Employers must strive to become truly inclusive workplaces
Home Group is consistently named as the leading housing association in Scotland in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers index. Last year, it was only one of three Scottish organisations to make the list. This Pride month, Sandra Brydon, Director of Home Group in Scotland, explains why more employers should be striving to become truly inclusive workplaces.
By Sandra Brydon, Director, Home Group in Scotland.
Since Home Group first became a Stonewall Diversity Champion a few years ago, the commitment from across the whole organisation to ensure LGBTQ+ colleagues and customers can be safe, be accepted, respected and celebrated for being themselves within the organisaition has been truly inspiring.
As a member of that community myself, I’m especially proud that we are an inclusive organisation, and the recognition from Stonewall is the icing on that queer cake! Although I had a very happy childhood, I was part of a conservative family where feelings were not openly shared. I kept a part of myself hidden and walked that ‘straight’ line for a long time. It wasn’t until I was 40 that I felt brave and proud enough to come out.
Before then, I had self-esteem and confidence issues and was unable to accept that I was different. This was partly down to society’s view that being different is not a positive thing. Since I came out, I earned a master’s degree, met and married my wife and became a grandmother through my wife’s daughter (and her wife).
As someone who has suffered from low self-esteem and anxiety, I know how challenging it can be when someone feels they need to hide their true self in the workplace and beyond. I am so proud of the work Home Group has achieved, and it is from the top down. My colleagues across the organisation are not driven by Stonewall’s Index per se, but by an unfailing desire to ensure inclusion, equality and acceptance. At Home Group, we want everyone to be able to be the best they can be and bring their true self to work.
We have established powerful and impactful support networks for LGBTQ+ colleagues and set up an ally’s network which has gone from strength to strength. Pride at Home (LGBTQ+ network) and Partners in Pride (allies’ network) numbers have rocketed, with more than 100 Pride at Home members and over 650 Partners in Pride.
We’ve made a good start on our work with trans inclusion – developing a transitioning in the workplace process in consultation with trans colleagues and ensuring our policies and processes are trans inclusive.
Our ‘role models’ and ‘Lifeswap’ programmes are encouraging people to share their stories and to support others to be more knowledgeable about the challenges that LGBTQ+ people face in the workplace.
Leading by example at the top of an organisation is so important and our executive team have certainly done that. All of the executive team, and most of the senior management team, are members of Partners in Pride.
The executive team has attended ‘lunch and learn’ events, local Prides, taken part in, and promoted, LGBTQ+ campaigns such as Stonewall’s Coming out for LGBTQ pledge and rainbow laces. They’ve taken part in our reverse mentoring programme, promoted and attended LGBTQ+ events and taken a very active role in our LGBTQ+ virtual conference which reached over 2,000 colleagues across the organization.
As an employer, we have created a welcome, safe and inclusive home for all colleagues. We are very proud of that fact and are keen to tell others, and happily share with others our philosophy and practices. It would be hugely inspiring to the LGBTQ+ community to see more organisations publicly celebrating their work and achievements and to see more making their way into the Top 100.