The Need for Diversity in the Workplace
22 June 2015 by Marketing Team
Following up from his article looking at diversity and equality in society, Josh Price from our Wills & Probate team now takes a look at the same issues in the workplace…..
As with any workforce there will be a range of people of different genders, races, interests, work ethics etc. (and those are just the things you notice!). There will be many things about your colleagues that you might not know about them, and may well never find out about them, sexuality being one of them. In a survey from 2006, a staggering 49% of LGB (Lesbian Gay Bisexual) people go back into the “closet” when it comes to their jobs. Either because of actual homophobia or perceived homophobia should they “come out” at work, and looking at the statistics you can see why. Research carried out by Stonewall found that “nearly one in five lesbian and gay people, almost 350,000 employees in Britain, have experienced bullying from their colleagues because of their sexual orientation. Almost four million people (13 per cent of the national workforce) have witnessed verbal homophobic bullying in the workplace and over one million people (4 per cent of the national workforce) have witnessed physical homophobic bullying at work.”
It seems despite many initiatives by larger companies to make their workplace a more inclusive place to work, an “OUTstanding” survey found that only 24% felt their middle management had an inclusive attitude towards colleagues who aligned themselves to being LGB or T.
Despite these rather damning statistics, “more than nine in ten people are in support of laws introduced in 2003 protecting lesbians and gay men from discrimination at work.” Which suggests that discrimination against LGB people is carried out by a minority people.
I myself weighed up the options of going back into the “closet” when it came to starting my career within a law firm as I felt my career was more important than my need to be myself. I found it very difficult when people would ask about my partner and I would respond “my other half” and refer to him as a “they” or a “them” which is exhausting trying to live a double life. Eventually those around me became aware of my sexuality, although as a firm it wasn’t open knowledge. When through my charity work with an LGBT charity my sexuality came up I decided to be honest with the firm. The response was as it should be, provided I could do the job I was hired for, what does my sexuality really matter?
However, like any personal information people’s sexuality is something that they shouldn’t be forced to reveal, however like any personal information they should feel able to be open about it should they so wish. Rather than feeling that they have to use “gender neutral” pronouns such as partner or other half, everyone should be able to use boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife.
Stonewall which is a long standing LGB charity which is the largest in both the UK and Europe, have carried out some pioneering research on the productivity of lesbian and gay staff in the workplace, found that gay staff who can be out at work in a safe environment are more productive than their gay colleagues who have to hide their sexual orientation at work and/or work in less inclusive environments.
By changing the attitude within your workplace, or developing on the work your already doing within your work place can have a huge impact on the productivity of not just your LGB staff, but also their colleagues because the fundamental principles of equality and diversity span far further than just LGB or T rights.
Josh Price is a paralegal in the Private Client team at Fisher Jones Greenwood.