As LGBT Pride month draws to a close, we talk to members of the University’s LGBT+ Staff Network about the network’s role at the University, the importance of Pride, and why inclusion is so important in the workplace.
Contributors include: Jules Andreae, Operations Officer for the Information Services Operations Team; Anne-Marie Baker, the University’s Athena SWAN Project Manager; Bob McKay, Student Success Project Manager, Kent Business School; and Jan Moriarty, Student Success Project Manager at Kent.
What are the aims of the Kent LGBT+ Staff Network?
Bob: I think we have a number of roles – there’s the social/community element, such as organising network lunches and events for people to get together, but there’s also the role of being a ‘critical friend’ to the institution, ensuring that issues with LGBT+ equality are challenged and making sure that queer staff have a voice which is heard.
Jan: We also act as a first point of contact on issues around employment for LGBT+ staff and the impact of new policies and legislation on the LGBT+ community at Kent.
Jules: And we’re a visible point of contact for colleagues who need support or a friendly face to relate to.
What is the Network currently working on?
Jan: Stonewall’s new Workplace Equality Index has just been released, so we’ll be taking a look at that over the summer.
Jules: Members continuously engage with different departments and EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) teams in their departments.
Bob: We speak to central University leadership teams as well – we’ve recently been speaking to the VC about the University’s response to the government’s reported roll-back on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which is a big step backwards for the rights of trans and non-binary people in the UK. We’re also looking forward to the end of lockdown and some events that we might be able to organise for the LGBT+ staff community once we’re able to see one another in person again!
Who can join the Network?
Bob: Anyone! Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans or other… and even straight colleagues! If you identify as LGBT+ or you’re an ally, the Network is ready to welcome you!
Why might someone want to join the Network?
Jan: For me, it’s about representation. We all (staff and students) need to know there’s someone out there whose experiences may be similar to our own. Some of us have to be visible to make that possible. However, I totally understand that some prefer not to be. Even if someone doesn’t want to take an active role, being a member is a good way to keep in touch.
Anne-Marie: One of the reasons I joined the network was because I believe it is important to have visible LGBT colleagues – this was certainly a big help for me when I first started work.
Jules: Growing up as LGBT+, people can be made to feel “less than” or shameful about who they are. The LGBT+ Staff Network gives a community for people to feel pride in who they are, as well as a place to press for changes to make sure the University keeps improving so that it becomes a place all staff can feel pride at work, equally.
How can people join the LGBT+ Staff Network?
Bob: Just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jules: If you log in to lists.kent.ac.uk, and search for ‘lgbt’ you’ll be able to see the staff network mailing list and subscribe to update emails. You can also join our new Team on MS Teams, by clicking here or by clicking Join or Create a Team from within Teams and then using the code skd6691.
What’s it like working at Kent as an LGBT+ person?
Jan: The various communities represented by the LGBT+ acronym will experience Kent in different ways. We are a diverse community and we have very different challenges. There’s still a lot of educating to do.
Anne-Marie: I decided to be out at work many years before I joined Kent and perhaps it had become a bit of a “so what” for me. The LGBT+ community does have a voice at Kent and it’s been good to be part of that to progress LGBT inclusivity so that others feel supported to be themselves.
Jules: I believe the University is a good place to work. I believe improvements are needed and we should always strive to improve in our areas of the university and push the University to be a leader for inclusivity and equality.
Bob: Honestly, it’s the first place I’ve ever been able to bring my whole self to work. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect by any means… but I love being able to be myself at Kent.