Opinion: Be proud and celebrate diversity in the workplace to empower your people

Opinion: Be proud and celebrate diversity in the workplace to empower your people

Ahead of his appearance this morning at the latest Travel Weekly Business Breakfast on equality in travel, Simon Altham of Hoseasons urges travel to do more to nurture a truly inclusive working culture

Since I wrote my last piece on tolerant workplaces being better for business, I have been amazed at the response I have had from industry colleagues congratulating me on ‘coming out’, or thanking me directly for raising awareness of LGBT issues.

I didn’t personally see the piece as a coming out story, but then I shouldn’t assume that people know I am gay.

In a country which many believe to be leaps and bounds ahead when it comes to sexuality equality, it saddens me to hear so many personal stories of struggle in the workplace.

I feel honoured that people felt comfortable talking to me about their own stories, especially given some were extremely personal and harrowing.

I have never really considered myself as a LGBT role model until recently. Working alongside organisations such as Stonewall, you realise that as business leaders, straight or gay, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our staff can be themselves at work.

LGBT people who have already come out at work will waste little time and energy hiding aspects of their private lives, which ultimately should mean they can feel more confident in the workplace and progress their careers.

However, 26% of people in the UK are too scared to come out at work through fear that it may hold them back or alter other people’s perceptions towards them, and the number is even greater when it comes to discussing it with management.

It is very easy for many of us to brush these statistics under the carpet; the gays have marriage equality, what more do they want?

But challenging these attitudes is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to be vocal about our backing for equality in the workplace irrespective of skin colour, gender or sexuality.

So many companies have pledged their support to this and as a result have a workforce that feel empowered, valued and that are leading change across their industries.

They will feel a genuine sense of pride and camaraderie which will ultimately lead to stronger business performance. Sadly there isn’t one travel company in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers?

I am a little surprised by that, given I have always believed travel to be one of the best industries for LGBT equality. So what can we do?

With a combination of subtle training and bolder statements companies can create inclusive cultures which are not only happier places to work but are vastly more productive too.

Companies can think about supporting national events, affiliating with charities like Stonewall or working with the likes of OUTstanding. Why not set up an LGBT networking group or invite guest speakers in to talk to staff about their own experiences?

The opportunities are endless but it will take time to make cultural changes. When you look at statistics, there is so much evidence to prove that diversity is good for business, so what are we all waiting for?

Taking steps towards creating a more positive and inclusive environment is a leap forward for all, regardless of their sexuality. It sets the tone about the type of company you are and how you want your employees to feel about their employer.

It will help in recruitment and retention, and who knows, it might just help those hiding their true identities feel more comfortable about bringing their whole selves to work.

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