D&I Leaders – LGBT+ in The Workplace Conference 2020
On the 27th February it was my absolute pleasure to attend the LGBT+ in The Workplace Conference 2020, organised by D&I Leaders – an organisation dedicated to providing independent news, reports and analysis to professionals on driving forward diversity and inclusion strategies. This was my second year attending and my experiences at each one have turned out to be quite different from each other.
In 2019 I was still finding my feet on my own personal journey of “bringing my whole self to work”. That particular conference gave me real sense of community and support, which has led to an increase in self confidence and a realisation of my own potential for influencing change.
I entered the 2020 conference more self-assured and clear on what I had to offer, confident to stand alongside the other delegates as an advocate for inclusion in all its forms – quite the shift for someone that not so long ago would put so much effort into concealing who I was, staying silent when I saw issues due to being unsure about what the “right thing to do” was.
These experiences, alongside working for Pareto - a company that wears its inclusion agenda firmly on its sleeve - and the work I do as part of LGBT+ in FM have absolutely changed my work life experience which, in turn, has made me a happier, healthier and more productive employee.
So, back to this year’s conference…
The day began with some pretty harrowing statistics, which reminded us that whilst things have come a long way there is still a lot to do. Hate Crime is on the rise, with 1 in 5 LGBT+ people being affected in the last year. This stat rises to 2 in 5 for Trans people specifically. For young people entering the workplace, 1 in 5 feels that they are held back from accessing work due to being LGBT+. Mental Health statistics within the LGBT+ communities are telling a shocking story, with self-harm and consideration of suicide levels being particularly alarming. A sobering reality check for us all and a reminder of the value of the work we are all doing – a realisation that we all have jobs, but need to connect with our role as “Social Leaders” with the ability to positively affect all aspects of our people’s lives.
We then moved on to a day filled with inspiring speakers from companies such as Microsoft, Pinsent Masons, Serco, Credit Suisse, Auto Trader and Lloyds of London. The Key “take aways” for me from these sessions were:
The importance of putting Culture at the heart of everything you are doing as an organisation – This really resonated with me. Pareto have been semi consciously doing this since inception, it is part of how we have built our business and how we have developed our reputation. Now we are bringing this into full consciousness, and it is really reinforcing who we are as an organisation. Placing energy and importance on supporting Culture within any organisation has a positive effect on everyone and is particularly impactful on diverse groups like LGBT+ Employees – We can see box ticking a mile away! It is essential that the efforts of our organisations are authentic.
The importance of Allies (including an “Ally Spectrum”) – Allies are an essential part of driving inclusion forward. However, often our Allies are unclear about exactly what they are supposed to do – is everyone supposed to suddenly be waving rainbow flags and marching in parades? The answer is No! Microsoft presented a really useful graphic that showed an Ally Spectrum that moved from Apathetic to Aware to Active to Advocate. This brought home the fact that an Ally can be anywhere on this journey and it is absolutely fine. Allies do not have to understand everything or take part in everything in order to support inclusion. Sometimes just creating space for conversations to happen or challenging potential ignorance in others is enough.
Understanding “Pink Washing” – This has become a hot topic over the last few years. Pink Washing is essentially that moment in Pride Month when everyone sticks a Rainbow on everything. I previously mentioned the LGBT+ community’s ability to Smell a Rat! This session encouraged us to dig a little deeper into companies doing this to see if they supported an inclusive approach all year round or just for a few weeks in the Summer. It also challenged us with the statement “You wouldn’t stick a Fair-Trade Logo on your Product without adapting your Supply Chain. The Rainbow Flag should be no different”. This is another area where I felt proud to be part of Pareto – Our focus on Diversity and Inclusion is part of how we win new business and part of how we engage with our suppliers. This is seen as a “risk” by some organisations.
Getting Policies Written (and Right!) – Just because you are a group of great, like minded individuals that support appropriate culture by being who you are doesn’t mean you don’t need policies in place to support inclusivity – and they can’t just be policies that state what happens when something goes wrong! Waiting until an Employee announces their intention to Transition before writing a policy about how you provide support is essentially too late. This could have the negative effect of making that person feel like an afterthought. Proactivity and Communication are key here – Build an infrastructure and communicate it well!
The day was inspiring and invigorating, but the thing I valued the most was how it challenged me personally. I was reminded about just how much I still don’t understand about what some members of my community go through – Listening to stories from the Non-Binary Community were very enlightening. Keeping the conversation going is absolutely essential when it comes to Inclusion – Remain Curious – Remain Open to the Value of our Differences. And finally, remember the potential of our impact on those around us – We are Social Leaders after all!