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Since homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967 (incredibly, Scotland didn’t follow suit until 1980), we have progressed to the point where LGBTQ+ people are equal before the law. What’s more, quasi-legal regulations and practices such as equal marriage, adoption rights and the right to serve in the military have followed, leaving many straight people who have little or no knowledge of the LGBTQ+ universe wondering why LGBTQ+ people are still campaigning against discrimination and homophobia.

Hiring an outside speaker is a highly effective strategy for educating employees about LGBTQ equality in the workplace

At first glance, this is fair enough, until you learn that (and this is an average of various surveys carried out over recent years) 46% of LGBTQ+ employees remain closeted any work. Now, to be fair, not all this 46% will be in the closet because of the workplace: there may well be family, religious or cultural pressures but, nonetheless, the figure is staggeringly high for a progressive, liberal democracy in the 21st century.

Anyone who works in diversity will tell you that equality legislation, however welcome, doesn’t necessarily change hearts and minds, so while a company’s recruitment and HR protocols may go some way to creating a level playing field, it is clear that we need to go further to educate employees. After all, people perform better when they can be themselves, so ensuring that a workplace is also a safe place is not only decent and compassionate, it also makes good business sense.

Hiring an outside speaker is a highly effective strategy for educating employees about LGBTQ equality in the workplace: many employees may not realise that what they would describe as light-hearted humour or banter has an extremely deleterious impact on gay, lesbian, bi and trans staff, and external voices are consistently shown to cut through where yet another HR initiative from a well-meaning diversity officer may not.

Founded in 2020, the LGBT Speakers Agency is a collection of the most inspiring LGBT speakers available to book with household names like Dr Ranj Singh, singer Young and actor Sir Ian McKellen on their books, as well as diversity specialists including Joanne Lockwood and our own editor, Rob Harkavy. And although the agency’s roster includes people from all walks of life, one thing they have in common is first hand experience of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

If you’re a business owner who wants to find out more or, for that matter, en employee who reckons that your boss could do with a gentle prod in the right direction to help support the LGBT community, find out more here.

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Fifi Goldberg

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