Last week we learnt that Carillion had broken into the Top 300 employers for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) workers – less than twelve months after launching our bid to become an officially LGBT-friendly place to work.
The Top Employers list, created by LGBT equality charity Stonewall, is compiled from submissions to its annual Workplace Equality Index (WEI), which Carillion entered for the very first time in 2016. More than 400 organisations across the UK took part in the Index, the highest number in its 13 year history. Carillion came in at 262nd on the list, which is a huge achievement after less than twelve months work.
But as Paul Desson-Baxter points out, it’s been a journey of frustration to elation…and worth every second of it….
‘What makes an LGBT+ positive employer?’
‘Is Carillion a great place to work if you are part of the LGBT community?’
‘Are the results going to come back good or awful?’
‘Why won’t this blasted website load?’
‘Why are Stonewall asking all of this?’
‘How on earth do I evidence that?!’
‘Am I sure that throwing my laptop against the wall won’t complete the submission?’
These are just some of the many, many questions which were running through my mind on the day that I finally submitted Carillion’s entry for the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.
Immediately after the submission I had a meeting with the LGBT+ Construction working group and it’s then that it really dawned on me how far Carillion had come in little under a year.
In September 2015, I took what I considered to be a risk and asked about an LGBT network at work. As it happens, the stars had aligned and it was just starting to come together anyway, so I got involved with what would eventually become our ‘Connect’ network.
Less than twelve months later I was co-Chair and submitting the Stonewall Workplace Equalities Index on behalf of Carillion; something I would never have imagined I would be doing. Personally, for me it was one of the best risks I have ever taken. It’s led to me meeting some amazing people and I’m part of a network which I’m so proud of.
We got our results back a week or two ago before they were made public. My fellow co-Chair, Sharon messaged me to tell me the news that we’d reached 262nd on the list. I was on the train heading home at the time and I was grinning like an idiot for the next few hours. Getting such a good result first time is unprecedented. The result is independent evidence that Carillion gets why this is so important. We’ll now use the findings to inform Carillion’s LGBT strategy moving forwards.
On a personal note, this result validates the amazing amount of hard work that the Connect network has put in over the last twelve months. One thing I have to say is this journey hasn’t been as hard as I imagined it was going to be. I’ve not had to fight the battles I expected. It turns out a lot of our senior team were already allies, and more than willing to lend a hand or point us in the right direction. If you’ll forgive me being over corporate for a second, what this demonstrates to me is that at Carillion we do live our Values. We do really Care.
I’ve seen evidence of this repeatedly over the last year. But it’s not always been a smooth ride. I found out in November that some colleagues had raised questions about us flying the rainbow flag at our offices. I wasn’t sure why we hadn’t been told – but someone senior simply said to us that Carillion had made the decision to fly the flag in support of Connect, and they were 100% behind us. It was unexpected and a very kind gesture.
Despite the frustrations of submitting forms and collecting what felt like endless data and evidence – it’s been absolutely worthwhile. Our annual employee survey asks us if we’d recommend Carillion as an employer. When I started this journey I’m not sure I would have done. But as my journey with Connect has progressed, would I recommend them now? I have and I do.