Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

From Allies to Advocates: Launching an LGBTQ+ Employee Network

Paul Brown
16.06.23

We all want to do the right thing. But often what holds us back is the absence of a clear roadmap to help us get there. Celebrating Pride doesn’t just mean wearing the rainbow colours for a month and using trending hashtags on our company’s social media channels. For any group or community that has faced a history of discrimination, what is required are actionable steps to remedy past wrongs and actively providing the necessary support and resources they need.

More than 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others with minority sexual orientations or gender identities) employees have hidden their identities for fear of discrimination in the workplace

 Stonewall

Why employee network groups matter

People spend on average eight hours a day in the office so they need an environment that is conducive to their mental well-being and productivity. Employee support networks can provide a safe space for people to be the most authentic versions of themselves and offer support, advice and other useful resources.

These networks can be tailored to accommodate different protected characteristics, including religion, sexual identity, disability, and parental responsibilities. When people feel supported and empowered on an organisational level, it has an immediate impact on their mental well-being and confidence and this in turn has a positive impact on their productivity.

First Steps

Whether you’re a business owner or a manager looking to create a more inclusive workplace for your team, here are a few things to bear in mind before setting up an LGBTQ+ network. This section will provide a step-by-step guide on how to get started.

Speak to employees

If you are an employer or manager looking to start a group or network, the first step is to get your LGBTQ+ employees involved. The lead on this has to come from someone within the community. So if there employees who are out at work, approach them to find out if they’d want to get involved. Surveys and focus groups are good tools to gauge interest and get things started. They let you ask questions about how to run the network while also opening the floor up to new ideas that you may not have considered.

Anonymous surveys are particularly useful to encourage inputs from people who have either not come out or don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves openly.

The LGBTQ+ community includes multiple identities and experiences so it’s important to ensure diverse representation. For example – people who identify as gay, transgender or non-binary may all bring different ideas and lived experiences.

Create a structure within the network

For a network to run effectively, you need to establish a structure of individuals who can lead it. This is a way to assign accountability and to ensure that the meetings, agendas etc. are carried out as planned. Network leads can take input from members to agree key points like how formal or informal it should be, the frequency of meetings, discussion points, etc.

Kate Hawthorn, Director of Consultant Talent at FDM and Kathryn Sadler, Director of Commercial Services are both Senior Champions of our Pride Network. They believe that an LGBTQ+ network should provide –

Support and resources for those who wish to be an effective ally. Support to challenge where they feel the business can be more inclusive or consider policies and business practice from a different angle.

The network should also be accessible in-person and online. This is particularly important if your organisation has multiple locations so that people can attend meetings remotely.

Set clear goals for the network

It’s important to set goals for the network and define its intended purpose. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. This lets you get the most out of the network and track any developments or progress made.

For example – one goal could be to host quarterly LGBTQ+ events for the next year to raise awareness or organise fundraisers for a chosen charity that works with LGBTQ+ issues.

Provide organisational support

As an employer or a member of senior management it’s important to provide support to the network on an organisational level. This means providing logistical support like the space to hold meetings or allocating company budget for events organised by the network. Senior leadership can provide steer to the network.

Kathryn Sadler and Kate Hawthorn highlight that –

‘The passion and enthusiasm of the group members is the most important thing but a steer from a couple of more experienced people who can guide the direction of the network, offer friendly advice and connect the group to the right people to make things happen will help.’

Promote the network internally

The best way to raise awareness about the network and get more people involved is by promoting it on your company’s internal communications network. Put up posters in your workplace, introduce the network in your staff newsletters. Kate Hawthorn and Kathryn Sadler spoke of the different ways the FDM Pride network has grown since it started in 2018.

What were the main channels we used?

Awareness raising sessions on Teams; lots of coverage via our internal social media platform Yammer to introduce members, highlighting important dates in the Pride calendar, advocacy and word of mouth.

How to become an ally?

Our Pride Champions and Pride Network members share their tips on the Dos and Don’ts of being an LGBTQ+ ally.

Dos

Mercedes Molia, People and Culture Coordinator at FDM Canada said –

‘I wish more people understood that it’s okay to ask questions if they are unsure – as long as they are appropriate. It’s okay to ask what someone’s pronouns are, it’s okay to ask if you’re unsure what certain terminology means. It’s also okay to make a mistake – always be willing to correct your mistakes and learn.’

Kate and Kathryn say –

‘Get involved, come to a meeting. Be open and share your experiences. FDM Pride is an open, friendly, and very accessible network.’

Don’ts

Stefan Sanan, a Senior Graduate Recruitment & University Partnerships Consultant at FDM spoke of the danger of tokenization.

‘It’s crucial to recognize that assumptions about flamboyancy or theatricality can be misleading and may not accurately reflect the individual’s work ethic and dedication. Gay men are focused, driven, and hardworking colleagues who deserve to be treated with the same respect and professionalism as anyone else.’

Within FDM, Stefan has found positive experiences and role models who have played a vital role in making him feel included and supported as an LGBTQ+ employee. Through delivering sessions that encourage sign-ups, Stefan has not only shared his knowledge of LGBTQ+ history but has also helped create an environment of education and understanding, regardless of one’s affiliation with the community.

Stefan’s commitment to the Pride Network exemplifies the spirit of unity, acceptance, and growth, making a significant impact on the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion within FDM and beyond.

Rhys Price, US Consultant Experience Team Lead says –

‘Our orientations and identities are deeply woven into who we are. It’s not something for just our private lives. When the community is being threatened, we’re going to carry that weight on our minds and in our hearts. When we are supported and genuine trust has been built, you will see the best of us come out. For us, it’s not just a month of hyper focus – our LGBTQIA+ identities matter all year round.’

FDM’s Pride Network

The FDM PRIDE Network was first set up in 2018 and has continued to grow since then with more and more people joining in.

Employee networks can be an incredibly powerful way of providing support to staff and providing a safe space for self-expression. Amena Saeed, a Software Tester at FDM believes that LGBTQ+ networks can be a great learning resource for those outside the community as well.

‘Both within and outside of the workplace I wish straight cis allies knew LGBTQIA+ spaces can be a place for them too! To educate themselves, understand others and show their support.’

Amena says –

‘The PRIDE network itself is very diverse, with people from all backgrounds, sexualities and genders, making it a safe and inclusive space for all FDMer’s’

So what does it mean to be a Pride Network Champion?

According to Kathryn Sadler and Kate Hawthorn –

‘It’s an incredible privilege to be a part of such an energetic group with creative ideas and willingness to share their experiences.’

We are proud of the work the PRIDE network does in promoting a safe and inclusive space for all employees and have plans to expand the scope of the network in the future.

Our PRIDE Champions say –

‘We want to include more consultants in the network, as well as more staff from across the global group. We’ll be reaching out to the Academy and our Consultant Peer Support network to help us do this. We’d also like to connect with Pride groups at our clients’.’

At FDM, we have over 5,500 employees worldwide with 95+ nationalities working together as a team. We celebrate differences because we want everyone to have equal opportunity to belong and grow in their career. Shaped by our core values, we have built a vibrant, inclusive, and diverse culture where ideas can flourish, talent is nurtured, and achievements are recognised and rewarded.

If you’re committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, but don’t know where to start, there are various training programmes available to help you learn how to achieve your DE&I objectives. Alternatively, if you do not have the resources to do this yourself, you can leverage the expertise of a strategic talent partner, like FDM.

Are you looking to tap into a diverse talent pipeline and create an inclusive workforce? Check out FDM’s Consultant Services for more information.