“Listen to your people” was the key takeaway from the first Building Inclusivity roundtable hosted by EIC yesterday (13 July 2022).
The online discussion, which featured industry leaders, emerging professionals, subject matter experts and members of the LGBTQ+ community, focused on how we can create an environment which allows all of us to bring our whole-self to work, discussion on language and vocabulary, as well as tips and tools on taking ideas forward within member businesses.
EIC CEO Stephen Marcos Jones chaired the discussion which featured Vicky Thorburn and Peter Weller of LGBTQ+ support and campaign group, Building Equality, Sharon Slinger of diversity and inclusion consultants, Constructing Rainbows, Wojciech Szewczak chair of ACE Emerging Professionals, Angela Gildea of ACE member TYPSA and Claire Clifford, director of people skills and culture at EIC.
Looking beyond pride
The discussion started with an open question of what looking beyond pride meant. Angela Gildea: “It’s going beyond the month of the celebration and ensuring everyone can walk into the workplace and feel welcome and celebrate their life and life-choices.”
Wojciech Szewczak stressed the need for the industry to create an inclusive environment which supports the skills challenges post-pandemic: “We simply can’t afford to miss out on the great talent of LGBTQ+ employees.”
Sharon Slinger argued that employers need to explore how they support the communities in their workplaces: “It’s about what are you doing all year round, and what are you doing to make a difference.”
Vicky Thorburn agreed: “If any company wants to celebrate Pride in June […] they also need to do the work.” Fellow member of Building Equality, Peter Weller highlighted recent debates in the media and beyond around the trans community: “We need to stick up for our community and extend the values we show in June across the whole year. We’re not done and we’re going to need Pride as a protest – sadly – for a long, long time.”
Leading by example and bringing your whole-self to work
The debate moved onto creating a culture which enables people to feel empowered. Sharon Slinger argued that it needs to be led by the top: “If you’re sat in a room and leaders aren’t calling it out, it becomes a lot harder for you to call it out.” Vicky Thorburn said that its about creating a culture of safety: “The more you are a leader the more responsibility you have to call things out – or call things in.”
Wojciech Szewczak added: “We don’t have many role models and allies and we need more of them in the workplace” Angela Gildea stressed that: “Bringing your whole self to work allows people to be more confident which increases performance. […] It’s important our businesses support people to come in and be themselves.”
Small talk and banter
Stephen Marcos Jones asked how we get people to think about small talk in a different way to ensure it was more inclusive.
Vicky Thorburn: “There’s no problem that people talk about things that they are passionate about, but it’s ensuring no single topic dominates.” Claire Clifford shared a tip for managers explore organising themes and a rota for small talk ahead of meetings. This ensures that pre-meetings don’t fall back into routines.
With regard to banter, Vicky argued that we needed to be vigilant: “We need to be alert, aware and call out the jokes which may step over the line.” Sharon Slinger made the case for: “calling it out and making sure people understand it’s not relevant any more”.
Language and vocabulary
Peter Weller: “We can do more on this with Building Equality and we need to help people with inclusive language. Peter added: “They is much easier to sue than he/she. Just use they! Take the cue from others. Only use terms if they are used by themselves.”
Vicky Thorburn reiterated Peter’s point: “It’s really easy to speak about pronouns and using they is just a lot more simple.”
Wojciech Szewczak shared how his employer Ramboll had created an internal campaign for all employees on using more inclusive vocabulary. The, “low effort, high-impact” initiative can be easily replicated across any organisation and shared tips such as using the term ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ or that people might prefer gender neutral pronouns.
Claire Clifford stressed that we need to recognise that, “we all make mistakes” with regard to language, and it is the intent behind it which is most important.
One piece of advice
Finally, Stephen asked the panellists to share a single takeaway for businesses and the industry.
Angela Gildea said it was important for companies to: “Start the conversation and lead by example. Wojciech Szewczak said for businesses, “It’s about listening and learning” and for leaders it’s about, “Becoming an ally.”
Sharon Slinger reiterated the importance of an integrated approach: “It has to be part of your business strategy. If you have LGBTQ+ networks make sure you’re properly supporting them and giving people the time and space to work on it.”
Peter Weller asked: “How can we support people more broadly in a post-pandemic age across our industry. There’s so much isolation in our sector we need to work out how to support people better.” Vicky Thorburn added: “In order to be authentic, it needs to be done on a regular basis […] Listen to your people, your colleagues and do the work to provide it.”
Building Inclusivity is the new ED&I campaign from EIC. Explore our LGBTQ+ resources here, view our campaign page where you can read up more from the campaign and book a place on upcoming roundtables on neurodiversity and Ethnic Minorities.