Stonewall, the LGBT charity, held its Workplace Conference today at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
With over 200 delegates attending, this is the largest Stonewall conference held in Scotland to date. The conference has brought together senior leaders, HR and diversity professionals, LGBT staff and allies from a large cross-sector of organisations to share the latest innovative thinking.
Keynote speakers at the event included Therese Proctor (People Director at Tesco Bank), Liz Bingham OBE (EY Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion), Justine Smithies (Marine Electronics Engineer for Woodsons of Aberdeen), Colin Macfarlane (Director, Stonewall Scotland) and Ruth Hunt (CEO, Stonewall).
In her speech, Therese Procter said “Eradicating discrimination [in the workplace] is, first and foremost, about changing what people think. That won’t happen overnight, but I know that we can do it. And I know that, because we have the most powerful force for good on our side.”
Break-out sessions throughout the day will include ‘supporting trans staff: how to get it right’, ‘stepping up as an ally’ and ‘exploring the relationship between faith, sexual orientation and gender identity’.
During the afternoon Marco Biagi MSP, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, will be interviewed in front of delegates by Stonewall Chief Executive Ruth Hunt. Biagi is an out gay man who played a leading role in delivering equal marriage legislation in Scotland.
Ruth Hunt will then chair the closing role models session with Alanna Jane Higginson (Editor of Gaia Magazine), Chris Creegan (Chief Executive of the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability) and Kirsty Colquhoun (Leader, Stonewall Young).
According to the staff feedback survey in Stonewall’s 2015 Workplace Equality Index, over half of LGB staff in Scotland are not comfortable being out to all managers or colleagues. Less than one quarter of these are comfortable being out to all customers, clients or service users at work.
Furthermore, LGB staff who are not out in the workplace are five times more likely to dissatisfied with their sense of achievements than those who are.
The statistics do not refer to transgender people, who it is believed experience even greater challenges in the workplace – something the conference will be considering.
Marco Biagi MSP, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, said: “Everyone in Scotland deserves a workplace that is inclusive, where they feel valued and treated equally.
“Despite the significant progress made, particularly in recent years, we are aware of the inequality still facing LGBTI people and communities today – we know from research that LGBTI staff are more likely to report being subject to bullying or unacceptable language. There is no place for prejudice or discrimination in modern day Scotland or anywhere else.
“The Scottish Government aims to be an exemplar in diversity, seeking to provide a safe and secure working environment for all, where staff can be themselves. We are committed to working with partners like Stonewall to promote a more equal society that values Scotland’s diverse communities and the important role they play in enriching Scotland socially, culturally and economically.”
Colin Macfarlane, Stonewall Scotland Director, said: “It’s fantastic to see over 200 people from private, public and third sector organisations represented today at the largest Stonewall Workplace Conference ever held in Scotland. It’s a sure sign that the commitment to LGBT staff’s wellbeing is still very much present.
“However, there’s still lots to do, and the fact that over half of all LGB staff aren’t comfortable being completely out at work is something that has to change. We must all guard against complacency.
“People perform better when they can be themselves, and a diverse workforce drives productivity and creativity, and so getting this sort of work right has big business benefits for organisations. By being here today these organisations are doing much more than just meeting their business objectives. They are part of a movement delivering real social change.
“I look forward to our 2016 conference, to reflect on the progress we’ve made from today onwards, and think about the next steps we need to take to ensure all lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff are accepted without exception in the workplace.”