Summertime is often equated with exams and results. It is also the time for making big decisions about the next few academic years, choosing between universities, apprenticeships or going straight into work. The list of things to think about when making such decisions includes money, distance from home, living circumstances, your long term ambitions and so on. For LGBTQA+ individuals you also have to think about a few other things too. For example, could you be open about your identity in this new place? Is there a community or network for LGBTQA+ individuals that you can join?
This means that employers, universities and other FE organisations need to advertise that they are inclusive and value diversity. It’s important that you find ways to communicate to the world how your organisation makes sure that its employees and students can be free to express who they are. But also, that you value and understand issues that impact LGBTQA+ individuals and support them.
For young people in particular, this part of their life can be really challenging. Many youngsters suffer with low levels of confidence and self-esteem. For those just starting to climb the career ladder, it can feel much more intimidating to be open about who they are. Especially with the unknown implications of coming out. There are some pieces of legislation to protect you from discrimination, but in the real world we know it isn’t that simple. Discovering who you are is a lifelong mission in many ways, but to learn how to deal with that, well I like to think that that gets easier with experience.
When the organisation you are joining already demonstrates that they are supportive of inclusion and respect differences, it makes being open much more accessible. Although everyone’s journey is different and deciding whether or not to come out in such environments will maybe always be at least slightly difficult, it makes you feel safer.
So how can employers, colleges and universities show that they do value diversity and inclusion? I have put together a few ideas:
- Attract candidates (potential employees / prospective students) from the widest pool as possible. This can be achieved through advertising using different channels and avoiding word-of mouth-recruitment. This ensures that you develop a diverse workforce – meaning that diversity and inclusion should almost become a necessity (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2015).
- Encourage everyone to use gender neutral pronouns when asking individuals about their family and partners.
- Training on equality, stereotypes and how to be inclusive. Education is the key to overcoming intolerance.
- Build a culture of acceptance and tolerance of diversity.
- Directly address any unacceptable language or behaviour that may make individuals feel unwelcome or unsafe.
- Establish Networks / Societies / Clubs, actively support the work they do and encourage everyone to get involved. Allies are important too.
I believe that if you can show the world that you are an organisation that values the importance of inclusion and diversity, you will benefit. But so will the thousands of teens who are venturing into the big wide world. It just makes their life that bit easier. If a young person can become a part of something bigger than themselves, like a university, college or new workplace and can feel like, if not immediately but at some point in the future, they can be open and true to themselves. Then that’s pretty brilliant.
Why wouldn’t you want to give someone that opportunity?
References and useful links:
Equality and Human Rights Commission, (2015). Employer’s Guide to Creating an Inclusive Workplace. [online] Available at: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/publications/an_employer_s_guide_to_creating_an_inclusive_workplace.pdf [Accessed 23 Aug. 2015].