Becoming A Fully Inclusive Workplace

Todays’ guest blog is from Stuart Gittings. Based in the UK, Stuart is an IT Quality Consultant for Lilly. He is also Chair of Lilly’s EuroPRIDE employee group and Diversity and Inclusion Leader for Europe and Canada.

I believe we live in a “heteronormative” society.  Whether in our factories or in our offices, evading questions about family life can be like dodging bullets, unless you are certain that revealing your sexual orientation will not make working relationships difficult.  At Lilly we are working hard to create an environment where everyone feels able to be their authentic self at work.  This is not only the right thing to do; it has also been shown to have very positive business value.  Numerous studies demonstrate that when people don’t have to spend energy hiding who they are, they become more confident and thrive, which in turn drives productivity and creativity.

Our approach is both grass roots and top down. Lilly leaders in Europe are committed to (and their performance is measured on) creating an environment of employee engagement. A critical part of this is a more inclusive workplace.  At the same time our EuroPRIDE Employee Resource Group provides direct support for LGBT staff and their straight allies in Europe and works with regional leaders to develop programmes specifically targeting a more inclusive culture. 

This year Lilly strengthened our commitment to our partnership with Stonewall, an international group working to further the inclusion of LGBT people at work, at home and in schools.  Lilly are Stonewall Global Diversity Champions and in April 2016, a number of our senior regional leaders attended the Stonewall Workplace Summit to understand current trends and best practice strategies to support our LGBT employees in Europe.

It’s often hard to assess how we are progressing with LGBT inclusion.  As we learned at the Stonewall conference, 62 per cent of university graduates go back into the closet when they join the workforce.  Some people simply don’t want to be a diversity statistic and, while you can’t hide your gender, you can hide the fact that you’re gay.  Europe has hugely differing attitudes to LGBT people – in the UK acceptance of LGBT people is as high as 90%, but in some European countries it can be as low as 20-30%. 

Becoming a fully inclusive workplace takes time, but with such strong commitment from our leaders, we are well on our way.