LGBT+ History Month: Inclusion policies fail when they remain just policies
To mark LGBT+ History Month, Lucy Caldicott looks at the experiences of the LGBT+ community working in the UK charity sector, and says that the act of opening up space for honest conversations amongst staff will create a more inclusive and healthy environment.
In September 2020, legislation will come into force in England requiring schools to teach fully inclusive Relationships Education in primary schools. This means that children will learn that different types of families exist, that some will have two dads, or two mums, or a mum and a dad, or just a mum, etc. At the same time, fully inclusive Relationships and Sex Education will be taught in secondary schools meaning that young people, LGBTQ+ or anything else, will have access to information to equip them to have a happy and healthy sex life.
I was at school before Section 28 came into legislation preventing schools from discussing or “promoting” homosexuality but it might as well have been in force. In fact, my school didn’t really discuss sexuality of any type. The closest we got to a discussion about sex was a biology lesson about sexual reproduction describing how a human ovum is fertilised. No mention of how the sperm got anywhere near the egg in the first place!
I therefore celebrate this milestone for LGBT+ inclusion in schools. But what of the day to day experience in the workplace?
Stonewall’s 2018 LGBT in Work report shows that more than a third of LGBT+ staff have hidden the fact that they are LGBT+ from colleagues for fear of discrimination.
“If you're black, Asian or minority ethnic, trans or disabled, the likelihood of facing harassment and discrimination in the workplace is even greater. The figures are stark. Six times as many trans people report being physically attacked at work than LGB people who aren’t trans. Nearly one in five Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT staff and 16 percent of LGBT disabled staff report being denied jobs or promotions because of their identity, compared to 10 per cent for LGBT staff in general.”
Stonewall’s findings apply to UK employers in general so it’s hard to know what’s happening more specifically in the charity sector, let alone in fundraising teams, but we can make the assumption that nowhere is immune.
Being known for the work that I do supporting organisations on equality and culture change issues means that people often trust me with their stories. All too often, I’m horrifed at what I’m told of the exclusionary behaviours, bullying, and even sexual harassment experienced by people who are LGBT+ in the charity sector.
And, disappointingly, it doesn’t seem like charities are even trying to address issues within their workplaces. You have to scroll a fifth of the way down Stonewall’s recently-published 2020 Top 100 employers index to find the first charity. And I could only find three charities in the whole list. Three?!
Create ongoing dialogue
Stonewall has some really good tips for LGBT+ inclusion, ensuring we’re mentioned within human resources policies, setting up a network group to hear our views, engaging staff who aren’t LGBT+ as allies, getting senior staff support are amongst other actions you can take.
The one tip that I think is most important, however, is to create ongoing dialogue and input from LGBT+ and all staff to design and develop inclusion policies and activities that work for your organisation and for staff. All of them.
As an example of the kind of conversation I mean, I don’t want to be called LGBT+ or part of the “LGBT+ community”. I’m quite happy to be called a lesbian. But many women aren’t happy to be called a lesbian. It’s a very personal choice. Opening up a conversation about the right terms to use for your staff in your workplace will help everyone understand the terms and their history, rather than leaving them feeling excluded by use of language that doesn’t fit them or anxious about using the wrong word. That’s not inclusion.
Where inclusion policies fail is where they remain just policies, not bought into, not appropriate and therefore too easy to ignore. The mere act of opening up space for honest conversations amongst staff will create a more inclusive and healthy environment.
Lucy Caldicott is Founder of ChangeOut