February is LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) History Month. It’s being marked by the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance (CSRA), which represents LGBT interests in the Civil Service and promotes diversity and equality in society.
I’m Kit and I work at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). I am LGBT and have been a civil servant since 2009.
When I joined the Civil Service I knew that it was committed to diversity and equality. Being in an organisation that really commits to diversity means that everyone should be able to answer ‘yes’ to the question: Regardless of who I am, is it ok to be me at work?
I believe that having a diverse workforce of equally valued members leads to better outcomes. It means:
- better and more rounded advice to ministers and senior officials
- we are more representative of the public we serve and therefore our services will reflect citizens’ needs
- we will have a workforce that brings its rich diverse experience into the Civil Service
As Stonewall puts it, “people perform better when they can be themselves”.
Personally, there has never been a point in my Civil Service career when I haven’t been able to answer the question above in the affirmative. I think this is down to a few things:
- the Civil Service Code puts integrity at the heart of our values – you can interpret integrity in many ways, but for me it goes hand in hand with equality of treatment
- there's a wealth of learning available to us, such as unconscious bias training, which helps us understand how we can create a level playing field for everyone
- there is a clear commitment to recruit more diversely, with programmes such as the Summer Diversity Internship programme
- LGBT civil servants, like me, have representation through staff networks and groups such as the CSRA
- there are role models for diversity – and not just for LGBT people – at different levels in the Civil Service
I’m delighted to have worked for 3 consecutive permanent secretaries from traditionally underrepresented groups: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, women and LGBT. Having diversity from the very top gives a strong message: that you’re judged on your abilities, not on your sexuality, gender or race – and that diversity itself is welcome.
I'm so proud of being in a Civil Service where these things are true, and heartened yearly to see so many Civil Service organisations represented in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers index.
But there's more progress to be made.
Further to go
The Civil Service aims to become the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020. We are getting closer to achieving that, but some minority groups are still underrepresented. The independent Bridge report found that only 4.4% of successful applicants to the Fast Stream graduate programme are from the poorest backgrounds. The Government’s plans to end inequality in the public sector will help tackle that. But it will take time.
Of course, this reflects the challenges in wider society, too. I want to live in a world where your gender, lifestyle and beliefs have no influence on how well you do, how you’re treated or how happy you are. If you live in London and work somewhere as open and welcoming as the Civil Service, it's easy to believe we're getting closer to this. Events, like the incredible global Women’s March, galvanise people with such force precisely because equality is so important to so many of us.
So, we’re not just celebrating in February. We are marking the fact that we’re on our way to achieving equality of outcome and true diversity, and not just for sexuality. It’s a vital fight, and one we’ve got to win – we can only do that with our hearts, minds and arms open to everyone.