This year is the jubilee anniversary of Pride. Marsha P. Johnson’s notorious throwing of a shot glass and shattering of a mirror during the Stonewall Uprising 50 years ago not only inspired the Pride movement, it was an awakening. Her actions demonstrated the fragility of our reflections of others and ourselves. It shattered our perceptions of those who are different from us; those who are “other”, those who are hidden from view, those who exist outside of the “norm” and on the other side of the mirror.

In the past 50 years, great strides have been made for LGBT+ rights; from decriminalisation of homosexuality and legalisation of gay marriage to the banning of discrimination based on sexual orientation and the recognition of gender reassignment as a protected characteristic in equality legislation.

However, as recent reports of homophobia-motivated acts have demonstrated, the LGBT+ community remain vulnerable in society – and indeed in the workplace. We have come such a long way, but there is still a far way to go.

In the first of its kind a TUC survey, published in May 2019, revealed 68% LGBT people have experienced sexual harassment at work; 42% said they had received unwelcome comments or unwelcome questions about their sex life from colleagues, while 27% reported unwelcome verbal sexual advances.

Similarly to findings in the TUC’s 2016 report into women’s experience of workplace harassment, this research also revealed a worrying number of LGBT+ victims unable to report the behaviour to their employer (66%).

Experiences for LGBT+ black and minority ethnic (BME) women and LGBT+ disabled women were even more concerning. For LGBT BME women, 54% experienced unwanted touching, 45% sexual assault and 27% serious sexual assault or rape. Similarly, half LGBT+ disabled women experienced unwanted touching, 38% sexual assault and 24% serious sexual assault or rape.

So what can be done?

“Workplace culture needs to change,” advises TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady.

But how do we make this culture shift? Including training to raise awareness of workplace sexual harassment as part of your diversity and inclusion strategy is a good place to start, as is challenging implicit belief systems and uncovering bias that motivates acts of harassment, discrimination and bullying.

There also needs to be a shift in perspective of the LGBT+ community – another shattering of the mirror. A person should not be defined by their sexual orientation. And just because they identify as being of a particular sexual orientation, it does not mean they invite sexualised or harassing questions, comments, behaviour or acts.

A proactive approach is required to cultivate an inclusive culture and rid the workplace of harassment. As Amnesty International’s Trade Union Campaigner Shane Enright reflects: “With such low levels of reporting by victims, it’s simply not good enough to have in place grievance or complaints policies that tackle incidents after they have occurred.”

Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, in order to create an inclusive working environment and protect your people, education, discussion and training around the difficult subjects – such as sexual harassment and the sexual harassment of LGBT+, BAME, disabled colleagues – is fundamental. As is providing an outlet for people to report concerns and incidences.

If you’re looking for more information about developing your D&I strategy, creating an inclusive workplace culture or interested in training from grass roots to senior management, start a conversation by talking to us at Tell Jane.

We also offer businesses of all sizes and across all sectors access to an anonymous employee reporting hotline – giving your people a platform to speak out and your organisation an opportunity to tackle harassment before it escalates.

Contact me directly by emailing Lisa@telljane.co.uk or visit www.telljane.co.uk for more information.

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Valuing anonymity- sexual harassment reporting at work

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