Group Growth and Development Director at Wilson James
Every February we celebrate LGBT+ History Month although some might ask why is it so important? After all, here in the UK homosexuality was decriminalised 1967, we have had full marriage equality since 2014 (2020 in Northern Ireland), and we benefit from many other legal rights and protections – all of which were fought for by generations before us. But for many the barriers to living an authentic life are not just the legal ones.
Wilson James is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and we want all our colleagues, clients and partners to feel a sense of belonging. To be safe in the knowledge that they can be their true selves in the workplace and that Wilson James will champion them. We recognise that some of our colleagues might need more support from us to do this, support that we are happy to provide. But talk is cheap, and research has shown that more than a third of LGBT staff in the UK (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination*, so how do we ensure that our colleagues can come to work knowing that their workplace is one with zero tolerance for discrimination?
We recently launched our brand-new People Networks, which will contribute to fostering a safe and inclusive workplace. As the Executive Sponsor of the Wilson James LGBT+ People Network I hope to use my personal experience to help shape the culture around us in a positive way. I identify as gay, and while I have felt that way for nearly all my life, it was a significant challenge in my earlier years to be open about it, and I did not feel able to come out until I was in my forties. Today the landscape has changed, making the coming out experience easier for many, but we still do not have equality, and I want to be able to share my journey to help usher in positive change and increased understanding within the workplace at every level.
Our People Networks are in their infancy, and I began the year with a fantastic training session. This really helped me understand what People Networks are, and the benefits they can bring to organisations. I learnt that the aim of the Networks is to act as the ‘voice of the people they represent’ and should be a source of innovation and solutions. We have great ambitions for the coming year, and we want as many people as possible within Wilson James to be part of the work we do and the changes we make.
So, to answer my own question: Why do we celebrate LGBT+ History Month? Because by reflecting on the past, we can celebrate how far we have come and work together toward a brighter future.
*Data from Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain – Work Report, based on YouGov research with 3,213 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender employees, revealing troubling discrimination in Britain’s workplaces