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Why it’s time for an LGBT network of networks

Published: 22/02/2017

First planning meeting Friday 24 February in London

Guest blog post by Dr Sammy Li (Chair of LGBT staff network), Steve Neville-Wu (Vice-chair LGBT staff network) and Will Cooling (Special Projects and Policy Manager of Equality & Diversity Unit) based at the University of Wolverhampton.

LGBT staff network officers play a crucial role within their institutions. They are asked to be immediately accessible experts for consulting on and steering institutional changes on a wide range of issues related to sexuality and gender status. They are asked to inform the development of policy, provision of services and policing of current practices.

However, if individual LGBT staff network officers are their institution’s foremost experts, then who do they turn to broaden their knowledge about LGBT best practice?

Unfortunately, in many cases, the answer is that there is nobody for them to turn to, and so LGBT staff network officers are left to fend for themselves. It, therefore, makes perfect sense for our sector to work collaboratively on sharing the lessons learnt and developing a collective voice on sector-specific LGBT issues.

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This is why we at the University of Wolverhampton feel it’s time for a LGBT staff network of networks to facilitate these discussions.

An LGBT network of networks could help enhance the work of LGBT staff networks across the country to secure better support and protection for their members within their institutions. It could help the sector speak with one voice when discussing what services it needs from organisations such as Equality Challenge Unit and Stonewall. It could organise national meetings where LGBT staff officers receive peer support by sharing their experiences and ideas with colleagues from all over the country. And finally it could organise specialist training tailored to the needs of LGBT staff officers, either broadening their knowledge of LGBT issues or providing them with the skills they need for their role.

Sector-specific equality and diversity networks are far from a novel idea. Firms in finance and professional service sectors have done particularly well in establishing sector-specific LGBT networks to pull together a critical mass of resources and knowledge. A wide range of employers understand that a diverse workforce fosters innovation and organisational performance. Such competitive differentiator is built upon an organisation’s ability to attract the top talents for fulfilling clients from all walks of life. That is why many organisations in the UK have integrated their workplace diversity programs and policies into business cases.

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At the University of Wolverhampton we have seen the positive impact that a proactive LGBT staff network can make. That is why we are calling for interested institutions to participate in the development of an LGBT network of networks to shape the way forward, ensuring our sector continues to strive for improvement in the delivery of services to staff and students.

We may still have a few places available for an initial planning meeting on Friday 24 February in London and are keen to talk to people by email. Please contact Sammy Li and Will Cooling for more details about getting involved equality@wlv.ac.uk.

The views and opinions in this blog post reflect those of the authors and not Equality Challenge Unit.

Update

Following an initial exploratory session and subsequent expressions of interest, ECU are delighted to confirm that a further meeting is being planned for May in London (further details tbc) for representatives of higher education staff LGBT+ networks to discuss the LGBT+ network of networks further.

The aim of the network is to help staff LGBT+ networks share relevant support, resources and guidance.  Please watch our website and follow us on Twitter @EqualityinHE for further information or email Senior Policy Adviser Jess Moody if you wish to be added to a mailing list for further information.