Pride and prejudice

Sue Whalley attends LGBT summit on the business case for diversity

Sue Whalley, CEO Post & Parcels, attended The Economist's Pride and Prejudice LGBT Summit in London last week where a panel discussed whether organisations still need to make a business case for diversity.

Pride and Prejudice began in 2016 as a global LGBT conference and initiative to instigate debate and discussion around the economic and human costs of discrimination against the LGBT community.

Citing research from LGBT campaigners Stonewall showing that 20% of LGBT people feel they cannot be open about their sexuality at work, chief executive of Vodafone, Vittorio Colao said companies should move away from advocating the business case for LGBT inclusion.

‘I’m tired of talking about the business case for diversity,’ he said. ‘What if there isn’t a business case? When it comes to diversity and inclusion we should do it because it’s right, full stop.’

Speaking about the challenges Royal Mail faced in becoming LGBT inclusive, Sue said: ‘We are a huge organisation; we are in every single community. We’re also very traditional and it’s been a challenge for us.

‘We’ve undergone a huge transformation when it comes to awareness – 20 years ago we never would have joined a Pride march. We want to create a workplace where all employees feel respected, included and comfortable.’

Supporting diversity

We have one of the largest workforces in the country representing every community. We believe diversity when harnessed is a strategic strength and helps support culture change. As such, we are on a journey of raising awareness, positive change, and measured action.

Our diversity council represents a number of groups including LGBT. We have made tremendous progress with gender in recent years and we are continuing to make significant progress with LGBT and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues, as well as those with disabilities, parents and carers and young people.  

Scale brings advantages and challenges 

In a huge national company with 142,000 employees in the UK we know we have all sorts of diversity; but it’s a challenge to effect culture change in more than 1,000 sites, some of which are quite small.

There’s a world of difference between, for example, a small rural delivery office and a large urban mail centre. It may be much easier for LGBT colleagues working in mail centres in big cities to be who they are, compared to those working in communities with less of an obvious LGBT support network.  

Leveraging our unique business assets is really effective. Our Pride postbox for example, means a great deal to LGBT colleagues as it tours the operation, but it also makes a huge impact and statement in public, such as at Pride events, in Parliament or at party conferences and other events. 

Mobilising behind a cause such as our support for Pride marches and getting as many colleagues involved outside of the LGBT community is really important. We know that many colleagues, who identify as straight, have become LGBT allies. Whilst this may seem trivial, it has a huge impact on people who may not feel confident to be themselves in the workplace.

Get involved

If you would like to set up a local network or get involved in the main LGBT+ & Friends steering group, you can email the group at LGBT&, and let them know what you would like to do.

You can also subscribe to their newsletter and join their protected Facebook group, just email them with your pay number and the email address you use to sign into Facebook and they will send you an invite.

6 Jun 2018