June was Pride month across the globe, marking the start of Pride parade season in support of the LGBT+ community and serving to promote LGBT+ rights and increase awareness of how much further we need to go to achieve equality.
However, this year was particularly poignant, marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots; a turning point for LGBT+ rights globally. The riots started following an early morning police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan in June 1969, and turned into spontaneous violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT+ community. There was nowhere they could meet without fear of being arrested. The riots are seen today as the turning point for gay rights globally, as within six months two gay activist groups had been established and three newspapers focused on lesbian and gay rights. Just one year later, in 1970, the first gay pride marches in America took place in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Now, half of century later, the end of June still marks the beginning of Pride season, commemorating the change that happened after the Stonewall Riots as well as the progress made by societies in understanding, accepting and supporting LGBT+ people and communities. However, we also acknowledge and reflect on the fact freedom and acceptance are not global and in some places progress is moving backwards.
A belief that everyone should be able to be their true self at work, and feel they belong, is a core part of the CIPD’s purpose: championing better work and working lives and we proudly supported Pride month again this year. Our LGBT+ activity is driven by our CIPD LGBT+ and friends employee resource group which has been running for almost three years and we’ve come a long way in that short time, rising up the Stonewall Equality Index more than 200 places within a span of a year. We’re determined to champion equality at work for our own staff here at CIPD, our volunteers, associates, our members and all those we engage with. The Stonewall motto of ‘acceptance without exception’ is a must and is the sentiment that underpins our belief about how work should be.
We started early – in mid-May, supporting the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. We ran a panel discussion with circa 70 people professionals in attendance. The event started with an interactive session, supported by Stonewall, on the global landscape of LGBT+ rights, leading to discussion of the acceptance and inclusion issues in workplaces across Britain. The debate continued with panellists from Travelex, Stonewall and Citi Bank, amongst others.
The discussion also looked at what HR can do to improve LGBT+ inclusion. Some of the key points were:
- The importance of making LGBT+ inclusion more visible and vocal and be an ally to LGBT+ colleagues, standing up for people when you see issues occurring
- The need for allies at work, such as an active senior sponsor and/or employee resource group
- How to promote disclosure and get better quality data which can be used to inform change
- The importance of HR understanding the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.
Throughout June the rainbow flag replaced our CIPD logo on our social media channels. Interestingly, June is also when the flag first debuted in 1978. It was designed by Gilbert Baker as a community flag, with the rainbow representing the diversity of the LGBT+ community.
At our Festival of Work conference on 12 June, which attracted around 7,000 visitors, we ran workshops on different aspects of inclusion. Our LGBT+ employee resource group ran a session with Stonewall exploring LGBT+ identities and experiences at work. It’s important our members have the opportunity to have open conversations, ask questions and share ideas of how to create a workplace culture where acceptance is the norm, and we’re really pleased with how this event went and was received.
The session looked at what it means to be LGBT+ in the workplace and how everyone can be better allies to all of the LGBT+ community. Two points of discussion were particularly prominent.
Firstly, the importance of raising visibility of LGBT+ issues in regards to working practices and secondly, the need to understand, directly from people, how language and terminology is important. LGBT+ is a broad term and so there are a lot of nuances in the issues people will face. Activity, therefore, needs to take account of these nuances and be tailored appropriately. For example, think about what kind of support would be helpful to employees who are transitioning.
Also, when thinking about an issue such as sexual harassment at work, be mindful that, for example, a lesbian woman’s experience of sexual harassment will be different from a trans person’s experience. Essentially, HR need to take the time to understand the differences in people’s work experiences and how to tailor people practices accordingly.
On the evening of the Festival of Work, CIPD hosted a party to celebrate inclusion more broadly. People have a multitude of personal characteristics, some they may identify with more prominently than others, but all can affect our social interactions and working experiences in some way. The party aimed to bring people together to consider inclusion in a holistic way, celebrating difference.
As I write this, Pride month is has just ended, but Pride season is only just beginning, and of course how we support our staff is not, and cannot, be confined to one month a year. The month does serve as a good reminder though to take stock of what we’re doing, think about what more we need to do towards creating a truly inclusive workplace, and, for the CIPD, think how we continue to engage with our members on such a crucial aspect of working life.
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