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Civil Service

Increasing openness and bringing your whole self to work

Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary for DCMS and the Civil Service LGB&TI Champion
Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary for DCMS and the Civil Service LGBTi Champion

In the LGBTi community, colleagues have faced some positive, as well as challenging, experiences when coming out in the workplace. National Coming Out Day is designed to celebrate coming out as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Gender Queer, any other protected characteristic or as an ally. This year's National Coming Out Day in October, marked the 28th anniversary of the celebrations.

Increased openness

As LGBTi Champion for the Civil Service, I am keen that we continue to recognise and celebrate the increased openness in the Civil Service and across the UK as a whole. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more young people are coming out as LGB, with 3.3% of 16-to-24-year-olds identifying as LGB in 2015, up from 2.8% in 2014. This age group also had the largest representation identifying as LGB out of all the age groups surveyed*.

Civil Service Workforce statistics show that 3.2% of staff identify as LGB or other. Civil Service Talent schemes are becoming more reflective and diverse, with a higher representation of LGB employees. This is great work, but there is more to do to ensure that staff at all levels of our organisation feel they have the option of coming out in the workplace.

If you are able to be yourself in the workplace, you will feel more engaged and effective in your work. This is why diversity and inclusion is not something reserved for particular groups but something where we all can support and contribute.

People pose in front of CSRA banner
(Front, left to right) Permanent secretaries Sue Owen (DCMS), Richard Heaton (MoJ) and Clare Moriarty (Defra) on the London Pride march, June 2016

I am working with colleagues across the Civil Service and the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance (CSRA) on a number of areas of work, including to increase visibility of LGBTi role models in the Civil Service, support collaboration and capability building between LGBTi staff networks. Also, with regard to transgender and intersex, I am working with a:gender to build understanding of non-binary and intersex, build effective policies as part of our offer to new entrants, and increase awareness of transgender inclusion. These are ongoing pieces of work that I will be sure to update you on.

I am also keen to understand environments where levels of bullying and harassment are higher, with a view to tackling these areas and introducing positive role models and policies that encourage greater openness and fairness. I am hoping that these areas of work will make a positive difference to the experience of those who identify as LGBTi and support an inclusive culture where all our staff feel valued and respected.

Recently, I attended the Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion Awards. They celebrate colleagues who have gone above and beyond their day job to champion diversity and inclusion, whether as part of a network, acting as a champion for a protected characteristic, or being an ally. I send my congratulations to all staff who participated in organising, running and winning awards at these events. I particularly commend PRISM, the Welsh Government LGBTI network for winning the Championing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex award for their fantastic work relaunching the network, putting on various high-impact events alongside their day jobs. You can find out more about the work of the PRISM network, as well as information on all the award winners, here.

Raising awareness

The CSRA is actively working to provide support to staff on coming out in the workplace and gives advice on career progression. The alliance works with departmental networks to:

  • provide a collective voice on issues affecting LGBT staff;
  • make departments more open and inclusive;
  • provide better peer support; and
  • promote career progression.

You can find out more about the work of CSRA at Seek advice from your departmental intranet or from a cross-government network if you are interested in joining or setting up a network yourself.

Moving forward

'A great place to work' logoThe Civil Service has a commitment to be the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020. We have already made great progress against the Talent Action Plan  but there is a long way to go.  

If you are interested in finding out more about future National Coming Out Day occasions, or further events in the LGBTi community, please e-mail (for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) or (for Transgender, Intersex and Gender Non Binary).

*ONS currently do not monitor data for transgender, gender non-binary or intersex.

The initialism LGBT+ is one that you might be familiar with, but in a future blog I will look at the terminology in more detail and what it means in the workplace.

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  1. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    As someone who has been in the Civil Service for over 25 years, it has been encouraging to see the change in attitude in terms of diversity and inclusion. However, whilst significant progress has been made in terms of career progression of LGBT Colleagues, we still need to acknowledge that there still that needs to be done to replicate this level of success for BAME Colleagues.

    With regards to BHD within the workplace. Whilst we acknowledge that such behaviour is unacceptable, it is still one of the major issues that comes up in the annual staff surveys and something that continues to have a significant impact on a number of colleagues irrespective of the gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. So perhaps, we need to ask the million dollar question which is why do some of our colleagues behaviour in such a manner and believe that it is acceptable?

  2. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    Whilst i applaud the thinking behind this idea, i think it is important to remember that employees who are disabled, of different race and religion are also subjected to barriers and bullying in the workplace. It is important to be inclusive of everyone and not just focus on one particular aspect of the melting pot that exists in the workplace.

    • Replies to Charlotte Smith>

      Comment by Mr Flibble posted on

      Charlotte, I completely agree - If they can do the job on merit and you can work with the person - what does it matter what race, religion or whatever a person is.

      And as disabled people - I think the paralympians showed the "professional" athletes of the English football team what is meant by effort, commitment and willingness to work together.

  3. Comment by anon posted on

    Firstly – ALL discrimination is wrong.
    But am I the only person that would rather sexual preferences are kept in their appropriate place, and I do not think that is the work-place?