The Champion Ship Although 50 percent of LGBTs in Ireland are not out in their jobs, one organisation is out to change the Irish workplace for the better. Brian Finnegan meets Davin Roche, of GLEN’s ambitious Diversity Champions programme.
ccording to a survey carried out by GCN in January of this year, a whopping 50% of respondents are not out at work, while the 2009 Burning Issues report from the NLGF, identified being able to work in an environment where you can be fully open about your sexuality without fear of discrimination as the most important issue affecting Irish LGBT’s. While many companies, particularly in the corporate sector, have diversity policies in place that specifically recognise LGBT employees, the majority of employers in Ireland simply adopt equality measures that include sexual orientation along with the other nine grounds of discrimination identified by the Employment Equality Act (1998). But according to Davin Roche of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), the issues faced by LGBT people are specific. “Most LGBT people have experienced harassment because of their sexual or gender orientation at some point in their careers,” he says. “Many others feel that disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity will have a negative impact. “This is bad for those LGBT employees, but it’s also bad for their employers. Companies that are inclusive attract the best LGBT talent and their LGBT employees stay longer. Diverse companies find more creative business solutions, they avoid bullying and harassment problems, and they understand their customers better.” Roche heads up GLEN’s Diversity Champions (DC), a new initiative that seeks not only to encourage employers to recognise LGBT diversity by providing ongoing support, it also brings together employers and employees to drive the business case for LGBT equality, diversity and inclusion.
Diversity Champions was set up in 2012 and the first members on board were UCD. “Diversity Champions now has members employing over 15,000 people across a wide range of industries in both the public and private sectors,” says Roche. “Our vision is an Ireland where LGBT people can confidently be themselves at work, where they are valued and respected solely for who they are and for the skills and experiences they bring to their workplaces. “We want to create to create a far greater understanding of LGBT equality at work. We want to create a greater understanding of the role employers and employees have in making Irish workplaces inclusive.” So, how is Diversity Champions going to achieve those results? “To begin with, we work with employers to ensure their policies are LGBT inclusive,” Roche explains. “We support the development of LGBT employee networks; provide training on LGBT inclusion; raise awareness through the media of the equality issues for LGBT employees; and we connect our members to LGBT job seekers.” In its first operational year, DC also ram two networking events for LGBT employees and allies across its member companies, which were heavily attended. “It’s been really significant year with a huge number of very special highlights,” says Roche. He’s particularly proud of the launch of the Irish Prison Service’s Inside Out peer support group, and that IPS signed up with DC, which he calls “historic”. “Our Executive Leaders event with Ernst & Young was also hugely significant. It was the first time that executive leaders, HR Directors, D&I leads and LGBT leads were brought together to explore the critical role
executive leaders can play.” While it was a good year for DC, Roche is aware of the many challenges ahead in terms of getting employers on board. “Some people we speak to mistakenly think that LGBT inclusion is either not a business issue, or has been achieved because sexual orientation is named part of their equality standards,” he says. “Our role is to communicate the business case of identifying the need for specific LGBT diversity. “We know it’s always challenging to make change happen, but we’ve a great team in GLEN and we’re developing strong relationships with our members. I have no doubt we’ll get there in the end.” To find out how your company can become a Diversity Champion, visit diveristychampions.ie or call GLEN at (01) 672 8650
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