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68330EQG EQ Pride Images For Equinitiweb V12

In Is The New Out

Monday, 14 June 2021

Forget staying in - it’s all about feeling ‘in’. Why EQ’s 2021 Pride is simply about feeling able to be yourself.

I’m late for my interview with Sarah Jackson (Executive Sponsor of EQ’s LGBT+ Network). Readjusting to the school run combined with a return to office life is taking a while. Thankfully she doesn’t mind: “I get it! I wasn’t sure if I’d make a 9am call straight from the nursery run so I asked my wife to take our daughter in.”


We’ve caught up to chat about EQ’s 2021 Pride theme (inclusivity) and how the business will mark it. The network which Sarah leads has worked alongside EQ’s People team under the guidance of Stonewall, to develop and launch a suite of LGBT+ inclusive policies and standards of behaviour. I ask her why.

“We’re extending out our family policies, because well, families look different these days don’t they? And as a business we should recognise and celebrate that.”

"Families look different these days don’t they? And as a business we should recognise and celebrate that."

She refers to family-friendly policies like maternity, paternity, adoption leave and flexible working, where gendered language has been removed to reflect the circumstances of all colleagues.

And the scope of the project is wider than this. EQ’s standards of behaviour policy which covers bullying and harassment has been updated to take behaviour into account such as outing people without their consent and not making people feel uncomfortable on grounds of sexuality. It also communicates a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination, bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation gender identity and gender expression.

Poised and confident, statistics show Managing Director, Sarah is a rarity. Openly gay senior level women are proportionally far scarcer than their entry level or managerial counterparts[i]. And the wider trends are somewhat shocking. As many as 35% of LGBT employees in the UK have disguised their true identity at work for fear of recrimination. This rises to 46% in the US. A damaging statistic as the same research shows those who are ‘out the closet’ at work are far happier without the exhaustion of hiding who they are. Clearly bringing our ‘whole selves’ to work is still an aspiration for many.

“Seeing these policies and standards of behaviour come to life is absolutely awesome – it’s a monumental leap in our journey to become a company that leads through its diversity and initiatives. Policies are the framework by which all our employees should operate and it’s phenomenal we have this change to demonstrate zero tolerance.”

68330EQG EQ Pride Images For Equinitiweb V13

People Director, Hannah Mullane has been a key ally in making the changes happen:

“It’s the right thing to do. As we progress as an organisation with our D&I strategy we want to ensure all our policies and processes reflect the population of colleagues and that they’re inclusive. This will be an evolving initiative that will always be taken into account, to make sure we’re always looking at things with an inclusivity lens and that we’re not singling anyone out.”

"It’s a visible, bold statement from the company that really sets out our position on inclusivity and our anticipation for everyone to live by it."

As part of its Pride month, EQ will also launch an Inclusivity Charter for its colleagues to sign up to. The charter contains seven simple principles to follow based around thoughtfulness, respect and advocacy, shaped by the many members of EQ’s colleague diversity networks. Sarah says: 

"It’s a visible, bold statement from the company that really sets out our position on inclusivity and our anticipation for everyone to live by it. This is how we deal with inclusivity – everyone should be able to be their whole selves at work and I think for people who maybe don’t feel that right now – it’s a very clear way of setting our stance."

Early corporate diversity and inclusion efforts have been aimed at formal interactions rather than everyday informal ones. This is the space the charter aims for – wider behavioural change. According to a recent survey by BCG[ii], within a year, 75% of LGBTQ employees had experienced at least one action that highlighted prejudice, demonstrated a lack of empathy, or made an individual or group feel isolated or unwelcome. 40% had experienced more than 10.

“I’d imagine there are all sorts of situations going on – those not particularly comfortable in their own skin, comfortable to be out at home but not at work and vice versa – everyone is somewhere on that scale and the charter goes some way to addressing that.”

Hannah says that whilst training can also be useful, the inclusivity charter will hold colleagues to account:

With the charter, you’re making a commitment. For me it feels that I’m being accountable for my values and behaviours and how I’m treating colleagues at work. It’s a statement of ‘this is us at EQ’ and showing our role model behaviours – you don’t get that from a training course.