Episode 112: The episodes in this month’s mini-series focus on the experiences of professionals in the LGBT community, the challenges they’ve faced and the role they believe HR can play in developing inclusive workplaces.
The CIPD pledges to make a positive difference to LGBT+ workers
The CIPD has launched its own LGBT+ and Friends Group and is working with Stonewall to become a Diversity Champion
This year marks the 50th anniversary since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act decriminalised (male) homosexuality. As a society, the UK has come a long way in 50 years, but - as statistics from Stonewall show - 26% of LGBT workers don’t feel they can be open about their sexual orientation at work. It’s clear from this one startling statistic that there’s still a long way to go.
The CIPD launched its LGBT+ and Friends Group* in February, which was LGBT History Month in the UK. The group aims to provide a support network for LGBT+ colleagues and to raise awareness around LGBT+ workplace issues. A host of social events and communication campaigns are planned for the next few months, including participation at London Pride in June.
Building a workplace where people can be themselves is the right thing to do, and it’s good for business too. Performance is negatively affected when people can’t be themselves at work and there’s plenty of evidence that shows that diverse teams are more effective and more creative.
But, we can’t take it for granted that we’re at a point in time where, just because the benefits of inclusivity are widely spoken about, there’s no need for conscious effort or action. Speaking frankly in a CIPD podcast, Stephen Frost, a globally recognised diversity expert, said:
'Often people, good people, espouse a nirvana where we don't need to do this stuff because it’s just natural and normal and here’s the slightly uncomfortable truth; as human beings we prefer sameness to difference and if we don't consciously include, we will unconsciously exclude. So I think we can get to a situation where it becomes much more commonplace and it’s standard HR practice, and we’re not there yet. But I think even if we were to attain that nirvana, vigilance is important in order to prevent regression. And I think we can show in hard data that when you don't consciously lead on this stuff you go backwards. In the absence of transparency and challenge and inclusion, we tend to hire in our own image and we tend to get more homogenous rather than more diverse.’
According to Stonewall, more than 60% of LGBT+ graduates who are ‘out’ at university go back into the closet when they start work. Great candidates and valuable employees avoid organisations where they’re just not confident they’ll fit in, and they can waste as much as 30% of their mental energy hiding their true identity if they work for an organisation that doesn’t feel truly inclusive. This is a vital issue for HR to get right and to keep developing beyond policies and disclosure statistics.
Jill Miller, CIPD Diversity and Inclusion Adviser, comments:
‘It’s clear there’s more we can do as employers. There’s still a big education piece which starts with raising awareness about matters affecting the LGBT+ community. What I believe can make the biggest difference is ensuring our workplace cultures are an inclusive and safe space for everyone. An inclusive workplace isn’t a ‘nice to have’; it’s about equality, human rights and fairness. It’s a fundamental pillar on which workplaces should be built, and a premise extending way beyond LGBT+ issues.’
The CIPD LGBT+ and Friends Group is working with Stonewall, the LGBT Rights Charity, to ensure that the internal culture, policies and principles support and promote LGBT+ inclusion in the CIPD’s UK and international offices.
Not only is the Group committed to ensuring the CIPD is an inclusive employer, it will also be championing LGBT+ inclusivity across UK plc. Drawing on the CIPD’s broad base of more than 142,000 members - many of whom work for organisations that are already part of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme - the Group will be tapping into a wealth of inspiration and experience and is keen to harness a collective influence to create accepting and inclusive workplace environments for all.
To find out more or get involved, please contact the CIPD LGBT+ and Friends Group.
*LGBT+ definition: L=Lesbian, G=Gay, B=Bisexual and T=Transgender and the 'plus' embraces everyone else – such as non-binary, intersexed, transsexual – and all of the many ways people might self-identify, including straight allies.
By Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser
‘For me, LGBT History Month serves as a call to action and in HR we have the opportunity to drive change.’
Explore the UK legal position and main issues for employers on sexual orientation discrimination, gender identity and reassignment discrimination in the workplace