February is LGBT+ History Month in the UK – a month of celebration and of information, promoting equality and diversity for everyone’s benefit – and I’d like to encourage members to get involved if you have not already.
Despite the significant progress of recent decades, many LGBT+ people still suffer discrimination in their personal and professional lives. This month seeks to increase visibility of the history and experiences of LGBT+ people and raise awareness of the challenges they still face.
Hundreds of events are taking place across the country – including conferences, quizzes, theatre, sporting events and flag flying – a full list of which can be found here.
The business case
The diversity in society is becoming more visible, and younger generations in particular are placing growing importance on equality and inclusion – they want to know and see that businesses are investing in these issues and taking social responsibility. Those that do will likely prove more attractive to both customers and shareholders in the future.
Statistics show that inclusive workplaces – where employees feel able to be their true authentic selves – leads to increased employee wellbeing and retention. Employees who do not feel included or understood will find it more difficult to integrate or perform to their full potential, which has knock-on effects for wider workplace culture and – ultimately – output.
The human case
But, economic benefits aside, this is about doing the right thing and valuing people for who they are. It is about not just recognising LGBT+ rights but empowering the LGBT+ community to have a fully valued place in society.
There is still a great deal of work to be done. Homosexuality remains illegal in around 70 countries, and we have staff at ICAEW who have been very candid about their personal experiences – including the need to remove their wedding rings in certain countries and still feeling obliged to lie about their home lives in some social situations.
Recent research by Mental Health First Aid England shows that 62% of LGBT+ employees go back into the closet upon entering the workplace. Clearly this needs to change and all of us can help to create a more inclusive working environment.
At ICAEW we believe in the power of inclusive workplaces and in the vision that all LGBT+ employees should bring their whole selves to work regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
To support LGBT+ History Month, we’re proud to be running a number of features on social media. These include a profile of ICAEW member Isabella Segal on her 'transgender journey' and the story behind EY’s 25th anniversary of its LGBT+ network.
Every Summer, to mark Pride in London, we proudly fly the rainbow flag at Chartered Accountants’ Hall – a symbol of our Institute’s solidarity with our LGBT+ members and employees, and with the LGBT+ community more widely.
ICAEW also acts as secretary to the Professional Services LGBT+ Group, which facilitates meetings between accountancy firms to learn from each other and to share good practice in inclusivity.
We’ve also founded Together, our LGBT+ employee network which works to create an open, progressive and informed working environment to support our employees and stakeholders. We benchmark ourselves in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index each year and run training and regular forums to drive forward initiatives.
We all have a responsibility to help each other feel included. Please consider what you and your business can do to get involved this month and to better understand, encourage and support LGBT+ communities in the workplace and beyond.