Championing LGBT+ inclusion at the CIPD

By Jill Miller, Senior Policy Adviser for Diversity & Inclusion at the CIPD.

Everyone in the organisation has a role to play in creating an inclusive workplace’ is a key message we’re discussing at the CIPD as part of LGBT+ history month. Through a series of events throughout February organised by our LGBT+ and friends employee network, we are exploring what more we, as colleagues at CIPD, can do to ensure people want to work here, feel they can be their true selves, feel valued and are confident they can progress their career here.

Although there have been significant strides in LGBT+ inclusion, we know from statistics from organisations such as Stonewall that we are still a long way from having an inclusive society and inclusive workplaces. We believe action and change at a workplace level have the potential to influence wider societal change.

On Monday, our LGBT+ and friends group organised a panel debate, inviting external experts in to discuss some of the key issues for workplace inclusion with CIPD colleagues. We were delighted to welcome Siobhan Corria, Head of Inclusion at Action for Children, Kris Phelps, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Penna, Jack Williams, Membership Delivery Consultant at LGBT Great, and Joanne Lockwood, Inclusion and Belonging Specialist at SEE Change Happen.

Our panel shared their insight and experience with us from working with many different organisations through their career, about how inclusive they think workplaces currently are and the most pressing issues for employers to address. The discussion got us really thinking about what more we can do at CIPD to develop our culture, processes and practice to support LGBT+ inclusion and our role as colleagues to achieve this.

I had the privilege of chairing the panel debate and have summarised some of the main themes from the discussion.

Inclusion must be a constant priority

Diversity and inclusion need to be key priorities embedded through everything the organisation does. There’s a danger they can get put to one side when there are competing priorities. Or that diversity and inclusion is seen as a tick-box exercise, such as through ‘rainbow-washing’ once a year. On the contrary, inclusion requires a deep cultural shift and needs to be lived by everyone through practices and behaviours.

Authentic and inclusive leaders

Authentic leadership from the top is essential for a cultural shift. Leaders saying they support LGBT+ inclusion is not enough – statements need to be followed up by action through being visible role models of inclusive behaviours and active allies. You don’t have to identify as LGBT+ to champion LGBT+ inclusion. Allies are essential to achieving long-lasting cultural change.

Zero-tolerance approach

A zero tolerance for bullying, harassment and discrimination is essential. For example, we know that discrimination and negative behaviours towards trans people are still rife in UK workplaces. Worse still, it may be seen as ‘socially acceptable’ to behave negatively towards trans people. This needs to be tackled head-on and stopped. Employers need to ask themselves: would we hire and progress a trans person? How difficult would it be for a trans person to perform and progress in our organisation? 

Recognise that ‘LGBT+’ is a very broad term

Policies and practices need to be scrutinised through considering different LGBT+ lenses. It’s important to acknowledge that LGBT+ is a very broad grouping and people identifying in different ways will face different challenges at work. In addition, people don’t just have one identity – we are complex individuals and the fact people have multiple identities needs to be recognised to truly understand working experiences.

Be clear on how you will support staff outside the UK

Finally, as an organisation operating in different parts of the world with different legal frameworks, it’s important to have a clear stance on how you will support your employees travelling to and working in different locations. If a role, or a promotion, requires such travel, careers can be limited if people feel they’re not supported in this way. People should be given the choice and it may be necessary to make role adjustments to retain talented people and enable them to progress their careers.

This is just a flavour of the discussion - there were many takeaways that helped us all consider how we each contribute to ensuring our workplace and our offering to our members is LGBT+ inclusive. Later the same week our employee network held an LGBT+ history month quiz. This is always a great opportunity to test our colleagues’ knowledge, learn more about LGBT+ history and, looking forward, give us the space to consider how we as individuals at the CIPD contribute to a truly LGBT+ inclusive workplace. And the conversation continues throughout the year – next in the calendar for March, activities focused on the theme of empathy and inclusion, aiming to give people an opportunity to understand more about the life experiences of others.

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