Students Staff

19 January 2016

Essex one of Britain’s top employers for LGBT staff

The Rainbow flag flying at Essex's Colchester Campus

The Rainbow flag flying at Essex's Colchester Campus

The University of Essex has been named in Britain’s Top 100 employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual staff.

The University is ranked 53rd in Stonewall’s annual audit of workplace culture for LGBT staff, a climb of 144 places, and now ranks among the top six universities. More than 400 employers submitted entries to Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index 2016, from which the rankings are produced, the highest number since the Index started in 2005.

Stonewall’s criteria explore ten areas of employment policy and practice including training, career development, employee network groups, line management and community engagement. The Index also includes a staff feedback questionnaire. While 2016 marks the first year of trans inclusive questions, the rankings will become fully trans inclusive in 2018.

Essex’s success follows on from its top six ranking in Stonewall’s Gay by Degree 2015 which showed it is one of the best universities in Britain for LGBT students. Essex scored full marks across the ten Gay By Degree criteria.

Essex also won a Guardian University Award in 2015 for advancing staff equality, thanks to the innovative LGBT Alliance established in 2014 by the University in partnership with other Essex-based employers.

The Alliance aims to raise issues relevant to LGBT people for comment, discussion and recommendation; to promote sexual orientation and gender identity equality; and to involve member institutions and the wider community in the promotion of equality and avoidance of discrimination. Since it was established, there has been a 28 per cent increase in staff disclosure of their sexual orientation at the University.

Other initiatives at Essex include establishing diversity champions within the senior management team – the Vice-Chancellor is one of the diversity champions for sexual orientation – and establishing a Straight Allies programme to help further the development of a gay-friendly workplace.

The University flies the Rainbow flag at its Colchester Campus to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and also flew the flag for a week during LGBT History Month in 2015, as part of a number of activities on campus.

Executive Dean and diversity champion Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony said: "We are continuing to make major strides forward in championing equality and celebrating diversity within our University community. This ranking recognises the progress we have made, and our commitment to provide an inclusive and supportive workplace.

"In addition to our work to advance LGBT equality, we are working hard in other areas. We are one of only five universities to hold an Institutional Gender Equality Charter Mark for advancing gender equality in careers in higher education across the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, as well as in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students, and we hold Athena Swan Bronze awards, recognising our commitment to advancing women’s careers in science."

Karen Bush, Head of Equality and Diversity at the University, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the work we have done over the last year to further LGBT-equality has been rewarded with a significant improvement in our ranking. It is testament to the drive, enthusiasm and commitment of both members of my team and many other people across the University community.

“We are not complacent though; we recognise there is much more work to do but we now have a solid platform in place to build on and we will continue to work hard to improve the culture at Essex for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff.”

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall said: “We have had more submissions than ever before and so making the list is a huge achievement. I’d like to thank all of those organisations for their continued efforts to ensure that their lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff feel comfortable to bring their whole selves to work and are accepted without exception”.

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