Flying the flag for real inclusion: Our LGBT Charter Journey Part 2
When iMultiply started to work towards the LGBT Charter earlier this year I have to admit initially I was in two minds as to whether we needed to.
It’s the 21st century after all – surely gender identity and sexual orientation are no longer an issue in the workplace? And by signing up, would we look like we’re merely trying to tick the corporate diversity and inclusion box? Pieces of paper are all well and good, but I’m about action and impact.
I understand the power diversity of thought can bring. I’ve built my business by listening to others and grown my mind by hearing a variety of perspectives. If you live in an echo chamber, you’ll never see the challenges coming.
I needed to ensure we were taking practical steps to build upon iMultiply’s inclusive culture – it’s vital to the success of our company that everyone knows that, no matter who you are, you’ll be respected and listened to when working in, with or alongside us. But isn’t this a given in every workplace? What business wouldn’t want this?
And by listening, I learned from the LGBT Youth that I was ignorant of the reality. There’s still a number of challenges for the LGBT community in the workplace.
So we recently hosted a breakfast discussion with individuals from the LGBT community and employers. It focused on diversity and inclusion to explore what, if anything, employers still needed to consider in order to improve inclusivity at the work.
Key discussion points/Recommendations:
People are still discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or identity. When it’s not your fight, it’s easy think we’re out of the woods and that people from the LGBT community don’t need support. But this is not the case for many, many people and the decision to stand up and out of the crowd is not always an easy one.
More than words
Policies are important, but not as important as what is put into practice. Inclusion must be imbedded into the culture and be consistently demonstrated from the top.
Check your progress
Measuring inclusivity is difficult but it’s important to try. Diversity is easier to quantify through stats but how inclusive an organisation is, is really down to how everyone feels – which is much harder to put a number on. But it’s vital to find innovative ways to keep track of change, perhaps through regular pulse surveys.
It’s good to talk
Employers could encourage employees to share personal stories in a safe and supportive way. Sharing experiences about coming out, juggling kids and work, or dealing with mental health, for example, shows others they aren’t alone; gives them role models; and improves awareness and visibility.
Employers could also hold events, seminars and activities to educate, inform and bring people together. This would involve investment from the employer but would show their commitment to supporting all of their employees – and would surely improve staff morale and team bonding, which would have the benefit of showing in the bottom line too.
Let your values shine
But how do we know how inclusive a company is? What do they make visible e.g. have they completed their LGBT Charter? What does their website tell us? What do their policies say? What would employees say if we called and asked them about their experience?
If an employer wants to show that inclusion lies at the heart of their business, they should have plenty of info publically available. Perhaps on their website they share testimonials from employees and customers and maybe they showcase the training and awareness sessions they’ve completed. Crucially, in whatever form, they should be communicating internally and externally all the time, sharing stories, best practice and learns.
We’ve been on a journey this year. I understand more fully that flying the LGBT flag is about more than reassuring people about how seriously we take inclusion – it also shows that we have an understanding about the challenges that face the LGBT community and a desire to do what we can alleviate them.
We’re learning lots and we’ve only just begun. We know that we can be an important part of helping employers and individuals share their experiences to a wider audience and so much more.
We all have a role to play in making our society better and fairer. We’re ready – are you?
Author: Kirsty Mackenzie