Pride Month 2021: An interview with Service Director Loraine Simpson on the benefits of an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace

Posted on: 29/06/2021

As part of Pride Month, we have been focusing on the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community in a range of different settings. We recently spoke to Progress Lifeline Services Director Loraine Simpson about the pivotal role of the workplace as a safe and inclusive place for LGBTQ+ employees. Loraine is openly gay and has been married for 5 years. Here is what she had to say…

Why is it important to provide an open and inclusive workplace?

Providing an open and inclusive workplace attracts diversity and with that comes innovation. In Progress Lifeline innovation is a key quality. Openness and inclusivity also makes staff feel valued and respected and supports staff retention. As a leader, it is important to me as this engenders trust which supports a progressive workplace and results in real commitment from staff.

How does a supportive workplace benefit LGBTQ+ colleagues and the wider workforce?

There are a whole host of benefits that can be found from having a supportive and inclusive workplace.

A diverse and inclusive environment establishes a sense of belonging among employees. When employees feel more connected at work, they tend to work harder and smarter, producing higher quality work. At Progress Lifeline, we have found that diversity and innovation go hand-in-hand. Our differences open us up to various perspectives, experiences, and opinions. As a result of this, our team are able to share ideas and come up with original solutions in a more creative way.

Not only does inclusivity benefit our colleagues, it also helps us improve the services we provide to our customers. Having a diverse team gives us a fantastic platform to show empathy towards our diverse customer base. We are well equipped to meet the varied needs of our customers who vary across age, gender, sexuality, race and ability, amongst other factors.

How does Progress Lifeline as an employer support LGBT+ employees?

We are proud to be an open and inclusive employer and there are many ways in which we support our LGBT+ employees including:

  • An LGBTQ+ networking group – The network exists to empower LGBTQ+ staff to achieve their full potential through creating a positive and supportive working environment and it’s an opportunity for colleagues to meet up to discuss their shared experiences
  • Educating staff via internal communications – Colleagues who identify as LGBTQ+ have shared their personal experiences with the wider team via blogs
  • Specialised training – We provide ongoing Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity training to all colleagues
  • LGBTQ+ colleagues– We have many staff throughout the organisation who are members of the network group and the LGBTQ+ community
  • Policies in place – We have an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion policy in place that all colleagues must adhere to

Are all Progress Lifeline trained in equality, diversity and inclusivity?

All Progress Lifeline employees complete mandatory equality and diversity within the first few weeks of employment. This includes information about the Equality Act 2010 and all the protected characteristics covered by the Act. The training includes specific examples of homophobic behaviour and makes clear why this could be interpreted as harassment in the workplace.

Progress Lifeline colleagues regularly complete refresher training too, to ensure that they are up to date with the latest best practice.

How does Progress Lifeline’s culture and Progress Housing Group values align with LGBT+ inclusivity best practice?

Progress Lifeline is part of Progress Housing Group (a not for profit housing provider who owns and manages over 10,000 homes) and upholds the following values:

  • People-focused – People are at the heart of our business. By treating everyone fairly and understanding their diverse needs and strengths, we can serve them better and provide services that positively impact their lives.
  • Forward-thinking – We search for solutions and ideas that overcome the challenges faced by our tenants, customers, communities and partners.
  • Genuine – We are open and honest, with a friendly, enthusiastic and energetic way of working which is true to what we stand for.
  • Expert – We lead the way through our knowledge and expertise, investing for a strong future and excelling in all we do to provide the best possible standards of service.
  • Collaborative – We work in partnership with our tenants, customers, colleagues, local communities and other experts, bringing everyone together to achieve more.

Having visible LGBTQ+ role models at a senior level can have a huge impact on creating a truly inclusive workplace and helps us to continue to deliver an inclusive service. I'm proud to say that here at Progress Lifeline we can all be ourselves, thrive in a truly inclusive environment, inspire each other, learn from each other and deliver the very best for our customers and service users.

For more information on LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the workplace, visit Stonewall here: Best practice, toolkits and resources | Stonewall