Recently, I caught up with Richard Thompson, PMO Manager and co-chair of OUTfront UK, our network for LGBT+ employees and allies, a community committed to fostering a supportive and safe environment at work and beyond. As Stonewall’s 2018 ‘LGBT in Britain: Work Report‘ found, 35% of LGBT people in any workplace have hidden their sexual orientation or gender identity at work because they were afraid of discrimination; there is more to do in all workplaces to foster LGBT+ inclusion.
As an ally, I’m proud to be network co-chair with Richard, and over the last few years the network has tripled in size, support and sponsorship, along with being recognised as a Stonewall Top 100 Employer in 2018 and 2019 – Richard provided some more detail on recent OUTfront activity.
In our Stonewall Workplace Equality Index submission for 2019 we were recognised as being strong performers in “recruiting and supporting diverse network group membership.” Our work in this area stood out amongst other submissions and we were delighted to be invited to speak about the subject at the 2019 Stonewall London Workplace Conference. If you’ve never been to a Stonewall conference before – go! It’s a brilliant day of thought-provoking views, practical ideas and personal stories.
The panel I was on focussed on a challenge that a lot of LGBT+ networks struggle with: to get active participation and representation from Trans, Bi and other identities, which means they are often dominated by gay men and lesbians. However, OUTfront UK has an active and visible Trans membership, and a Bi- role model who have shared their story in articles and appeared as presenters at events such as our Pride Talks to raise awareness.
The panel also featured reps from Stonewall and the University of Birmingham, and the discussion was attended by over 200 people. I talked about how we embed inclusion into the structure of our network using the four Cs; Career, Culture, Client and Community. Each pillar has a representative who is considered a subject matter expert, to consult on multiple identities (Lesbian, Gay man, Trans, Bi, etc). This helps us to avoid volunteer fatigue and allows people to work to their strengths. For us, it’s also important that allies are fully involved in the network, actively volunteering and often being our most eloquent and powerful ambassadors. It’s part of our Active Inclusion ethos.
Speaking at the conference was a really good experience and a great opportunity to showcase the positive environment that we have created. I was also able to gain some new contacts that will allow us to build on future initiatives and share our ideas as we continue our journey on conscious (and unconscious) LGBT+ inclusion.
Following the success of our LGBT+ & Allies conference in 2017, in June 2019 OUTfront held (both face to face and virtually) its second annual series of Pride Talks, examining three different topics (“Gender as a construct”, “Why Allies matter” and “Views from our leaders”) with the support and expertise of GIRES and Stonewall. With 120+ attendees, including clients, across the sessions throughout the UK, the day was a resounding success, with great feedback for all sessions:S
- “Just a stark reminder about some of the difficulties people face that they shouldn’t have to. The fact that it’s still illegal to be yourself in some countries really does just boggle the mind.”
- “We have leaders in the organisation who are engaged in the conversation, and are either living what they talk about, or are champions of the cause… we aren’t viewing it as a one-and-done thing to boost our rankings with organisations like Stonewall… we do it to really make a change.”
- “[I will now] take proactive steps to ensure that LGBT people are included. Listen to LGBT people and learn. First step towards being a more active ally is to join the network.”
Other OUTfront activity this Pride season and beyond:
- OUTfront UK network member and Chartered Manager Degree Apprentice @JoshPhipps has been featured in the @AmazingAppsUK parents pack. You can download a copy at http://ow.ly/GPLq50uJWkT
- Network members attended Birmingham, Glasgow and London Pride
- OUTfront UK has collaborated with other employee networks, from hosting debate sessions on the meaning of “Pride” with our regional gender networks, to reflecting on LGBT+ identities and associated challenges with our CBAME network.
- We will also be celebrating OUTfront UK’s 10th birthday later in 2019, following in the steps of our North American chapter, marking progress and next steps.