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The presence of tech in the Stonewall 100

Each year, charity Stonewall releases a list of the top 100 LGBT+ employers. As technology becomes such a huge part of so many businesses, it has slowly begun to feature on the list

Technology is slowly beginning to appear in the list of the top 100 LGBT+ employers in the UK, announced annually by UK charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality, Stonewall.

This year, although only three or so companies on the list are technology companies, there are many more that are huge investors in technology talent.

Tech names such as Fujitsu, Vodafone and Capgemini featured on the list, alongside other names associated with digital such as ThoughtWorks, Lloyds and Barclay’s.

Darren Towers, Stonewall’s executive director, said all employers on the list making a commitment to equality for the LGBT+ community will help to increasingly ensure people who are LGBT will be “welcomed and accepted without exception”.

“Fujitsu, ThoughtWorks and all those who have made this year’s Top 100 Employers list are making a huge difference to workplaces, services and communities across the UK,” he said. “LGBT-inclusive employers play a crucial role in changing society by using their power and influence to protect and support LGBT people.”

Stonewall publishes the list each year using its Workplace Equality Index, a benchmarking tool employers can use to create inclusive workplaces to showcase the employers making the workplace better for lesbian, gay and bi staff.

More than 445 employers take part in the Workplace Equality Index, and must submit work they are doing to promote inclusivity as part of 10 areas of employment policy and practice, as well as allow staff to anonymously take part in a survey about their experience of diversity and inclusion at work.

Scores based on this information help firms know what is going well and what isn’t, and allows the top ranked 100 to be showcased. 

Creating an inclusive environment in the workplace is one of the key ways to increase diversity, and is something the technology industry has been working on over the past few years.

But Stonewall found during research in 2018 that 35% of LGBT employees have hidden their sexuality while at work, and 18% have had negative comments from colleagues because of their identity.

Negative stereotypes surrounding the type of roles and people in the technology industry only exacerbate the matter, as almost 30% of young LGBT+ people avoid careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) for this reason.

Many firms in the technology industry are making progress in creating an inclusive environment for more diverse employees, not just because it makes “good business sense”, but also because it is the right thing to do.

In 2019, Fujitsu made it to 34 on the Stonewall 100 list, rising 64 places compared to last year, and ThoughtWorks appeared on the list for the first time.

Fujitsu in particular has introduced an internal LGBT+ network to create a community environment within its organisation, as well as ensure processes such as recruitment and procurement are more inclusive.

Karen Thomson, diversity and inclusion lead of UK and Ireland at Fujitsu, said: “Fujitsu is an IT service organisation committed to shaping a better world through human-centric technology. In 2018, Fujitsu became the first Japanese company to publicly express support for the UN LGBTI business standards.”

Lloyds Banking Group, though a financial services group as opposed to a technology company, has been focused on technology and digital over the past year, investing in new technologies and adapting its workforce to focus on digital.  

On appearing on the Stonewall 100 list for its fifth year in a row, Janet Pope, group director responsible business and inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “As a leading UK financial services group, we know how important it is for our colleagues and customers to feel included and that the Group is a place where everyone feels comfortable to be themselves.

“We have an ongoing commitment to ensure we remain among the most inclusive employers for all our colleagues, which sits at the heart of our ambition to help Britain prosper.”

Stepping stones

Many emphasise the need for measurable outcomes to be part of diversity and inclusion practices to monitor progress and ensure changes can be made if necessary – Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index helps firms to do this.

The Tech Talent Charter (TTC), of which Lloyds is a signatory, also has this built in to its practices. CEO Debbie Forster said building inclusivity in firms is a stepping stone towards ensuring everyone can be themselves at work, therefore promoting the creativity and innovation that will be needed for a future digital workforce.  

“Having diverse teams is essential and the TTC and its signatories recognise that gender is just one of many lenses employers must consider. This is why the key is to focus on first building a fully inclusive culture,” said Forster.

“Everyone must feel free to ‘bring their whole selves’ to work. We want to support all the work in this space and our mantra is to connect the dots, not re-invent the wheel. Stonewall’s work is an important part of this.”

But Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said technology plays such a huge part in everyone’s lives that more tech-focused firms should have made their way into the top 100.

TLA has recently urged the technology sector to hire one million new employees over the next five years, all while focusing on increasing the industry’s diversity. Shaw said the progress of diversity in technology companies is “clearly not matching” the pace of technology innovation and adoption in general.

“Every year the Stonewall 100 is a hugely valuable metric for the progress we have made as a society, serving as a sense check for inclusivity and diversity across different industry sectors,” said Shaw. “Disappointingly, the tech sector once more falls behind on representation in the list, and it’s simply not good enough. Diversity in the sector remains very high on the agenda.”

Highlighting the work of organisations such as Intertech, Shaw said “we should settle for nothing less” than digital and technology businesses increasingly making their way on to the Stonewall 100 in future years.

Some technology firms not on the list have been making an effort over the past year to improve inclusion for its LGBT employees, including Amazon’s introduction of transgender resources for its employees.

The government has also taken some steps towards improving the diversity of the technology industry, and is itself a signatory of the Tech Talent Charter.

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