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Keeping Pride on the agenda all year long

Many workplaces have a clear strategy on inclusion of the LGTB+ community, with programmes and events running throughout the year

Dublin Pride Parade 2019 will take place on Saturday, June 29th. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Dublin Pride Parade 2019 will take place on Saturday, June 29th. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Discrimination against the LGBT+ community happens on a daily basis, so it’s more important now than ever that organisations and Government support Pride week.

Many companies join in the festivities, with rainbow flags flying in offices across the country over the course of the week and events taking place in many work environments throughout the festival.

However, throughout the year, many workplaces keep the momentum up, with a clear strategy on inclusion of the LGBT+ community.

“Some of the programmes we have in place include training programmes targeted at LGBT awareness and unconscious bias. In addition to these training programmes, we have an Executive Speaker Series where inspirational LGBT leaders come into the firm and speak about their individual journeys; we host employee engagement in roundtable LGBT discussions and we screen documentaries which focus on LGBT issues,” Seamus Hand, managing partner, KPMG in Ireland, says.

He says attendance at these events comes from both the LGBT community and also their supporting allies within the organisation.

Similar networks are in operation in other major organisations across the country such as AIB and law firm Pinsent Masons.

“Our LGBT+ and Allies network are actively involved in internal matters such as policy review and social cohesion, external collaborations such as Stonewall, Working with Pride and other local business networks, as well as highlighting campaigns to work on such as the Business4LoveEquality campaign in Northern Ireland to bring about equal marriage,” Paul Gillen, employment partner, Pinsent Masons says.

The company has also rolled out trans inclusion training aimed at different teams within their business. “This is helping to raise awareness and understanding of issues around gender identity/expression and create a forum where people can ask questions and learn how to create an inclusive workplace,” Gillen says.

At AIB, Pride Matters is a year-long, ongoing commitment, to the LGBT+ community within the bank, with the annual Pride season a check-point to measure what they have achieved that year and to celebrate those successes.

It’s clear many work spaces have come a long way, but it’s not so long ago that members of the LGBT+ community had to hide their true selves, and this still remains the case for many.

Twelve years before the marriage referendum, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone and her partner Ann Louise Gilligan, brought to court the fight to have their own marriage recognised in Ireland.

‘Difficult and challenging time’

“That was a very difficult and challenging time. We feared how our employers would react. For Ann Louise, who was lecturing and teaching at St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra, taking the legal action required great courage. At times, she literally feared a knock on her office door. While the fears and the sleepless nights were very real, we had each other and a strong network of friends to support us.

“Of course it is something which we should not have had to go through. The fact that other couples did not feel they could come out and join us in our legal action also shows that it was real. People then could not be open about their love for fear of recrimination or even jeopardising their livelihood. It is a time and a place which Ireland should never go back to,” she says.

Of course, discrimination still occurs regularly and can be dealt with under the Employment Equality Acts.

“If you are an employee, or trying to get a job, and you feel you are discriminated against unlawfully, on any of the nine prohibited grounds, you can make a claim under these Acts. The legislation covers all aspects of work including recruitment and promotion, the right to equal pay, conditions of employment, training or experience,” Zappone says.

When her department consulted 4,000 young people to form the world’s first LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy recently, there was general agreement that Ireland has become a fairer and more equal place in which to live. However, for some, isolation, discrimination and homophobia remain issues, she says.

“One of the measures to combat this will be the roll-out of a national symbol so all companies, services and clubs working with young people can show that everyone is welcome. I hope it is an initiative which all services will embrace,” Zappone says.

So how effective are the measures implemented by organisations?

‘Significant change’

“Within AIB, we can measure the effectiveness both informally and formally. From having open conversations, our colleagues tell us that Pride Matters has brought significant change to the organisation, and that it feels different now. Our yearly companywide engagement survey tells us that the vast majority of our colleagues believe AIB is committed to building a diverse and inclusive workforce,” Tadhg Mac Curtáin, data analyst and Pride Matters co-lead at AIB, says.

“Our customers tell us they are happy to see the support we give to the LGBT+ community, whether it is flying pride flags to show visibility, or support of LGBT+ awareness and fundraising events.”

Pinsent Masons’ Paul Gillen says: “We measure our success and engagement with a staff survey each year. This helps us benchmark against our aims but also against other businesses. This has worked particularly well in the UK through our engagement with Stonewall, which conducts a survey throughout our Great Britain and Northern Ireland offices. On the back of what we have been developing over a number of years, we moved from our number two ranking on the Stonewall Workplace Employment Index to top ranking employer in Great Britain and the very first top ranked employer in Northern Ireland.”

To drive this in other organisations, “the involvement of trade unions and employers is key”, Zappone says.

“It is one thing to have your rights recognised in law. It is, of course, far more powerful when your colleagues, your workmates and your bosses are standing right beside you in solidarity. The laws, the supports and the solidarity have dramatically changed. Discrimination is dropping. Having said that, equality is hard-fought, difficult to achieve and very precious. It should not be taken for granted as what has been won can so easily be undermined and taken away. This is why Pride must remain in the calendar and every workplace should be encouraged to take part,” she says.