Supporting LGBT tenants and staff

By John Glenton

Director of operations in care and support and co-chair of Spectrum, the LGBT staff group

John Glenton, Riverside’s director of operations in care and support and co-chair of Spectrum, the LGBT staff group

I’ve attended Stonewall conferences before, as a delegate, but this time I was excited to be sharing our own work with others, as a guest speaker.  

Breaking New Ground was the theme of the Stonewall conference in Leeds last week.  Sessions focussed on issues faced by bisexual staff, religion, ethnicity, and how best to support trans people in the work place.

It was great to be able to represent Riverside and Spectrum at such a high profile event of over 200 delegates, alongside representatives from the fire and police services, housing associations, the education sector and local government, to name but a few.

I was invited to speak about consulting with communities and delivering LGBT inclusive services.

My workshop, with around 60 delegates, focussed on Spectrum’s work and how we support the delivery of LGBT inclusive services across Riverside to benefit tenants, customers and colleagues.  It was great to share our positive impacts, raising the profile of LGBT employment and tenant issues.  I also outlined our targeted campaign to improve declaration of sexual orientation and gender identity at work.  And how we’ve established a network of LGBT tenants who get together at annual conferences and advise us on service delivery to meet their needs. 

This was also the perfect platform to profile the ground breaking Finding Safe Spaces training, delivered by Stonewall Housing.  Delegates were keen to hear how the experiences of LGBT rough sleepers has shaped the training for those working with the homeless, to not only improve services, but avoid the issues that contribute to people finding themselves on the streets.

I also heard the phrase pale, male and stale for the first time.  This term is used to describe management teams that consist of middle-aged straight, white men, who do not reflect the profile of those working in organisations, nor their customer base. 

There’s work to be done to ensure that pale, male and stale managers don’t continue to recruit in their own image, but reach out to advertise vacancies wider, to connect with more diverse candidates.    

I attended an interesting session on role models within the workplace.  Authentic leadership brings to life the Stonewall workplace strapline – people perform better when they can be themselves.  And with LGBT leaders and allies motivated to become role models, employers and employees can see the impact of creating a truly inclusive workplace.

Feeling safe about being yourself in the workplace is so important.  Pretending to be straight can feel like you are living a lie and affect your ability to form positive and genuine professional relationships at work. Feeling valued and accepted creates a better working environment where people can maximise their potential, deliver a high level of performance and enjoy a rewarding and successful career.  

I am so proud of the commitment Riverside has to valuing diversity.  But essentially organisations are made up of people and it’s their values and actions, alongside recruitment policies and procedures, which contribute towards diverse workplaces.