I joined Connect Out, Arup’s LGBT+ diversity network, for a discussion around LGBT+ inclusion in the transport sector.
As founder and organiser of This Is Us Conf, we are pushing for better LGBT inclusion and understanding in businesses. And these conversations are incredibly important to help move things forward towards diversity and equality.
LGBT+ individuals face a different and varied set of problems, which can be incredibly detrimental to their mental health if they don’t have the correct support. Employers and HR need to take this responsibility and implement better, more effective policies to help support, mentor and provide a safe working environment.
At the Connect Out event, we heard from various role models across the transport sector about their personal experiences, plus debated the need for employee networks in today’s transport industry.
An opening speech was delivered by Dervilla Mitchell, Chair, UKIMEA Region who highlighted the fact that a place of work where equality, diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of the company’s mind, provides a better experience for both customers and employees alike. A company where employees are able to bring their whole self to work enhances their productivity and therefore benefits the firm. She also noted that the Human Being should in fact be at the centre of a business’s mind. (I love this).
Babak Erfani MBE, Senior Commercial Scheme, Sponsor and Chair of Archway, Network Rail’s LGBT GroupLaura Schofield, Project Manager, JacobsRobert Nisbet, Regional Director, Rail Delivery GroupPeter Allen, executive Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications and LGBT+ Exec Sponsor, Highways England
One Speaker discussed how he was almost afraid to come out at work as being gay due to un-profound language and attitude of some of his colleagues against Gays. Since then as things have progressed within the workplace environment, it was discussed that use of language is important when referring to LGBTQ+ individuals.
The subject of transitioning at work was also debated and how important it is to feel supported by colleagues at work. Little things like being a witness to legal documents to marking the occasion with cake all help with the journey and make them feel accepted and included. However, it was also suggested that there can be a feeling of intrusion when Trans people are asked more questions about them than of CIS gender individuals. This was argued that people are perhaps being inquisitive and curious and want to learn more about how to be more inclusive to Trans individuals as opposed to being offensive. It was also considered that the communication needs to be two way between LGBT and non-LGBT employees and there needs to be an open dialogue as many people do not ask questions intending to be rude or hurtful – they are generally intrigued and by asking questions it helps them understand the individual’s situation better.
Another thought was that the support needs to come from top-down – it needs to come from the Exec / Leadership team and only then will others follow suit and feel safe and comfortable about being their individual self at work. Visibility is also key such as rainbow lanyards and Ally badges. Also, being visible in terms of recruitment was also considered important and having real LGBTQ+ employees tell their real stories such as at a recruitment fair, on the website or in other literature as well as at events. These were all considered to be a positive advertisement for being an inclusive employer to be able to attract a diverse talent. Having said this, it is still quite a different culture being on-site on the ground in construction than being in a safer office environment and there is still a lot of work to be done on this front.
To answer the headline question, we are not there yet, but businesses in all industries, not just transport are normalising conversations about inclusivity and equality and employers are beginning to address the core needs to LGBT+ individuals and understanding the importance of nurturing and treating everyone equally, and as human beings.