As I reflect on Pride Month, I started to think about what Pride Month meant to me.
I have seen some fantastic inspiring posts on Linked of the LGBTQ community posting photos of their happy occasions like their wedding days and have seen company logo’s turn a fantastic shade of rainbow. But are companies doing enough to provide an inclusive workforce? A work force where people feel that they can be themselves with no recriminations?
According to Stonewalls LGBTQ Work report nearly one in five lesbian, gay and bi people (18%) are not open with anyone at work about their sexual orientation. One in ten LGBTQ employees (10%) say they didn't get a promotion they were up for at work in the past year because they are LGBTQ. This number rises to 24% of trans people, compared to 7% of LGBTQ people who aren’t trans. Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBTQ staff are also more likely not to get a promotion, as are LGBT disabled people, 19 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.
I have worked in the recruitment industry for 20 years and have always been transparent about my sexuality. I have always felt that this is something that I wanted to be open about from the initial interview. Casually dropping into conversation that I have a Partner rather than a girlfriend, mentioning my Partners name so it is explicit. In hindsight I wonder why I felt that I had to do this. Was I looking for acceptance? Was I looking for a reaction so I can judge whether the company are gay friendly? Or was I putting it out there so that they can decide if they want to hire a gay person (I certainly hope not) or was I just trying to be my authentic self? So many questions to Ponder and none of them are easy to answer.
I have always felt that the Recruitment industry has been an inclusive workplace, somewhere that I have not felt that my sexuality would or should not hold me back. Do not get me wrong, I have had the odd clangers dropped in the workplace. For example: When I was getting married someone asked me “is it a proper wedding?” or when I was adopting my daughter someone asked: “Will they let two blokes look after a baby?”. Although I laughed these comments off at the time when I look back over the last 20 years it is marked with the notable absence of LGBT leaders. Why is this? Are there LGBTQ people in senior positions that just feel they cannot be open about sexuality?
I once asked a diversity expert how we know if there is discrimination in the workforce and he said “if you can feel it, it’s there”. Maybe it is there and that’s why we haven’t seen more prominent LGBTQ representation at a Senior or Board level. Unfortunately, these are the type of questions employers need to ask themselves, however difficult the answer might be to hear.
No matter what industry you work in, employers can make positive steps to change this situation. Pride to me is creating a diverse, open work force that represents the real world. Businesses need to look inwards at how the business can heal itself, asking if its board is representative of its work force? Be it in terms of Race, Gender and Sexuality and if not “why not” and what are they doing to fix it? Asking those challenging questions and being prepared to deal with the answers is essential to change moving forward.
Pride month is not just about changing the colour of the company logo for a month but about looking at how their workforce and environment represents the LGBTQ community all year round. By allowing staff to be themselves in the workplace employers can create an inclusive, supportive workforce and get the best from everyone.
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