Every June, Pride Month is celebrated across the world to honour the 1969 Stonewall Riots and to recognise the impact that LGBT+ individuals have had on history locally, nationally and internationally.
Pride Month started in June 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. These were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBT community in response to a police raid that took place on 28 June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of New York City.Within weeks of the raid, Greenwich Village residents organised into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gay men and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested or other reprimand. The riots are therefore widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT+ rights.
2019’s big anniversary year
June 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In the UK there are almost 100 Gay Pride events that are planned this year, with each event recognising the fact that we are now 50 years on in terms of both time and the concept of social acceptance. Each will allow everyone attending to stop, reflect on the changes in society since then, acknowledge the progress that has been made and consider the future of LGBT+ equality. Whatever and wherever the event, a number of LGBT+ employees and allies are therefore likely to be taking part, so employers should also show their support throughout this time.
Pride at work
From an employers’ perspective, the importance of a commitment to diversity is well recognised. Engagement with gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and non-binary employees is therefore fundamental to the success of any organisation. Allowing all LGBT+ staff to feel empowered to be who they truly are in the workplace goes a long way; they will, amongst many other things, feel more supported and able to open-up about workplace issues, be more committed to the role and those around them, be more encouraged to develop their careers in a safe environment, appreciate the possibility of mentoring or other peer support, have less absence and will in turn be more productive. There are benefits for LGBT+ staff and allies, all other employees, customers and clients.
LGBT+ Staff Networks
Evidence from Stonewall also confirms that setting up an LGBT+ staff network is key to ensuring effective equality within the workplace. Such networks are instrumental to eradicating any form of homophobia, transphobia or other discrimination or harassment at work. They allow a mechanism for LGBT+ staff and allies to come together to share information and provide support.
For employers, it is recognised that having an LGBT+ staff network in place ensures:
- promotion of an employer’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and shows that it values all of its staff
- the attraction and retention of talent
- compliance with employment laws
- better communication and consultation on important matters affecting LGBT+ staff and allies, in a safe environment
- an enhanced public profile and/or customer reputation
- co-ordination of diversity, networking and/or other social events to promote equality, raise awareness and celebrate diversity
- informal buddying and mentoring initiatives and links to LGBT+ communities
Recent TUC Report
Despite the benefits of all of the above, and certainly not wanting to detract on the importance of Pride Month, it does have to be remembered that LGBT+ employees continue to suffer workplace prejudice.
The TUC recently revealed in May 2019 that 68% of LGBT workers experienced at least one type of sexual harassment at work, yet two-thirds of those people who were harassed did not report it.
Hopefully, given the publication of the TUC report, all of the supportive employer activities taking place throughout Pride Month and beyond, the establishment of successful LGBT+ staff networks and greater legislation in this area - off the back of the #MeToo campaign - such unacceptable treatment will be stamped out for good in the future.
To mark this commemorative month, Shoosmiths has once again adapted its logo for the purposes of social media to reflect the law firm’s support for the LGBT+ movement. Members of Shoosmiths LGBT+ staff network including allies also marched together with The Law Society at Birmingham Pride on 25 May and will do so again at Manchester Pride on 24 August.