LGBT history in the making

By John Glenton, Riverside’s chair of SPECTRUM and director of operations in care and support.

John Glenton, Director of Operations for our Care and Support ServicesIn January I was delighted to learn that Riverside had kept its place in the Stonewall top 100 gay-friendly workplaces.

And as February is the month designated to celebrating LGBT history, it’s the perfect time to both look back, and to consider how our present actions are indeed history in the making.

Diversity enriches Riverside and I’m thrilled that our employees represent the communities we house and support.  As we demonstrate our commitment to valuing diversity, we consequently attract and retain talented people, who can be themselves, whoever they are.  Our place in Stonewall’s top 100 is just one way of sending out a clear message that this is a safe place to work if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.

30 years ago I was attending protest marches against Section 28, the government legislation which banned literature about homosexuality in schools

This year, the standard of submissions was very strong. Over 400 companies submitted evidence, in the hope of securing a place within the index.  For us, the competition makes it more difficult to maintain our ranking. But for LGBT equality, it’s history in the making. Many more organisations are supporting their LGBT colleagues and demonstrating just how they do this, sharing best practice and moving things on at a pace.

MI5 secured the top spot, which seems hard to believe given the secrecy that surrounds the organisation. Historically, people working for the security forces remained firmly in the closet, fearful of being blackmailed about their sexual orientation.  At the Stonewall top 100 employers’ event, I was inspired by Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5. During his acceptance speech, he said that working towards LGBT equality is simply: “….the right thing to do.”

It’s amazing how the tide has changed. I was thrilled to be one of 200 dedicated people, representing a broad range of organisations, sharing the same enthusiasm and commitment to creating LGBT-friendly workplaces.  While only 30 years ago I was attending protest marches against Section 28, the government legislation which banned literature about homosexuality in schools. 

But have we truly achieved equality?  I think we are on the way to it in the UK, though homophobia and transphobia still does exist. We are way ahead of some countries where people are still being imprisoned, or even face the death penalty, simply because they are gay.

Finally, to coincide with LGBT history month we are launching our Friends of Spectrum recruitment campaign.  I don’t think we would have made as much progress on equality without the support of straight allies. Our campaign message is to encourage colleagues to sign up as an ally and be visible in their support.  The aim is to make sure that LGBT colleagues, whether they choose to come out or not, feel comfortable enough to feel they can make that choice. When people are able to be themselves they are genuine and authentic, form stronger and more productive relationships, and generally, are the best they can be.