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Stonewall to solidarity: ways to support an LGBT+ safe workplace

There are currently around 1.5 million people in England and Wales who identify as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, or another sexual orientation (LGB+)”. This figure rises by 165,000 when including pansexual, asexual and queer people, who among others are included in the extended LGBTQIA+.

This data was revealed by two new questions in 2021’s government census. These questions were optional, yet 92.5% of respondents aged 16 or over chose to answer; a figure which represents a modern culture of discussion on identity.

This culture – although still in progress, was hard-earned, yet it can be easy to take for granted as time passes and we forget the battles fought by the LGBT+ community and their allies.

That’s why this Pride month, we’re reflecting on LGBT+ history and ways to nurture an inclusive workplace for LGBTQIA+ staff.

LGBT+ in the UK

Just 56 years ago, relationships between adults of the same gender, even in private, were illegal in the UK – and those under suspicion were subject to arrest and harassment.

In 1967, a law was passed in England which legalised “homosexual acts between two consenting adults.” This was under the condition that these ‘acts’ took place privately and both parties were “over the age of twenty-one.”

This law meant that being gay remained illegal if seen in public – while the penalties for what was deemed inappropriate; such as holding hands or dancing with someone of the same sex, were harshened.

In Scotland, being gay remained illegal until 1980. For Northern Ireland, this was the case until 1982.

The Stonewall Inn

Due to laws such as this in the UK and the USA, safe spaces recognised by the LGBT+ community (such as gay bars and clubs) were subject to random police raids wherein patrons would be arrested for dancing, “loitering, lewd acts or wearing a disguise.” In modern culture, the latter is what we now know as drag.

In 1969, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, NYC was targeted and raided. This event ignited a 6-day riot, as patrons and the local community took a stand against years of aggressive and violent treatment by police. The number of protesters began in the hundreds and increased to thousands.

The first Pride

One year later, on June 28, 1970, the Stonewall Inn became a gathering place for crowds of LGBT+ advocates to march in the streets through the neighbourhood to central park.

The day was known as “Christopher Street Liberation Day” and the official chant by participants was “Say it loud, gay is proud.”

The Stonewall organisation

In 1989, the Stonewall organisation was founded in honour of the Stonewall riots and went on to become the largest LGBT+ rights organisation in Europe. One of its founders was British cultural icon Sir Ian McKellen.

Stonewall advocates for the rights of all people who identify as LGBTQIA+. Their current campaigns include banning conversion therapy, removing barriers to IVF treatment and promoting inclusion in the workplace.

LGBTQ+ and the workplace

In 2017, the Stonewall organisation and YouGov created their LGBT In Britain Work Report.

They stated: “Many LGBT+ staff don’t feel comfortable enough to disclose their identity at work, and often those who do are subject to discrimination and abuse, with incidents ranging from offensive language from customers to being outed at work without their consent.”

Reports such as this help us to understand why inclusive workspaces and firm policies are essential to the equality of all employees. 

How to support LGBTQIA+ staff in the workplace

Over the last 22 years, Stonewall has worked with thousands of employers to help foster a workplace which “can attract, retain and nurture the top LGBTQ+ employees.” Among other perks, they will provide tailored training opportunities “to fit where your organisation is currently at in its inclusion journey.”

  • Invite guest speakers

The best advocates to speak on issues faced by LGBT+ people are those who exist within the community. Organisations in the UK such as The LGBT+ Speakers Agency partner with individuals who can share their stories and advice. 

  • Have a clear anti-discrimination policy and process for complaints

A written anti-discrimination policy will firmly cement your business’ solidarity with employees. Making this accessible for existing staff, clients and potential hires is an effective way to demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Combining this with a clear process for complaints and whistleblowing will further show that you will act as their advocate in the event of unfair treatment. 

LGBT+ identity and the hiring process 

The 2017 LGBT In Britain Work Report further revealed that 10% of LGBT+ staff had experienced denial of a job or promotion due to their identity. 

  • For disabled LGBT+ staff, 16% were denied a job or promotion due to their identity
  • This figure rose to 19% for “Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT+ staff.” 

In 2023, discrimination faced by the community is yet to disappear. During our recent equality, diversity and inclusion training day, Jo Major, founder of Diversity in Recruitment, revealed the following statistics.

  • 1 in 5 candidates who identify as LGBTQ+ have been discriminated against in the hiring process
  • 1 in 3 UK employers are less likely to hire a transgender candidate.

Ways to support an equal and fair recruitment process

  • Using a gender decoder

If your business is seeking talent to fill a vacancy, submitting your job description to a free gender bias decoder can efficiently detect language which may be impacting how your advert is received by readers. This will enable you to attract the widest pool of candidates possible.

  • Accepting anonymous CVs from recruiters

In the initial shortlisting stage, hiding characteristics which are vulnerable to discrimination can aid an unbiased hiring process. These include; first name and surname, age, address, names of educational institutions, gender or sexual orientation.

  • Honouring preferred pronouns.

Respecting preferred pronouns can make all the difference for someone who has experienced gender dysphoria. This is a simple gesture which has little impact on a traditional hiring process, yet can validate them, show your support and enable them to confidently thrive during the interview. 

How Distinct Recruitment can support your business

As a leading East Midlands recruitment agency, we can advise and support you throughout the hiring process. We consciously keep inclusivity in mind, for LGBTQIA+ candidates and all other demographics. Contact us today.

Here at Distinct Recruitment, we are on a journey to continuously improve; working towards creating an environment that is truly free from judgement. Currently, we are actively pursuing ways to demonstrate and ensure that people of all identities and backgrounds can feel safe and included when working with us; whether as a customer or in our own internal teams.

Our mission is to genuinely live this ethos, not just for Pride month but year-round. 


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