There are several reasons to feel nervous about LGBT rights at the moment. Ambiguity in the US and the on-going battle for marriage equality in Northern Ireland and Australia, for example, demonstrates that LGBT equality remains fragile on a global level.
In the UK, stats show that increasing numbers of young LGBT people (16-24 year olds) have sought help for anxiety or depression. Many others self harm and others contemplated suicide. In the trans community, suicide rates are particularly high.
I can't think of another minority with starker statistics. If that doesn't make it relevant from a business perspective, consider this: in 'progressive' organisations, which encourage cultures that support people to feel safe to be themselves and where difference is celebrated for it's positive impact on performance, 62% of LGBT graduates, cross industry, say they don't feel secure about being 'out' when they join the workforce and therefore go back in the closet. 67% if it's Financial Services. These figures are based on research from The Centre for Talent Innovation.
At RBS (home to NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Coutts and Ulster Bank) we believe it's important to be authentic about inclusion and to create workplaces where our people and our customers feel welcomed for who they are. We're not perfect, but the fact that inclusion is hard wired within our values and taken seriously by our senior team is evidenced by the fact we're one of the first organisations to have introduced the title 'Mx' and removed the need to include gender in our online banking registration process. At a colleague level, we provide support for individuals and their line managers on coming out (or if a family member is) and we have overhauled how we support colleagues undergoing gender reassignment so that every person is treated individually, allowing full anonymity and a new employee record if our colleague wants to return under a completely different identity.
None of this is easy in a big, behemothic bank where legacy processes and technology systems means what sounds simple in theory turns out to be more complex in practice! But it's worth it. This year we saw the biggest improvements in LGBT colleague engagement we have seen in any year across the bank and our people are telling us it's beginning to feel like the culture is changing; that we're taking inclusion seriously... that makes me proud. I've always said internal sentiment needs to align to our ambitions if genuine change is taking place.
The Office for National Statistics tells us that c.3% of the UK population is LGB and c.1% identify as Trans. That's around one million RBS customers and thousands of our people. This alone is good reason for us to show support for the NatWest British LGBT Awards and we hope other employers will follow suit. If commercial rationale doesn't work for you, perhaps stopping one more young person going back in the closet when they join the world of work, will...