Janie Kavanagh: There's great support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender jobfair

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The Independent Online

Why are we putting on an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Jobfair in Central London on 4 April?

To answer that, come back to the roots of our partnership, A Place at the Table. The name came from our first event in 2003, a conference for Brighton employers, commissioned by the City Council, on the values of, and strategies for, greater workplace inclusion. We live in a changing world, and we can no longer just look for white, straight (visibly), men under 40 to take the good jobs. By 2012 they will only make 12 per cent of our population. So it's not just about being nice to marginalised people any more - to survive we need to make sure that all people are recognised and welcomed for who and what they are.

Everyone knows all about the critical value of good work, no matter if they are disabled, or black, on the first step of the career ladder, or over 50, or - heaven forbid - transgender. For each of us it's the way to belong, pay the bills, achieve independence and respect, create our own place in the world.

And our inherent skills and talents which give us value in the world of work are not affected in the slightest by what we seem to be to others. The trouble is that still, in 2007, what we are in the eyes of others can get in the way and employers miss out on some of the best of our abilities, and those abilities find no place to flourish. Everyone loses.

So it's critically important for everyone, no matter what their colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, to be recognised and valued for their unique talent.

But times have moved on. Lesbian women and gay men at work have been protected under the law since 2003, transgender people since 1999. It's worth noting that all these people - an estimated 7 per cent of the population, not a tiny number - need legal protection. It's more serious than you might imagine, and you can be sure that the law alone does not address every nuance of abuse or life destroyed.

That's why we set up the first open LGBT recruitment fair in 2004, arguing that such a job fair would enable people to find work and, in turn, employers to find staff, and that the publicity would break down boundaries in the wider world. Perfect. But would it work?

Thanks to sponsorship from our friends at Brighton & Hove City Council it worked like a dream. It was the first open LGBT job fair in the UK, probably the first in Europe. Many local employers took part - both from the major statutory organisations, as well as from the private sector. Many of them brought members from their own LGBT staff networks along, to talk to visitors, and to make them feel welcome.

The response of all concerned gave us greater confidence to continue. In 2005 and 2006 we saw a marked development in support for LGBT employees within the participating companies. Each year there have been more in-house LGBT staff networks and more active initiatives to recruit a diverse workforce that reflects the local population.

Although protective workplace legislation is now in place, in reality the struggle for equality for LGBT people is far from over. But things are improving, and it is now a matter of keeping up the momentum. We need to encourage the employers with great inclusion policies to actually put them into practice, and we must find ways of ensuring that young people who are transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual find futures in which they can live happily and without fear or constraint.

The good fight has been fought and is still being fought; to gain the right to love a life partner of the same gender, to be legally protected against abuse, to have legal recognition of the gender you have battled for over years.

But there is nothing quite like doing something to keep on making a difference. Which brings us back to the LGBT Jobfair. At each fair, people have asked us when we will put on a fair in London, but the task seemed insurmountable. Then last year The Independent called and asked us to work with them as media partners to create the first major LGBT recruitment fair in London this April.

Some of the largest employers in London will be there, including Ernst & Young, the Metropolitan Police Service, Norwich Union, the Crown Prosecution Service; Allen and Overy, Transport for London, The London Fire Brigade; the London Development Agency and the Greater London Authority. The range of work available is huge, the welcome mat is out.

The London LGBT Jobfair is taking place on Wednesday, 4 April from 12pm-6pm, Central Hall Westminster, Storey's Gate, London SW1

A Place At The Table, co-organiser of the London LGBT JobFair ( www.lgbtjobfair.co.uk)

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