9 February

LGBT+ History Month - a conversation with Dan Robertson

February is LGBT+ History Month and as part of our focus on diversity and inclusion we are speaking to individuals in the City who identify as LGBTQ+.

We spoke to Dan Robertson, chair of the Power of Inclusion Senior Leadership Forum, and founder and director of Vercida Consulting.

Have you always felt comfortable in the City?

Not always. I remember when I first started my career over 20 years, much of corporate life was very male. With this came implicit assumptions about what 'guys' were and what guys should be. Everyday conversations were about girls and hobbies that I had absolutely no interest in - football, and sport in general. When I look back I think it's fair to say that this was in many ways very much about the culture of sociality as a whole, which was and is reflected in the city. Most individuals in my experience were not and have not been explicitly homophobic; although there's always the one!

What factors have shut down your ability to talk about your sexuality?

It's not a question of choice for many, and that homophobia leads to stigma which in turn creates a psychological drive to protect oneself, resulting in 'not being open'. I appreciate this is a rather complex thinking process for some but I do think we need to understand the dynamics of why we as individuals make the choices that we do.

I grew up in a time of Section 28 and I do remember not wanting to talk about my sexuality to friends at school because of the school ground mentality. The shutting down of difference. This was supported by the attitude of some of the teachers. Not the most enlightened. For me I never really came out. There was not one big bang moment for me, more of a gradual process of annoyance with homophobia and prejudice in general. What's interesting for me is that the process of coming out is never-ending; every-time I develop a new client relationship for instance, is a moment of coming out; or with each new employee. Of course these days I'm in a position of power, so the process is different. I think it's important to remember that while business attitudes have come along way, there are many individuals who work in the city who do not feel comfortable being open, or rather there are many corporate attitudes and behaviours that lead to stigma.

What can businesses do to increase LGBTQ+ inclusivity?

I think business need to do five core things:

  1. They need to talk about LGBTQ+ inclusion through events and talk - lots are very good at this
  2. They need to measure LGBTQ+  inclusion by using tools such as employee engagement surveys
  3. They need open LGBTQ+ colleagues in leadership positions, as these act as role models
  4. They need to include LGBTQ+ issues in corporate inclusion strategies 
  5. They need to ensure everyday homophobia is dealt with swiftly and decisively

Is there a place for these conversations in business/workplace?

Of course. Indeed any business that does not have conversations about inclusion and diversity issues is a business that will live a short life. It is something that cannot and should not be avoided. But more importantly LGBTQ+ inclusion is a topic that should be embraced - for all the ethical and business case arguments that we are familiar with.

If you want to know more about creating inclusive workplaces, become a member of The Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s Power of Inclusion initiative. The initiative aims to create a City that is inclusive and open to everyone. Inclusive workplaces are more productive, commercially successful, and have a happier and more engaged workforce. Membership enables your business to gain expert insights from others, share best practice on policies and programmes, and collaborate for effective change.

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