I was beyond excited to find out that the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) had been placed 88th in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. After six years of hard work improving our position and just missing out last year (which was a bit like finishing 4th in the Olympics!), this is a huge achievement for us and is something we should all celebrate.

It is a recognition of the values our organisation has and our determination to ensure we have fully inclusive workplaces that celebrate the diversity of our people and customers.

It’s not easy to place on the index: the submission is lengthy and minutely examines everything about an organisation; from leadership to policies; how staff and customers feel; and how engagement happens with third parties.

Stonewall Top 100 Employer 2019 logoFor me, as an LGBT employee, this achievement tells me that out of all the many thousands of employers in the UK, the one I work for is one of the very best for valuing LGBT employees.  That it is committed to providing a working environment where LGBT employees can feel safe and secure in being themselves without the fear of being ridiculed, held back, or face discrimination. We spend a significant amount of our lives in the workplace, so it’s really important that employees are encouraged to be themselves and not hide away or change their characteristics.

Read more about the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

It may seem strange to non-LGBT employees as to why this is so important, especially when the organisation does such good inclusion work. Everyone’s character, personality, thoughts and feelings about who they are can be shaped, in part, by their positive and negative life experiences. These come from people they interact with, things they have seen, read or heard.

I am (or was) a big fan of the reality TV show ‘Big Brother’, which had its final series last summer.  It was won by a 19-year-old man who came out as gay while on the show.  Out of all 18 series of Big Brother that I avidly watched, watching this young man come out was by far the most emotional scene I’d seen. The young man, assisted by a close housemate who he’d already confided in, gathered the rest of the housemates together to tell them that he was gay. He started by apologising for what he was about to say and that he hoped no one would feel differently about him.  Then he started to shake and couldn’t speak. He was consumed with fear to the point where he couldn’t say: “I am gay”.

The housemate he confided in helped him by asking if he was gay in front of the group so the young man simply had to say “yes” to confirm it. Of course, the rest of the housemates upon hearing this cheered and celebrated with the young man and ultimately it turned out to be a happy, positive experience.

The absolute terror he must have felt at the point he was about to come out reminded me of the same terror I experienced when I first came out. I know many other LGBT people who have felt that same fear.  Part of this comes from the experiences they have had, especially homophobic experiences.

We carry these experiences with us wherever we go – including the workplace – and it can make us alter or stifle our personality and characteristics, depending on the situations we find ourselves in. Inhibiting ourselves affects our confidence, which, in turn, affects our mental health and hides our creativity, thought processes, and abilities. If this happens in the workplace, it risks people not being able to be the very best they can be.

Congratulations should go to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Network members at the NHS Business Services Authority for the work they have put into placing our organisations into the top 100.

But the network couldn’t have achieved what it has without the contribution of every employee at the NHSBSA. We are all responsible for creating an inclusive culture within our workplace communities. It’s something that all of us, as employees, should take a great amount of pride in.

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