LGBTQ+ community in the workplace
Date: 23 Feb 2021
As we mark LGBT+ History Month, Kelly shares her experiences of how things have changed since she first started her career 15 years ago.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace has certainly come a long way in the last 15 years!
It’s safe to say that during my late teens and early twenties, I was definitely treated differently for being in a same-sex relationship.
I vividly remember that inappropriate questions from colleagues were a frequent occurrence and I didn’t feel the least bit supported by any managers to either raise or discuss these issues. As a young person in their first job, I was too shy to address the issues myself. I didn’t know how to put them into words, and I wasn’t confident enough to seek guidance from anyone either.
How Things Have Changed
As I look back now, thankfully, there has been a definite shift in attitudes and behaviour. Certainly, in the seven years I’ve been with my current company, I have never felt pressure to hide who I am or nor have I been asked any inappropriate questions!
That’s not to say accidents haven’t happened, it’s just that when they do, they are now taken seriously and addressed, for example a few years ago there was an error on an employee survey which had LGBT+ and Bisexual as separate options. When I raised this with HR, they not only recognised and apologised for the mistake, but the following year I was asked to proof the questions to ensure that it was correctly phrased.
The respect this showed me, marked a real sea change in attitudes from when I first started at work but even though there’s now more recognition, there’s still a way to go for many colleagues and employers.
Three Ways Things Have Changed Over the Years
- One of the key highlights over the last couple of years was a colleague who set up a Pride month in one of our offices as an ally. This felt like we were really moving inclusion forward on a personal level.
- When unisex toilets were introduced in my office, I felt this was another excellent move towards the company showing understanding of LGBT+ issues and I was also able to use it as an informal educational tool with my colleagues, some of whom were initially unsure of the new arrangement.
- In one role, my manager knew when Pride day was and let me have it as annual leave – we were on a rota, so, given this was in retail and it was a Saturday off, it was a big deal and wasn’t even counted as annual leave.
The Road Ahead
The Stonewall Top Employers List is compiled annually by the Workplace Equality Index and provides the UK’s leading benchmarking tool for LGBT inclusion in the workplace.
With ten focal areas, it’s always a good checklist to help avoid complacency in our workplaces, especially during this time of added challenges during the pandemic, when minority groups can be more at risk of feeling vulnerable or marginalised.
The key message for me going forward is, it’s not enough to be passively unbiased anymore, it’s important colleagues proactively protect each other’s rights and sensibilities as we work towards a better future together, from transgender rights and support of female colleagues who are well documented to be less likely to ‘come out’ for fear of career reprisals or discrimination.
Stonewall’s Ten Focal Points:
- Inclusive Policies & Benefits
- Engagement and Inclusion Throughout The Employee Lifecycle
- Development of LGBT Employee Network Groups
- Allies & Role Models to create change
- Engaged and Empowering Senior Leadership:
- Monitor LGBT Employee Experiences
- LGBT Inclusion in the Procurement & Supply Chain
- Wider Community Engagement
- Engaging Clients, Customers and Service Users around LGBT inclusion
- Extra work to promote LGBT inclusion
For more information
- Stonewall Top Employers and wider resources for individuals, businesses and educational institutions, to help everyone become more aware and supportive of their LGBT+ colleagues.
- Glassdoor – Ten ways to Support LGBT employees https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/employers/blog/10-ways-support-lgbt-employees/