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Civil Service

LGBT in the Civil Service: celebrations and challenges

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Diversity and inclusion
Head shot of Kit Collingwood-Richardson
Kit Collingwood-Richardson

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 LGBT history month 2017 logoservant 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.

'A great place to work' logoI'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.

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  1. Comment by Steph B posted on

    I'm not sure there are sufficiently visible LGBT role models (particularly the 'T') within DWP or the wider Civil Service. Diversity in general is not a strong point in the SCS. The LGBT bit of the Positive Action Pathway initiative seemed quite limited in scope.

  2. Comment by Kevin O'Neill posted on

    Thanks Kit !
    You're right to note progress - we are on our way to achieving equality of outcome and true diversity. And equally right to call out the issues in the Fast Stream; there's much to be done.

    As you say, staff groups like CSRA do great work. I was proud to walk alongside Civil Servants at Pride 2016. CSRA really made everyone feel welcome at the event. I'd urge anyone to consider joining for 2017.

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Hi Kit, May I begin my congratulating you and the other LGBT colleagues on your achievements so far and wish you all a successful LGBT History Month of Feb.

    Having been in the organisation, I have seen a significant change in attittude and behaviour in respect to LGBT colleagues and I would agree that one of the key reasons for this has been the ability to be authentic at their place of work. Although, it has to be accepted that there are still places such as East Africa where this is still not a reality. During my time in that region, I had LGBT colleagues who had to adopt a false persona in order not to be found out, which was rather sad!

    I believe that I have a Civil Service colleague who shares the same name as I who has been extremely proactive in the CSRA and I would agree that they have been instrumental in the changes that have arisen.

    Anyway, I have just found out that I have accepted to attend the Stonewall Straight Allies course next month and I am looking forward to learning more about how I can support you and your LGBT colleagues to achieve equality and true diversity.