Business leaders can help LGBTQ+ people in their workplaces: here’s how

Pride month, Celebrating the LGBTQ+ Community

By David Mann, Partner at TFT and Freehold Co-founder

A 2021 report published by recruitment firm Totaljobs found that 32% of trans people have suffered discrimination or abuse of some sort in their place of work in the last five years.

No surprise then that more than two in five trans individuals have quit their jobs, in the same time period, after finding the environment unwelcoming.

Add to this the concerning stats reported last month that the UK’s ranking in Europe in terms of the rights given to LGBTQ+ people has dropped for the third year in a row – from being at the top in 2015 to number 14 in the rankings only seven years later. Reasons for this include the fact that the current government has not retained the commitment to enhancing the rights of minority groups seen by previous administrations.

When looking at public sentiment towards LGBTQ+ people in the UK, the latest Stonewall survey published in June 2022 reports that one in ten respondents felt negative feelings, like disgust and resentment, towards members of the LGBTQ+ community. Of this relative minority, a significant number (40%) expressed anti-trans sentiment and also said they felt the same about all gay, lesbian and bi people. Apart from the risk of physical harm from violence against people, a variety of discriminatory practices may also occur, resulting in negative effects on both psychological and physical health. After all, to realise one’s full potential, a person should feel valued and secure.

The private sector does not have to follow suit with the government in letting us down. Together with colleagues in many other industries, we in the property industry must continue to advocate for the rights of our community. Organisations like Freehold play a very important role in this.

Since its launch in 2011, the organisation now represents the interests of more than a thousand LGBTQ+ real estate professionals and seeks to raise their profile and narrow the equality gap that persists. Our focus is on an array of approaches to assist our members, some of them discussed here:

Trans awareness

“When people feel totally authentic in themselves and included in their organisations, they can achieve their full potential. Transgender employees are no exception,” says Clare Fielding, a trans member of Freehold. Her top tips for employers are to have trans-inclusive policies,

demystifying trans issues through sharing experiences and training, providing gender neutral bathroom options, and allowing people the option to specify their pronouns where needed, if they choose to do so.  If there is someone in your workplace transitioning, be supportive by talking to them and identifying their needs. Also find out whether their colleagues need support or training in handling the situation.

Participation of employers

As a network, Freehold is always willing to engage with other existing internal networks, any organisations wanting to get one off the ground, or smaller enterprises with small staff numbers that have a need for this sort of guidance. Through our membership base and the experiences many of our members have had in the past, we can provide advice and support to LGBTQ+ staff and to the wider employee base within the business.

Allies

Having the support of people outside the community makes all the difference – for instance, those in senior roles in companies, our colleagues, friends or family members. Our collective strength enables us to overcome challenges more effectively.

Next Gen

Looking at the future, Freehold is supporting Next Gen initiatives to help attract talent from less traditional routes. This includes improving contact with schools, non-cognate Universities, and with organisations such as Student Pride, Changing the Face of Property/Property Needs You and Pathways to Property.

Physical events

Our series of face-to-face events is back in full swing. Those who attend these events have the chance to meet and get to know like-minded people – valuable opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another. Organisations that have hosted events so far this year include RICS, Westfield, The Crown Estate, CBRE, Savills, Montagu Evans, Travers Smith, and BDB Pitmans. We’ve also had fringe events at key property industry conferences; MIPIM in Cannes and UKREiiF in Leeds.

Have Pride all year long

By using Pride Month as an opportunity to engage with your staff and to get them to share their own stories and experiences, a culture of inclusion can be nurtured. This can then translate into a permanent sense of inclusion, openness and sharing between employees, including other minority groups. Don’t forget to let your hair down during the month and, if possible, have a party!

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