June is globally known as Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ communities all around the world.
This month is all about education in pride history along with promoting acceptance and equality towards LGBTQ+ communities.
In celebration of Pride Month and the promotion of equality within the workplace, we spoke to Ron Dixon, Head of M&E within the public sector and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
We wanted to hear about what the journey has been like for Ron and find out his advice on how organisations can help their LGBTQ+ employees feel more inclusive in the workplace?
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I am originally from South East London – Bromley. My journey into M&E started with an Electrical Apprenticeship in 1973. I never actually worked on the tools, I went straight into a management position at the Department of the Environment in Kensington.
Moving forward I worked for an American Engineering company in Croydon designing heating elements for oil rigs. Part of my job was visiting the oil rigs on regular basis, however, I stopped after the alpha piper disaster.
On the whole, I have worked in Mechanical & Electric services for over 40 years, spending the majority of my career at Lewisham Council. For the last few years, I have been contracting for Haringey Homes.
Do you feel like you can be your genuine self at work?
At first in the 80s I did not feel comfortable with any of my colleagues knowing that I was gay, and I would always change the subject if asked about my personal life. These situations were always awkward as I never felt I could be myself.
This was the case until about 2005 when the media seemed to change the way it spoke about same-sex relationships. People’s reactions to gay films/TV programs and the general outlook on the community started to drastically change towards being more open and inclusive.
These days all my close colleagues and staff are aware that I’m gay and there has never been a problem.
What are some of the challenges you have faced at work due to your sexual orientation?
I have been very lucky that the only challenge I have been faced with at work was not being able to talk to colleagues about my social life. Occasionally if asked if I was gay, I had to decide if I should be honest and say yes. The answer always depended on how comfortable I was with that person.
In your opinion what can employers do to help LGBTQ+ employees feel more inclusive in the workplace?
The challenge companies face is assimilating people from various backgrounds and gender identities to feel included in the overall company culture. Small behaviour and language changes such as gender-coded language can help diverse individuals feel more included.
In my opinion, these are some of the things that organisations can implement to make their LGBTQ+ employees feel more inclusive and accepted:
- Leaders at all levels need to be on board and change their behaviours and language to engage others.
- Employers should make it a priority to revisit and update their policies to be more inclusive to their LGBTQ+ employees. In addition to their policies, they should consider implementing diversity or pride days dedicated to celebrating employee differences.
- Companies should take out terms like “mother” and “father” and use “parent” instead.
- Actively communicating updated policies, expectations, and consequences often and through various channels is key. It’s crucial employees understand that discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, etc… will not be tolerated.
- Evaluate the current language used in job descriptions and replace any gender-coded terms with neutral language.
- When doing annual discrimination and sexual harassment training, companies should include training on LGBTQ+. This keeps it top of mind and reminds employees that they are an inclusive workplace.
- External change is just as important as internal change. This means separating from clients who are actively anti-LGBTQ+ as well as openly celebrating pride days and making it clear on the company’s stance on accepting the LGBTQ+ community.
- Let the employee decide if, when, and how they’ll tell their colleagues. The employer needs to respect the employee’s decision and shouldn’t pressure them to do anything in which they’re uncomfortable.
- It is the employer’s responsibility to create a safe space for all employees. This means, being vigilant against discrimination regardless of how subtle it may be as well as being understanding of what makes the employee uncomfortable.
How has your employer created an inclusive workforce?
I work in the Local Government and have found they promote LGBTQ+ equality in the policies and in practice and is possibly one of the best inclusive workplaces in the UK.