· News

Four tips on LGBTQ+ inclusion from Stonewall London Workplace Conference

Stonewall's annual London Workplace Conference took place last week (22 March) at County Hall, London

The HR magazine team went to Stonewall's London Workplace Conference last Friday (22 March). Here's our round-up of what you may have missed.

1. Consider the worst-case scenario to mitigate risk of backlash

Prepare for backlash when publicly supporting LGBTQ+ employees, said Ella Slade, Vodafone's DEI lead.

“We don’t have a formalised plan in place but we do talk through worst-case scenarios,” they said. “For example, I organised a Trans Day of Visibility event that is open publicly externally.

“Because of that I’ve had conversations with the team about the possibility of someone hijacking it or transphobic individuals joining, and the need to think about the safety of not only our employees, but other trans people that will be joining.”

While public support for employees is important, internal support can go a long way, Helen Ouseley, global DEI lead at Freshfields noted.

She explained: “Making some commitments to your people in a public domain has been important, but sometimes it’s not about shouting the loudest.

“In some geographies that’s not helpful because it means you’re not in the room to have the conversation and to influence. So in some geographies we’ve tried to influence, none of you would ever know what we’re doing, because that gives us more power.”

Slade also noted that employers should ensure they follow through with public statements internally.

They said: “Having that core backbone of beliefs is critical; what I would like to see more of is organisations sticking by their core beliefs. If you don’t stand for discrimination, you don’t stand for discrimination full stop.”

Read more: LGBTQ+ graduates want to be out at work

2. Visibly support trans identities to foster trans inclusion at work

Transgender employees often hide their identity at work due to fear of discrimination an account manager at Stonewall, explained.

They said: “Half of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination, and that is due to a lot of barriers that are in place in the workplace.”

They noted that visible support for trans staff and inclusive policies and benefits were key to ensuring trans employees feel included at work.

“A trans-inclusive workplace is a place where staff can thrive, feel seen and are also an included part of the community.”

“Some key parts of this include visible support for trans staff, and visible support for external organisations that do trans-inclusive work, and having inclusive policies so that trans staff know they’re supported.”

The best inclusive trans policies are those that explicitly include non-binary identities, Lee added.

They continued: “The most inclusive trans policies explicitly mention that this includes all gender non-conforming identities, including people that are gender fluid. 

“This ensures that all trans staff, or people who operate under the trans umbrella, understand their rights and access to these documents and the support that is available to them.”

Read more: Number of trans-related employment tribunals increases


3. Harness hybrid events and online resources for inclusion on a budget 

Employers can use virtual events and online resources if they do not have a large budget to allocate towards inclusion, according to Phil Clements, co-chair of Omnicon Media Group’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Group.

He said: “Virtual events don’t have the same cost implications as those in person. And there are other benefits, as online discussion means people can contribute no matter where they happen to be. 

“Recording panels and talks allows people to get involved whenever they have time, which is very useful in a hybrid working environment.

“For those in the early stages of coming out, when attending in person might feel like too big of a step, [online meetings] can allow for greater access.”

Clements encouraged employers to build a library of online content so that staff can access it from anywhere and at any time.

“You don’t need to hold an event each week. There is also lots of readily available content online which you can use and curate. You can create your own guides for people to read. Do your research. Use only reliable sources, like charities and advocacy groups. 

“You will likely discover details you simply weren’t aware of. As you educate others, you too will grow.”

Read more: The importance of safeguarding LGBT+ business travellers


4. Prioritise safety when building global networks

Vicky Hayden, Stonewall's head of global relationships, said that global staff networks can be a powerful way to build community and foster inclusion for LGBTQ+ employees at international organisations.

“It’s really important to remember that, for some people, the workplace is the only safe place they have to be themselves. Accessing that global network and that community and those resources is so valuable. 

“Networks can give peer-to-peer support. This can be a designated point of contact. For some, this can look like a group inbox or webpages you can access or contact confidentially.

“In countries where LGBTQ+ people don’t have legal protections, they might not know that you know that your company has a policy that protects them from harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“We’re not asking network groups to take over the role of HR but they can signpost appropriate policy and advocate for change as a critical friend of the organisation.”

She added that safety should be prioritised when building these networks.

“Do your research. There are many tried-and-tested way of conducting these groups and many organisations are willing to share how they conduct them.

“We know in some places there are legislative challenges beyond criminalising same-sex activities. We also have to think about whether there are any restrictions on LGBTQ+ gatherings, for example. That’s where you have to go out into your global market to understand what some of those challenges might be.

“We know not all countries have consistent legislation about data protection, so thinking about how people sign up to your resources and how you support them to maintain confidentiality and anonymity is really key.”