By John Glenton, Spectrum Executive Sponsor
This month, the final touches are being made to our annual Stonewall Workplace Equality Index submission and I am proud that we have been a Stonewall top 100 company for the past eight years.
I know some people may ask that with all the priorities we have at Riverside like improving our customer experience and the important merger work with One Housing, why do we still focus our energy on these matters?
Providing a safe, accepting and enabling working environment for our LGBTQ+ colleagues is vital for colleagues to be themselves in the workplace, and this is the driving force for me.
We know from research that when colleagues feel they can be their authentic selves, their engagement with the organisation and our customers is likely to be higher, their career progression is likely to be better and they will achieve more in terms of their performance.
So not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense and sets the tone for Riverside’s aspiration for truly inclusive culture.
The LGBTQ+ group is diverse within itself and it is important that we remember the different strands that make up this community and support equality for all, including those who may be less visible, for example colleagues who are bi.
Today is Bi Visibility Day, so a perfect time to remember that people who identify as bi often find that if they are in a relationship with a member of the opposite gender they are assumed to be straight or if their partner is the same gender they are assumed to be gay or lesbian.
This group can often face discrimination from within the LGBTQ+ community with terms such as ‘being greedy’ or ‘bi now, gay later’ being used, with similar levels of discrimination from the straight community.
So it is important that we all support and respect colleagues who identify as bi and challenge biphobia if and when this is experienced.
It is also important that we show the same amount of support and respect to colleagues who identify as non-binary – an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’.
Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.
Ultimately this boils down to respecting individuality and respecting diversity which I am proud to say remains a priority for Riverside.
In recent years we have made good progress in terms of trans equality with specific training, guidance and policies such as our Transitioning at Work Policy and our newly launched Gender Identity and Trans Inclusion Policy.
We have also worked through our portfolio of policies to ensure the terminology used is inclusive for all strands of diversity and specifically trans inclusive.
When I chat to people who are interested in becoming allies they often feel they need to know more, need to understand LGBTQ+ lifestyles more and feel they have large gaps in their knowledge – when in fact most of my friends and colleagues from the LGBTQ+ community have the same lifestyle as many of us. They get up in a morning, get the kids to school, go to work, in the evening they make dinner, watch some TV and in the morning it starts again. At the weekend they do shopping, see families, friends and socialise.
Being an ally is about respecting, valuing and supporting diversity not about being an expert on all things LGBTQ+.
It is about remembering that people from the LGBTQ+ are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother and we all have more in common than divides us.