Why the British LGBT Awards are celebrating diversity in the business community

The fight for LGBT rights is far from over

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The Independent Online

The British LGBT Awards take place on Friday, and with the on-going battle for equal marriage in places like Northern Ireland and Australia and a series of new threats to the rights of LGBT people in many other countries, this event is more important than ever.  

Whilst the awards are important in recognising the people and organisations with a track record in promoting equality and diversity, the event alone will not advance LGBT rights. In fact, it is down to global organisations to join us in making a stand. And the signs of them doing so are encouraging.   

In recent months, many major international companies have been demonstrating their support for equality, beginning with letters from CEOs of major global players; including Starbucks, AppleNike and over 150 biotech CEOs who publicly criticised the Muslim ban in the U.S.

High profile businesses such as Air B&B, Burger King, Google and Tiffany & Co. have all recently created brand campaigns celebrating LGBT people. It makes business sense. New data from Google and YouTube found that 47.7 per cent of Millennials are more likely to support a brand, which supports equality.

These bold statements by these organisations do help change attitudes. 

This Friday, the British LGBT Awards will celebrate the organisations who invest in the LGBT+ community.

Historically, we have seen many organisations use diversity and inclusion as a tick box exercise, and this has proven to be a futile practise with limited impact. A recent cross-industry study showed that 62 per cent of LGBT graduates say that they don’t feel secure about being ‘out’ when they join the workforce, and therefore go back in the closet. This figure rises to 67 per cent in financial services.

So those who are firmly putting diversity at the forefront of their business and actually embracing a diverse workforce need to be recognised.

The British LGBT Awards introduced the Straight Ally category three years ago, to celebrate the support outside of our community. This is an important accolade because it indemnities heterosexual people in the business community who are championing LGBT rights 

I’ve worked alongside our very own ally, NatWest’s Head of Inclusion, Marjorie Strachan, since the inception of the awards. The team have been intrinsic in helping us shape the direction of the awards as they have evolved and in supporting the LGBT+ community.

This year, it has been uplifting to see that there is a keen focus from organisations on the trans community, and this is reflected in the corporate nominations for the awards.

How trans individuals want to be addressed can be extremely sensitive and there are many nuances. NatWest, and other financial organisations, have introduced the title ‘Mx’ and recently removed the need for existing customers to declare their gender when registering for online banking facilities. It is a positive step forward. 

They and a lot of organisations go even further providing support for employees (and their managers) on coming out, and many are overhauling how they support those undergoing gender reassignment so that every person is treated individually.

It’s inspiring to see these forward thinking organisations believe in a level playing field for employees and this is resonating through the society that they serve. Encouragingly, this year’s LGBT Awards has seen more organisations shortlisted from new industries than ever before.

The global purchasing power of LGBT consumers is now worth over $3 trillion annually, compared to an estimated $350 billion a year back in 1998, so it also makes total business sense to place equality high on the agenda.

It is more important than ever to celebrate and support companies that are standing up for inclusion and equality, which in turn encourages other organisations to recognise the impact that this has on building a better, more inclusive society. And this is a big part of the 2017 British LGBT Awards. 

The full nominations for the 2017 RBS British LGBT Awards are available on its official website. The ceremony itself is taking place on 12 May from 9pm BST.