I was keen to attend the Stonewall Conference in London. As an LGBT+ champion for our East of England branches, I wanted to see how our diversity initiatives compared to other companies’, as well as gather some new ideas I could bring back to Enterprise that will make our workplace even more inclusive for the LGBT+ community.
The day did not disappoint in the slightest. I quickly realised that Enterprise is already doing an amazing job at providing a safe and inclusive environment for LGBT+ employees, compared to many of the other companies present.
But I also found that there are still more things we can do.
The first session I chose to attend was about trans people in the workplace, as this is an area I was keen to learn more about. I learnt that I am ‘cisgendered’, which means that my gender identity matches the sex assigned to me at birth. More importantly, I learnt about the importance of considering non-binary people in the workplace, which made me think about all the ways in which we interact with people externally too – and as a retail company, they are many! Non-binary people identify as neither male nor female, so the pronouns we use when greeting customers, colleagues and prospective colleagues can be really important, and have a profound impact. For example we would use pronouns they/their for non-binary people instead of he/she. I will share what I’ve learnt about this topic with my colleagues back at work – I’m sure this will make us even more inclusive of non-binary people.
We also heard testimonies and stories from numerous trans people, one of whom works at a very large consulting firm, who has found her experience of being openly trans in the workplace very positive and affirming. At Enterprise we don’t yet have an openly trans person working for us in the UK, and I found myself asking why that would be. One of my biggest take-aways on the day is to reach out to local trans support groups to find out what we can do to attract trans-people and make it safe and easy for a person to transition in the workplace.
The second session was about capturing information about our work force, how to use the data, and how to share the results to promote positive change. Enterprise is on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which means every year our employees are invited to complete a questionnaire, which indicates how inclusive we are for LGBT+ people. It is so important that we have as many people complete this questionnaire as possible, to get an accurate understanding of areas in which we could improve. Just one of the many ways Enterprise uses to focus on our diversity efforts.
The final session was called ‘Mental Health – Coming out’ and we heard from numerous people, including the Director of Stonewall Wales, who shared their stories of being LGBT+ and suffering from mental illness. It was scary to learn that LGBT people are 50% more likely to suffer with a mental illness than straight people, and 88% of trans-people suffer with depression, compared to 25% of straight people. Mental health and being LGBT+ both carry a perceived social stigma and are invisible, so it was interesting to compare them.
It was reassuring to hear that many of the suggestions and ideas Enterprise already implements, such as having diversity committees and employee networks to provide support and drive innovation in diversity and inclusion. I spoke with many people across a broad spectrum of organisations, who asked about what we do at Enterprise and it was great to share information and learn from each other.
Whilst we already do a lot, I was also inspired by the words of John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who delivered the closing speech of the conference. He said that achieving diversity and inclusion for LGBT+ people is a constant journey that is ever evolving. And that we must stay on this journey even if we come up against obstacles. That struck me because my experience of being a diversity and inclusion champion, is that often you come up against discrimination and a lack of understanding and support from certain people; but also that this does not matter. It is still worth the fight, worth educating people, worth speaking up for minorities and forcing through positive change.
There are so many easy things we can do to make our workplace inviting and safe for everyone. We already do a great job at Enterprise of being visibly supportive of the LGBT+ community – we attend more Pride events than ever, we celebrate every LGBT History Month and IDAHOT day. But there is still more that we can do. Of one thing I’m sure: as long as we follow our values of making our work environment one that is fun and friendly and where team-work rules, we are on the path to equality.