Often organisations are so focused on the sector they specialise in that intersectional inclusion can be an afterthought.
Working in the Action Group, it was always really clear to me that we were quite diverse in terms of LGBT inclusion; we have a lesbian CEO, and dozens of staff and managers who openly identify as LGBT.
Stonewall published data which shows that 35% of LGBTQ+ staff hide who they are at work, and 18% have been the target of negative comments because they’re LGBTQ+. This wasn’t my experience. This wasn’t the experience of people I work with… was it?
When I first approached Stonewall to discuss joining their Diversity Champions programme (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/diversity-champions-programme), it sounded like it would be something we would fulfil without much work; we are inclusive so this would be easy. It turns out, I was wrong.
Joining the Diversity Champions programme was a real eye opener. It transpired that, while we may have been living the values of diversity and inclusion, we weren’t promoting these as much as we could have been.
I wanted to enter the Workplace Equality Index, an annual list of the top 100 LGBT+ inclusive employers in the UK. I wanted to see where we were against other organisations, big and small, private, public and third sectors, and take advice and inspiration on how we could do better. I immediately saw this was not going to be a one-person job. We put together a team and created an action plan.
There was a lot to do. We had to review policies, create new policies, look into recruitment stats, consider unconscious bias, develop training on inclusive language, educate our workforce on non-binary and trans identities, ensure we have robust reporting procedures in place… but where to start?
We realized there was only one way to get this right – we asked LGBT+ people with lived experience to help. I can’t write a policy on trans inclusion, I am not trans. I have never experienced what a trans person will experience. So we went to the experts; we asked our LGBT staff – what do you want us to do?
We created a LGBT+ Network Group which people could join – and we took direction from the group.
We reviewed our polices. We wrote new ones. We looked at who we use for procurement and made sure they had aligning policies. We took part in community activities. We showcased senior role models.
In our first entry, we came in 170th place, out of over 500 organisations across the UK. I was absolutely ecstatic; I had expected us to be in the bottom 50% at best.
This year, we entered again. We haven’t done as well in the list, Covid has played heavily into what we have been able to achieve. But we received a silver award from Stonewall, the world’s second-largest LGBTQ+ charity. For twenty years, the charity has been supporting employers to create welcoming workplaces for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people. And now they have awarded us at a silver level for our work. We could not be more proud.
Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, said: “It’s fantastic that the Action Group has gained a silver award for its efforts and commitment to creating an inclusive work environment, and we look forward to seeing and supporting the rest of their inclusion journey.”
We’re delighted. But there’s always more to do. Even if we placed number one on the index, there would be more to do. The journey to true equality and inclusion is one that is not likely to end in my lifetime, and we will continue to work alongside organisations such as Stonewall, and, more recently, Mahogany who are helping us to look at our anti-racism work.
Conflicting priorities will always be an issue in our ever-underfunded sector. But, with passion, dedication, and a good team, we will do everything we can to improve the lives of everyone.
Lisa Williamson is Development Manager at The Action Group