First LGBT+ Professional Business Network launches this week

Ireland’s first LGBT+ Professional Business Network launches tomorrow. Network Chairperson Damien O’Halloran tells us more about the new initiative
First LGBT+ Professional Business Network launches this week

Research showed that 35% of LGBT+ people at work hid their identity in fear of discrimination. Picture: Stock

EVERYONE is like everyone else, yet everyone is different. In general, everyone wants to be liked, everyone wants to fit in and be happy in themselves, have a good job, be successful and get on with life, whether that’s in the home, in social circles but moreover in the workplace.

However, everyone is not everybody, and at times, the very differences that make us unique can also be a challenge.

As a member of the LGBT+ community, coming out can be like a revolving door; first coming out to yourself, then to friends, family, coming out in school, college and then coming out in the workplace. Both coming out at work or deciding not to come out can be equally as rewarding or even never-ending exhausting!

According to research by Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, the average person will spend a third of their lives in the workplace, about 90,000 hours, just think about that. It may also be true to say that the average person will spend more time with their work colleagues than loved ones and friends.

So, why is it that with all this time being spent at the workplace, many people still cannot be their true authentic selves?

At times, being different can lead to bullying, discrimination, or harassment, either directly or indirectly. Research by Stonewall found an astonishing 35% of LGBT+ people at work had hidden their identity in the workplace, because they were afraid of discrimination, and 18% had been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they are LGBT+.

With a conservative estimate telling us there are approximately 135,000 LGBT+ people employed in Ireland, the research makes for stark reading.

While progress been made in terms of legislation in Ireland, employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under the Employment Equality Act and the Equal Status Act, there is more to do. In the coming weeks Minister Helen McEntee will look to introduce the Hate Crime Bill into legalisation.

Creating inclusion and 

belonging

Coming out in the workplace is a very personal choice, and we know that when employers have a safe environment with the relevant policies in place, coming out can be an easier thing to do. Many employers and multi-nationals have “Dignity in the workplace” and Diversity and Inclusion policies, however workplaces are also just as diverse and come in all shapes and sizes and some are just starting out on this journey.

Supporting LGBT+ employees is not just the right thing to do, it is good for business too.

Research has shown that diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative and productive. Team member diversity helps to attract and retain talent, foster innovation, increase employee happiness, collaborate more effectively, increase revenue and guess what, people perform significantly better when they can be themselves at work. Diverse teams bring diversity of thought. If you look at your team and everyone is like you, the likelihood is that everyone will have the same point of view, just like you. To innovate you need to visibly encourage the expression of difference, not just inclusion, where all team members feel they belong and can be their authentic selves.

In a genuinely inclusive environment, team members can work without fear of discrimination or harassment and the tangible benefits are clear to see for both the employee and employer.

Creating An LGBT+ Workplace Network

Two years ago during the Cork LGBT+ Pride Festival a Diversity and Inclusion conference, aptly named Work With Pride, in conjunction with Ibec as title sponsor and other key session sponsors. The half day free conference streamed live from the River Lee Hotel to about 450 conference attendees discussing a vast array of topics; whilst the feedback from conference attendees was hugely positive, one common theme was the need to do something more often. In response to that, the Work With Pride Professional Business Network was formed. It is a not-for-profit national organisation for individuals based in Ireland, who are either members of the LGBT+ community or allies of the community.

The goal in starting this was to build a network of like-minded people who have a keen and active interest in supporting equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace, but also, our purpose of the network is to create an environment for members of the LGBT+ community to network, build personal and professional relationships, and attend events, be it educational or otherwise.

It’s also an opportunity for allies to educate themselves on workplace topics that are relevant to the LGBT+ community and as an ally become a more inclusive colleague.

The network was also founded out of a real need to cater for the rising number of LGBT+ people already out, or coming out in the workplace, right across a multitude of sectors and verticals. It’s important that we, and our allies have a place to network in a professional capacity, and to be able to connect and strengthen new or existing contact.

For more information on the network, visit www.workwithpride.ie

This year’s Work With Pride Diversity and Inclusion conference runs on July 28.

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