THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A BIT OF ECONOMIC TURMOIL TO GET COMPANIES AND ORGANISATIONS THINKING ABOUT WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT TO THEM. The last few years have seen a rise in the number of graduates alongside shaky economic times for everyone, meaning employers have had a wider pool of talent to choose from.
More applicants and fewer roles might sound like bad news, with more competition for jobs, but in fact it’s made those who are offering the jobs even more obsessed with talent. And when ability to do the job is all that matters, discrimination goes right out the window.
Since 2003, and the publishing of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, every employee has had the right to be openly gay in the workplace. Yet these regulations took time to have an effect on the way things are actually done. As little ago as 2009, the Treasury published figures showing that 48% of gay people didn’t feel comfortable revealing their sexuality at work.
But now, things have really started to change. “Despite forecasts of doom and gloom in the job market, we’ve this year increased the number of employers featuring in Starting Out, all of whom are eager to the recruit the very best in lesbian, gay and bisexual talent,” says David Shields, director of workplace programmes at, LGBT activist and campaigning organisation, Stonewall. He adds, “Creating a fully supportive and inclusive work environment makes sound business sense because people perform better when
they can be themselves.”
The estimated value of the ‘pink pound’, the production and spending power of the LGBT community in the UK, is £70 billion. More and more employers are seeing sense, that hiring LGBT employees gives them access to a wider pool of talent. But even if they chose to ignore this fact and thought they could get away with discriminating, they couldn’t overlook the awesome economic power that the Britain’s LGBT population commands.
“Attracting the right staff and ensuring they develop and perform at their best is key to any organisation, particularly in a harder economic climate,” says Ben Summerskill, Stonewall’s chief executive. “People perform better when they can be themselves at work and acting as an inclusive employer is a fundamental part of business strategy for British companies wanting to remain market leaders and public sector organisations striving to provide world class public services.”
Talented graduates are in a position where they can take command of their own future as the focus has shifted from employees making themselves fit a workplace to employers making their company an inviting place to work.
This shift can even be seen on a bigger scale, with graduates moving to cities and areas that promote diversity, leaving those that don’t to catch up. “There’s no question about it anymore,” says Tom Jones, director of Smart City Consulting, “one of the greatest competitive advantages for any city is tolerance.”
Tom recalls a conversation he had with a young gay graduate at one company, who described the gay community as ‘the canaries in the coal mine’. “If you can look at a city and see gay people actively and prominently involved, that’s a city that says to other people of that generation, ‘This is a city that’s open, where you can live a life you want to live.”
Social change is motivated by lots of different things. Education and politics have laid a foundation over the last decade for the end to discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in the workplace. With economics now pushing in the same direction, and that being the only way to get the best talent, that goal is getting closer by the day.