An LGB employee network group is a formal mechanism for enabling lesbian, gay and bisexual staff to come together to share information and support. Stonewall’s research shows that it is a valuable workplace resource that can benefit the organisation, employees, customers and clients.
The benefits of LGB organisations are:
PROMOTES DIVERSITY Support for an LGB network explicitly demonstrates an employer’s commitment to equality and diversity, and shows that it values all its staff. It highlights that the organisation is a positive career choice, helping to attract and retain talented people.
The Accenture UK Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) Network was integral to co-ordinating and winning the firm’s bid to sponsor the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which has had a positive impact on the company’s public image. A number of new recruits have directly attributed the sponsorship of the event to their interest in the firm. They felt that Accenture’s clear stance on sexual orientation and diversity made it a more attractive career option than its competitors.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office Lesbian & Gay Group (FLAGG) helped run the FCO’s stall at London’s Gay Pride festival in July 2003 to increase awareness among LGB travellers of the FCO’s Know Before You Go safe travel campaign. As well as reaching out directly to LGB service users, the stall attracted the attention of individuals who had previously not considered the FCO as a potential employer. FLAGG’s presence demonstrated the FCO’s positive stance on sexual orientation.
ENCOURAGES COMPLIANCE WITH EMPLOYMENT LAW Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, employers are legally required to tackle homophobia in the workplace. Supporting an LGB staff network is a good way for employers to show their commitment to tackling homophobia.
BUILDS EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION CHANNELS LGB networks provide an effective consultation mechanism, facilitating communication between organisations and LGB employees. They are a point of contact for employers who want to find out about the concerns of their LGB staff and can be a useful resource for policy makers and diversity trainers.
ENHANCES CUSTOMER REPUTATION Where an organisation publicly recognises the value of its LGB employees, LGB customers and clients are more likely to want to access that service or use that product. A three per cent rise in staff satisfaction translates into a one per cent increase in customer satisfaction.
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BUILDS COMMUNICATION CHANNELS Employee networks give marginalised groups an opportunity to be heard. An LGB network can provide a forum for LGB staff to talk to managers about issues that specifically affect them. Providing a forum for discussion is an important way to build a workforce that feels valued.
PROVIDES PEER SUPPORT LGB employees can use a formal network to support each other. The group can also speak up for LGB staff who are experiencing problems at work.
The Royal Navy Lesbian & Gay Network was set up after the lifting of the ban on LGB people serving in the armed forces in 1999. Serving in the Royal Navy, particularly when at sea, can be isolating and stressful, and sexual orientation issues, such as discrimination or coming out, can be difficult to deal with alone. The Lesbian & Gay Network aims to support those individuals and help them mitigate crises that could have a negative impact on their health and career. The group’s activities are focused on promoting social inclusion and include outreach, peer support and social events. Being able to share and compare their experiences of being LGB in the Navy improves members’ confidence, both personally and professionally.
PROMOTES CAREER PROGRESSION Employee networks help to create an environment in which LGB staff feel safe to develop their skills and pursue career opportunities. Access to role models and mentors through the network will inspire and build staff confidence. It will also normalise the concept of LGB career success.
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IMPROVES PRODUCTS AND SERVICES Organisations that deliver services to the public can use their LGB networks to develop a better understanding of the needs and expectations of LGB clients and customers. They can also help identify barriers that LGB customers may face when accessing services or products.
Barnardo’s National LGBT Forum comprises several regional groups. The forum provides support, advice and information to LGBT colleagues, and ensures the needs of LGBT service users are understood and met, both in policy and practice. The forum has developed the SafeZone initiative. This is a national, LGBT-themed poster campaign and workshop designed to encourage LGBT people to access services and educate non-LGBT staff on how to support and understand LGBT colleagues/service users. Posters depict young LGBT people and LGBT parents and carers. They state explicitly that
Barnardo’s welcomes LGBT people and does not tolerate homophobia. Traditionally, the child-care sector has not been regarded as an LGBT friendly environment but the forum, supported by robust antidiscrimination policies, is working to eradicate homophobia, both in employment and service provision.
Nationwide Group Staff Union’s LGBT Advisory Committee has been involved in a review of company marketing literature. This is to ensure it uses appropriate language and terminology, and images that are truly representative of its diverse customer base.
Supported by Nationwide