer mentorship and find a mentor, and hold the powerful to account.They also concurred on what makes a good network. These are those that are open, incorporate external and internal allies at all levels, shifts the conversation and removes the stigma of membership and concerns about the impact of membership on career progression.Responding from the floor, one delegate underlined the importance of senior sponsorship: “Nobody questions people’s membership of the golf or Rotary Club. Unless the executive put their voice and sponsorship behind it, the stigma will remain around networks.”

A root and branch approach

In a conference that is all about helping understand diversity and inclusion and enabling employees to bring their whole selves to work through listening to and sharing experiences, there were a number of other powerful presentations offering concrete practical advice.Among them were Joanne Lockwood’s of SEE (Smile, Engage, Educate) Change Happen. The first openly transgender past National President of the men’s club, The Round Table, Joanne Lockwood’s presentation offered advice for delegates on how to support trans and gender non-conforming individuals. Encompassing illustrations of privilege and intersectionality, it identified some of the daily challenges people commonly face and offered advice on how organisations and employers can address them.Another of the 12 memorable sessions was the Unlearning Hub roundtable. This inspiring workshop posed delegates with the question of what they would do if they could rebuild diversity and inclusion. A big question indeed, but one in which delegates were able to answer with many of their own insights and conclusions from the This Is Us conference and their own experiences – and a question that showed the importance of ongoing conversations around every aspect of diversity and inclusion if the workplace and wider society are to allow everyone to truly be their whole self.

Read more about Flying the flag for LGBTQ+ expatriates

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