At Stonewall we understand that people perform better when they can be themselves.
Our research shows that people are more likely to be productive, forge better relationships – and in the case of the NHS – be able to deliver better services, when they can bring their whole self to work.
Yet for many lesbian, gay and bisexual people this is all too often not the case. Not feeling able to be open about their sexual orientation can make gay staff feel both unhappy and disconnected from their work. Whenever a lesbian, gay or bisexual person meets new clients or colleagues or travels around the world for work, they need to make a decision if they want to disclose their sexual orientation. They can’t be certain that their colleagues or customers will support them and not judge them, and can’t be sure that they will be protected by their employer if they are discriminated against.
Some still hear homophobic language and comments from colleagues that can go unchallenged and therefore worry that if others find out they are gay, lesbian or bisexual this will affect their career progression. YouGov polling shows that 2.4 million people of working age have witnessed verbal homophobic bullying in the last five years, so clearly there is work to do.
The good news is that many organisations are beginning to focus on the career development and ambitions of their lesbian, gay and bisexual staff by supporting workplace equality and tackling homophobia. Our work with over 600 employers demonstrates that workplaces which are inclusive of sexual orientation have better leaders and ultimately better performance.
Of course there is work to do. Stonewall’s most recent Workplace Equality Index found that of the 9,700 lesbian, gay and bisexual employees who responded only five in ten said there are visible and open lesbian, gay and bisexual role models in their organisation.
At Stonewall, over the last ten years we have been working with lesbian, gay and bisexual leaders from all sectors. Supporting them to progress their careers as well as empowering lesbian, gay and bisexual people in more junior positions to act as role models and champion diversity and inclusion.
Having visible lesbian, gay and bisexual leaders in the NHS demonstrates the value of difference in the workplace and the advantages it brings to the organisation’s bottom line, effectiveness and reputation. It demonstrates to the communities served by the NHS that they are being cared for by a diverse organisation, and it demonstrates to lesbian, gay and bisexual staff at the beginning of their career that it is possible to be successful if you are lesbian, gay or bisexual.
In fact, sixty four organisations in the Top 100 have an ‘out’ lesbian, gay or bisexual person at their most senior level, and 96 have an openly lesbian, gay or bisexual member of staff at either senior or general management level.
The best organisations support visible lesbian, gay and bisexual leaders by making sure policies are in place to protect from discrimination, they support staff networks and they make sure lesbian, gay and bisexual people can be themselves in the workplace. Lesbian, gay and bisexual leaders have the power and influence to inspire others around them, and can have an impact on the culture of an organisation so all lesbian, gay and bisexual people can bring their whole selves to work and reach their full potential.