LGBT responsibility: More than a box-ticking exercise

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LGBT inclusion activities shouldn’t just sit within the diversity and inclusion team, or even within HR

In a recent focus group with LGBT employees at HSBC they said they “really want to see LGBT role models throughout the company, to know that success is possible for everyone”. Having an openly gay European CEO meant a lot, but they also want to keep hearing from their leaders why inclusion matters to them.

This demonstrates that responsibility doesn’t just sit with the diversity and inclusion team, or even with HR. Diversity work needs to be more than a box-ticking exercise for it to resonate with staff and needs to be embedded within people and customer processes in order to fully realise the potential benefits. Employees may not be out if they feel that their manager is less accepting than the senior leaders – and with studies showing that feeling unable to discuss key parts of your life can lead to a 20% reduction in productivity this has a real organisational cost.

Being truly LGBT-inclusive doesn’t only benefit LGBT employees – a recent CTI report found that both LGBT and ally employees at LGBT-inclusive companies are more likely to “go the extra mile” for their employer. Many people (71% percent of LGBT people and 82% of allies) are more likely to purchase from a company that supports LGBT equality.

HSBC has worked hard and this year reached 70th place in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. I’m honoured to also have been nominated for the British LGBT Awards' Corporate Rising Star of the Year award for my work to achieve that placing and with LGBT people and groups outside of work.

HSBC UK has a great window of opportunity to build a better bank as we prepare to move to our new UK head office in Birmingham. Knowing that diverse teams are better at problem solving and understanding our customers, we have announced a public commitment to hire senior managers at parity to the community – meaning that 50% of our senior managers will be female.

We have a number of initiatives to ensure that this happens but announcing the pledge has already had a big impact – we are now receiving more applications from women. We believe that inclusion isn’t about lowering the bar, but widening the gate. To find the best candidates we need to be talking to people from all areas of our customer base. Being publicly inclusive of LGBT people – and people of all backgrounds – is essential for HSBC or any company to attract the talent that they need to continue to achieve their goals and be better suited to a changing society.

Sarah Fennell is a diversity and inclusion manager for HSBC UK, and has been nominated for the British LGBT Awards' Corporate Rising Star of the Year award (this year’s voting closes 22 March)

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