LGBT diversity in the workplace

Some firms are clearly making progress in creating an environment where LGBT people feel supported, but there is still room for improvement 
by Bethan Rees

June marks Pride month around the world, celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and its important global influence. What more can workplaces do to make sure their inclusive efforts don’t fall short?

The UK Workplace Equality Index was launched in 2005 by LGBT rights charity Stonewall, to raise awareness and partner with organisations to create more inclusive workplaces. Part of this campaign is the UK’s Top 100 Employers list, which ranks the best firms for LGBT inclusivity. This year, law firm Pinsent Masons is in first place, following its number two spot in both 2017 and 2018. The Stonewall website states that the international company “believes that embedding a culture in which all its employees feel empowered to bring their whole selves to work requires ongoing commitment and the continuous implementation of transformational steps to promote progress”. 

But it’s not all good news. Stonewall commissioned YouGov to carry out a survey of more than 5,000 LGBT people in England, Scotland and Wales. The 2018 report highlights the discrimination and bullying the community suffers at work over the year. The figures make for a shocking read. For example, 18% of LGBT staff have been a target of negative comments or conduct from colleagues; 12% of trans people have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues; and 35% of LGBT staff have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work because they are afraid of discrimination. 

No one should feel unsafe at work, nor should they be afraid to be themselves. 
Businesses interacting with inclusivityAn article by Joe McGrath for Portfolio Adviser explains how inclusivity has affected the asset management sector. “Fund firms know that seeking and retaining LGBT staff is good for business. This was evidenced when Kames Capital and Aegon UK announced they were sponsoring the Edinburgh and Essex Pride events. Aegon is certainly not a newcomer on the LGBT scene, having sponsored Scotland’s national LGBT festival twice previously.” 

Siobhan Martin, head of HR at Aegon Asset Management Europe, is quoted: “We believe that everyone should be able to bring their whole authentic selves to work and that inclusive businesses are better performing businesses. The Edinburgh and Essex Pride events always see a strong turnout from Aegon and Kames employees."

The Investment Association published a report in July 2018, titled Bringing our whole selves to work. Its findings (p.14) include that “having a happy and inclusive workplace can raise sales by 37%, productivity by 31% and accuracy on tasks by 19%”.

In the banking world, Barclays is among one of the supporters of LGBT inclusivity, and its Spectrum network is for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, with the goal of driving LGBT inclusion at Barclays. 
Steps to inclusivityIn a blog for HuffPost, Peter Holmes, director of commercial operations at Stonewall, suggests some everyday actions that an LGBT-inclusive employer can take to show support, such as “pledging support during Pride or Trans Day of Remembrance, hosting LGBT networking events, profiling LGBT role models in the workplace or offering diversity training to staff. Each of these kinds of initiatives can help create a work environment where LGBT staff can be themselves and, because of that, thrive at work”. 

George Alabaster, digital officer at Stonewall, gives some advice on a Stonewall blog on how to ensure that everyone is fully included. He writes:
  • “Ensure that your policies are fully inclusive of LGBT people – this includes pensions, family and leave policies, health insurance and relocation allowances. You should make sure your policies explicitly mention LGBT people.
  • Get people involved across your organisation – this could include setting up a network group specifically for LGBT employees; they’ll help you know where you’re doing well and which areas may need a new approach.
  • Decide upon a clear strategy and tactics – whether you want to increase the number of staff who are open about being LGBT, or revise your policies to make them fully inclusive, it’s crucial to know where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.
  • Consulting employees – both LGBT and non-LGBT – about what inclusion looks like in your organisation will help ensure your strategy is appropriate and that all staff share your vision.”

Stonewall’s 2018 report also gives further recommendation on how to be LGBT inclusive as an employer, which includes:

  • “Implement all-staff diversity and inclusion training, which explains what anti-LGBT discrimination or abuse might look like, why it is bad for business and how to challenge anti-LGBT attitudes among colleagues. Training should also provide staff with an understanding of multiple identities and inequality (for example, the dual discrimination that an LGBT, disabled staff member may face).
  • Run awareness raising sessions for all employees on trans inclusion, along with guidance about using pronouns and facilities.
  • Collect diversity data on [your] workforce across pay and grade to identify any areas of discrimination in career progression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Monitoring must be worded and formatted correctly. For example, when asking about gender, employees should be able to describe their gender in their own words.”
A blog by Glassdoor gives guidance on some straightforward strategies to support LGBT employees too, including creating “a gender-neutral environment by making bold changes such as establishing unisex toilets and using gender-neutral language, like ‘partner’ instead of husband or wife”.

As an adult, we spend a considerable amount of time at work. So, whether you’re a junior staff member, team leader or CEO, we all have a role to play in making the workplace more LGBT inclusive and creating a society where LGBT people can feel safe and supported, without exception. 

Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email


Published: 07 Jun 2019
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • inclusivity
  • LGBT
  • diversity
  • Career advice

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