As applications open for GLEN’s 2016 Workplace Equality Index, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network is pushing for greater inclusion in workplaces across Ireland.
Today (26 January), the NGO embarked on its second year of this campaign to highlight best practices for inclusion in Irish workplaces, and to assist those organisations seeking to improve their ranking.
“It’s really important to us that the benchmark is actually a framework or a roadmap for many companies,” said Davin Roche, GLEN’s director of workplace diversity, at the launch of the 2016 Workplace Equality Index in the Westbury, Dublin.
LGBT inclusion roadmap
With applications for this year’s Index now thrown open, GLEN invites companies that are still learning how to deal with diversity and inclusion to participate and gain valuable insights on how they can improve.
“The Index includes a whole set of actions and directions and pointers for organisations, be it in terms of involving leadership within the organisation, in terms of getting your policies right, in terms of training and in terms of supporting LGBT visibility,” said Roche.
In essence, a Workplace Equality Index evaluation from GLEN can serve as a practical guide for organisations, providing clear data on where they are supporting inclusion and where they are falling down.
Looking at the report on last year’s Index, I noted that the top five companies – while not all traditional tech companies – are all actively recruiting for tech employees.
“There is significant involvement from the tech sector and we’re delighted that technology companies are sending a strong signal to Irish companies more broadly, and across sectors, of the value of diversity to them and the investment that they are making in participating in the Index,” said Roche.
For the likes of EY, IBM, Accenture, Deutsche Bank and Microsoft, a good reputation on diversity can assist in the intense competition for tech talent.
‘Tech companies are using their performance in diversity and LGBT diversity as a way of differentiating themselves from competitors’
– DAVIN ROCHE, GLEN
“Tech companies are using their performance in diversity and LGBT diversity as a way of differentiating themselves from competitors, particularly in the recruitment side of things,” Roche explained.
This was echoed by EY’s global compliance leader Catherine Vaughan – who chairs the company’s LGBT employee network.
“We’re absolutely using this as the ability to say, ‘Come to us, we are somewhere where people should want to work’,” she said.
“It gives us the ability to attract those new people, to tell them in the outside world exactly who we are and what we stand for. They know what type of environment they’re coming into.”
For Vaughan, being identified as Ireland’s LGBT Employer of the Year is more than just another award for the company’s shelf, and the real value has been what they have learned from the process – and there’s always room for improvement.
“We’ve got to take our learnings from last year and bring them to life. There’s no point in doing an Index or participating in an Index, learning something about yourselves and then not taking any action on that,” she said.
Some organisations have much more to do to improve their ranking, and John Barrett, executive director of HR and people development for An Garda Síochána, who described his position as that of a tortoise chasing a hare.
Overall, the private sector vastly outperformed public bodies in the 2015 Index, with an average score of 51pc to the public sector’s 21pc. However, Barrett insists that he will continue to compete in this race where any improvement yields a positive result.
“The Index is a very comprehensive list of things … things that will demonstrate to both our public externally and our employees internally that we are committed to equality and diversity, and that is so critical for our organisation,” he said.
“We have a little bit of catching up to do but we’re very confident that we can, and we’re very committed to doing so.”
Barrett can take advice from the Employer of the Year, where Vaughan has recognised that it takes more than policies and procedures to impact a company’s culture.
“It’s all about culture, it’s not about the piece of paper in the file,” she said.
Vaughan speaks of evidence of this culture of inclusion coming from the top down, and EY’s management team has challenged company leaders to apply strategic thinking around diversity to other groups found wanting in the workplace, including women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
‘It’s all about culture, it’s not about the piece of paper in the file’
– CATHERINE VAUGHAN, EY
“It’s really, really quite nice to have been turned to as the group of best practice in our organisation leading the way and building that into the strategy of engagement with our people going forward,” said Vaughan.
Even in terms of LGBT groups, there’s work to be done yet among the high-scoring companies. One key area identified by GLEN for improvement this year is trans inclusion.
“We work with employers to support them around gender transition guidelines and we’ll be continuing to do that this year,” said Roche.
Last year’s Gender Recognition Act (“long overdue, but very welcome,” according to Roche) has had a trickle-down effect on how organisations think about gender. EY, for example, is already discussing its own gender recognition policies, acknowledging trans people but also gender fluidity, and Vaughan says this will form part of the company’s main focus for this year.
‘Even those companies who have done well will have identified more work to do’
– DAVIN ROCHE, GLEN
“The Index is challenging and even those companies who have done well will have identified more work to do,” said Roche.
Of course, for those finding inclusion to be a challenge, GLEN has offered its support and assistance.
Companies and individuals can apply for the 2016 Workplace Equality Index via www.workplaceequality.ie. The closing date for entries is 30 June and the top-ranked companies will be announced in September.