Formal employee networks provide an opportunity for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees to come together to share information and provide mutual support. They are also a way of opening up communication channels between managers and LGB staff.
LGB employee networking activities can range from social events and advocacy to policy development, consultation and training. However, they should be designed to meet clearly identified aims and objectives, and to fulfil the group’s organisational and employee purpose. It is important that groups with a predominantly social networking remit develop, emphasise and publicise their value if they want to achieve more within their organisations. However, to do this effectively, they require employer support. To garner that support, successful network groups are shifting their objectives and marketing themselves carefully. They are clear about the group’s goals and benefits, from both a personal and an organisational perspective.
Aim: Provide support for LGB staff
Aim: Increase understanding of LGB issues
Aim: Contribute to the diversity agenda
Until 1991, LGB people were banned from serving in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and when the FCO Lesbian & Gay Group (FLAGG) formed in 1998 there were still a number of discriminatory policies in place. These included tagging the files of LGB staff, and informing ambassadors of out LGB postings. Working with policy makers in the FCO, FLAGG ensured these policies were abandoned. Since then, FLAGG has worked with the FCO for full recognition and equal benefits for same-sex couples. Its clear aims and professional approach have gained FLAGG the support of the FCO’s equal opportunities team and senior managers, lending it credibility and respect within government. The group works with FCO management in making representations to other governments to expand opportunities for partners of LGB staff overseas and to give LGB staff more choices of where they go and how they develop their careers.
At KPMG, professional networking is key both to developing business opportunities and developing and retaining staff. Breathe is a social networking group for LGB people and those interested in LGB issues at KPMG in the UK. The group organises regular social activities including evening drinks, restaurant visits and theatre trips. It also organises joint events with LGB networks from other firms. Group members have benefited from increased confidence, and from a chance to make business contacts, establish friendships and gain support from people who have faced issues relating to their sexuality at work.
Nationwide Group Staff Union’s LGBT Advisory Committee participated in a diversity training video with specific coverage of sexual orientation issues. The video has been widely circulated as part of the organisation’s diversity training package, and the group has now gained approval to make it compulsory viewing for all employees.
The Merrill Lynch Rainbow Professional Network has hosted a number of speaker events, including a reception for The Rt. Hon Chris Smith, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who talked about his political career and the challenges he faced as one of the first openly gay members of parliament. The events are open to all staff and other city-based professional networks.
Supported by Nationwide