Vast majority believe NI business has transformed for LGBT professionals

Pinsent Masons partner Andrea McIlroy-Rose, centre, with Gavin Boyd, Rainbow Project, and Catherine Vaughan of EY
Pinsent Masons partner Andrea McIlroy-Rose, centre, with Gavin Boyd, Rainbow Project, and Catherine Vaughan of EY

The culture towards LGBT people in the Northern Ireland workplace has transformed over the last decade according to the latest poll.

Experts discussed if workplace diversity could be a key tool in retaining and returning talent at an event hosted by international law firm Pinsent Masons during LGBT Awareness Week.

The Diversity Champions NI event titled ‘Business Rainbows. Better Together’ explored if the changing landscape of diversity could attract back LGBT people who may have pursued careers in other regions.

More than 120 people took part in the poll, with an overwhelming 80% affirming that Northern Ireland workplaces had transformed in terms of the value placed on respecting gender and sexual orientation.

A survey probed beneath the headline figure and found that over half of respondents believed the strongest driver in the move was wider social change, compared to workplace training or equality legislation.

Commenting on the importance of LGBT inclusion, Catherine Vaughan, keynote speaker and head of EY’s LGBT network “Unity” said: “A strong commitment to diversity and inclusiveness is not only important from a social perspective, but also from a business perspective.

“Our research at EY shows that diverse teams achieve better results, however to get to this stage, it’s not enough to simply write down our ideals on a page – be that in a values statement, code of conduct or policy. What really makes a difference is the spoken words and actions of the people at the heart of the organisation itself.”

John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project said “As Northern Ireland seeks to compete in the global economy we must ensure our best talent is at the forefront of that effort. Today’s results are encouraging and it shows the strides that we have made, but our focus must ensure that diversity is valued in all workplaces, particularly widening out beyond the professions & public sector who were the first on board with Diversity Champions.”

Diversity Champions NI was developed by the Rainbow Project in consultation with employers and government agencies including Allen & Overy, Belfast City Council, Department for Employment and Learning, EY, Lloyds Banking, Pinsent Masons, Public Health Agency and PwC.

The programme sets out sets out voluntary standards that organisations of all sizes can aim for if they wish to be viewed as inclusive and safe workplaces for people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.