I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity and inclusion recently, after representing Outdoorlads on the London Pride Parade on 7th July. Being part of a thirty thousand strong movement through the streets of London celebrating the diversity that we have in our population to over one million spectators from a melting pot of represented communities! I was blown away by how inclusive and accepting people can be! It was epic!
It got me to thinking that we need to have some of that in the workplace. Diversity inclusion is a part of organisational health. What you want and need as an employer is for people to bring their whole selves to work. You want people to feel able to be themselves and live by the values they value. And they need to feel that you value them – all of them. That is what it means to have a healthy workplace culture, one that values and celebrates diversity.
I feel quite privileged, because as an openly gay man I have never known any forms of discrimination, bullying or harassment. But that’s not the case for a lot of people. And a lot of people don’t feel comfortable about bringing their whole selves to work.
There are some stats from the campaigning organisation Stonewall that I would like to bring in here. One in five (19%) of lesbian, gay and bi employees have experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation, with over 10% of trans people being verbally abused and 6% suffering physical assault at work. One in eight (13%) of lesbian, gay and bi employees would not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace and just over a quarter (26%) are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation.
And one last stat for you: half of trans and non-binary people (51% and 50% respectively) have hidden or disguised the fact that they are LGBT at work because they were afraid of discrimination.
That’s a lot of people who are not able to bring their whole selves to work. And if people can’t bring their whole selves to work, how are we, as an organisation, going to properly achieve our purpose of enabling prosperity for the generations of today and tomorrow?
Actually, there’s one more stat I want to share with you and it’s from Stonewall again: 58% of 18-24 year olds say they have hidden their LGBT identity at work. It really stinks that young people feel the need to go back into the closet when they first step into the world of work.
Coming out can be one of the most stressful events in any person’s life and it’s seldom a once in a lifetime event. Every time somebody takes a new job or meets a new colleague….they have to face those decisions about coming out again.
I have to admit here that I don’t actually know the mix of diversity in our organisation. We’ve only just started capturing stuff like religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity. We’re trying to find out more via a pop up survey in our payroll system but we’ve only got about 10% participation. So we’re going to try another test in our next cultural engagement survey, asking a separate set of questions.
As an employer, we have a duty of care to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard. Say our company is like the national average and 26% of our employees aren’t out, what can we do about that? We have to make sure that people feel able to be out at work, but at the same time, we need to respect their privacy if they don’t want to talk about it. We’re thinking about creating forums and a community that people can tap into if they wish.
The other thing to be mindful of is that even if someone isn’t LGBT themselves, they might have close family or friends who are, and they need to feel that it’s okay to talk about them in the workplace if they want to, without fear of some kind of comeback or negative reaction.
At the end of the day, what we want is for people to think ‘It’s okay to be me here’ in our organisation. We want them to bring their whole self to work and not feel that they have to leave a bit (a big bit) behind.