In the UK, February is LGBT+ History Month – a time to celebrate the LGBT+ community and its rich history. At NTT DATA, we see this month as an opportunity for both celebration and education. It’s a time to highlight LGBT+ excellence and achievements across the company and beyond while also encouraging important conversations about the ongoing prejudice that the LGBT+ community faces in the UK and around the world.
As part of a series of NTT DATA UK blogs for LGBT+ History Month, in this blog I’ll explore the importance of business leaders taking responsibility to ensure organisations are actively inclusive of the LGBT+ workforce. Those businesses that champion the LGBT+ community stand to benefit from a more engaged workforce and are more likely to attract diverse talent and perspectives to their organisations.
Battling prejudice with education
It’s an uncomfortable truth that many members of the LGBT+ community continue to face prejudice and bias in their daily lives, including in the workplace. Faced with the threat of discrimination, some LGBT+ workers choose to conceal their identity to protect themselves. Stonewall research in 2018 found that 35% of LGBT+ staff have hidden that they are LGBT+ at work. In addition, 10% of BAME LGBT+ respondents had been physically attacked by customers or colleagues within a year of the survey being carried out. A separate study by the CIPD found that over half (55%) of trans workers have experienced workplace conflict and harassment.
These figures are startling, and they highlight the need for organisations to ensure their workplace is a safe space for LGBT+ employees. Prejudice and discrimination cannot be tolerated, and unconscious bias and ignorance must be challenged so that all employees can present themselves at work, without fear of repercussions.
Education is key. At NTT DATA we place great importance on a culture of open dialogue and learning, encouraging people to share their experiences and celebrate their identities. Our LGBT+ and Allies Network provides a safe space for members of the LGBT+ community and their allies to come together for mutual support. Allies play a key role in educating the wider community and in standing against prejudice and discrimination. Nurturing a company culture that encourages allyship is therefore an important step towards greater inclusivity.
Our society includes people from different ethnic backgrounds, genders, and sexual identities. Businesses should reflect the diversity of their customers, clients, and the wider society that they serve.
As we face an ongoing talent shortage, with over three quarters of UK workers considering handing in their notice in 2022, company culture is becoming particularly important component of recruitment. Prospective employees want to be able to identify with the culture and values of a business they choose to work for. In this context, organisations that prioritise diversity and inclusion are more likely to attract the best talent.
I want people considering a job with NTT DATA to see people like them within the business, and to feel that they can belong. When people join an organisation, they become part of a team. Employees will be most successful if they are able to be authentically themselves and if they feel they fit in with the rest of the team. It’s our job to create that necessary psychological and physical safety for our employees so that they can perform to the best of their abilities.
Beyond LGBT+ History Month
LGBT+ History Month and Pride are two key focal points in the calendar year that offer an opportunity to bring the celebration of the LGBT+ community to the fore. Yet, support for the LGBT+ community must be a year-round endeavour. In communications we talk about the frisbee versus the bouncing ball. Events such as Pride and LGBT+ History month are the bouncing balls that bring issues into consciousness, but we also need to facilitate ongoing awareness and education activities – the frisbee side of the metaphor – to ensure all LGBT+ employees feel seen and valued by the organisations they work for.
Business leaders should be vocal in their support for the LGBT+ community, leading from the top to sign-post their organisations as a safe and inclusive space for all. For leaders who may be unsure of how to engage their workforce on this topic, or who are perhaps wary of how best to get that message across, my advice is to make sure you’re as fully informed as you can be. Speaking to those with lived experiences is the best education you can get. Only by working closely with the LGBT+ community can organisations battle ignorance and build a culture in which all LGBT+ employees can thrive.