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Spy agency MI5 is ranked top LGBT employer in the UK

Spy agency MI5 is ranked top LGBT employer in the UK

Andrew Parker, Director-General, MI5

The UK’s intelligence and national security agency, MI5, has been named employer of the year by Britain’s LGBT advocacy group, Stonewall.

Stonewall has been compiling its annual Workplace Equality Index for the past 12 years. It says that over 400 organizations took part in this year’s Index.

This year’s top ten is dominated by legal and housing organizations, while the rest of the top 100 has a particularly large number of local government, education and healthcare agencies.

To participate, organizations had to submit a detailed questionnaire that assessed their LGBT-friendly policies and procedures, checking on whether they had LGBT network groups and offered career development that fully fostered diversity and inclusion.

Stonewall also surveyed over 60,000 staff anonymously across the organizations who entered.

MI5 came seventh on the index in 2015 but rose to top position this year. Andrew Parker, Director-General, MI5 said in a statement: ‘Diversity is vital for MI5, not just because it’s right that we represent the communities we serve, but because we rely on the skills of the most talented people whoever they are, and wherever they may be.

‘This accolade from Stonewall is a great acknowledgment of the continued progress we have made over recent years in ensuring we draw on the widest possible pool of talent in our vital work.’

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: ‘MI5 have made fantastic strides in creating an inclusive workplace, and have now appeared on the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list since 2012. This is an amazing achievement and demonstrates just how seriously diversity and inclusion is taken.’

The full 2016 Workplace Equality Index top ten is as follows:

  1. MI5
  2. Lloyds Banking Group
  3. National Assembly of Wales
  4. B3Living
  5. Pinsent Masons
  6. Tower Hamlets Homes
  7. Leicestershire County Council
  8. Metropolitan
  9. Clifford Chance
  10. Royal Navy

Also highlighted for particular recognition was Lloyds Banking Group’s Group Director Karin Cook (‘Senior Champion of the Year’), Justine Thompson, Senior Manager for Diversity and Inclusion at Baker & McKenzie (‘Ally of the Year’), and St Mungo’s, the homeless charity (‘LGBT Employee Network Group of the Year’).

David Ali, a caretaker at Tower Hamlets Homes, was named by Stonewall as its ‘Role Model of the Year’.

David Ali, a caretaker for Tower Hamlets Housing, is Stonewall's Role Model of the Year
David Ali, a caretaker for Tower Hamlets Housing, is Stonewall’s Role Model of the Year

Ali supports LGBT inclusion both within and outside of his role, working with older LGBT organization Opening Doors and HouseProud, a network of nine other housing organizations supporting residents and staff. He also volunteers with LGBT community group, Rainbow Hamlets.

‘Being a gay man from a BME background living and working in such a diverse Borough of Tower Hamlets, I hope my work in the community will inspire and give confidence to others to feel comfortable with who they are, and achieve more in the workplace and life itself,’ said Ali in a statement.

Another organization to comment on its placing was the Royal Navy, which was ranked in tenth place – the first time one of the British armed forces has made the top ten.

The ranking is all the more significant given that it’s only 16 years since the armed forces dropped its bans on openly gay members of the military.

Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Royal Navy
Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Royal Navy

Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: ‘I’m so proud that the Royal Navy has been ranked in the top ten of Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index. It’s a ringing endorsement of our efforts, led by our Diversity Champions, to ensure we remain one of the most attractive employers in the UK. It also just goes to show that if you’re good enough, it doesn’t matter who you are: anyone can succeed in the Royal Navy.

‘Diversity is also about being the best Navy in the world. The Royal Navy’s strength rests on our men and women, in all their glorious diversity. Their skill, their determination, their ability to think and fight, determines our success.’

At number nine on this year’s list is law firm Clifford Chance. David Bickerton, Clifford Chance London Managing partner and Arcus Ally, said: ‘We work hard to provide an inclusive environment for everyone at Clifford Chance, and we are delighted to have been placed in the UK’s top ten LGBT-friendly employers.

‘The diversity of our people is at the heart of our ability to service our clients. We believe that, in order to provide our clients with the service they expect, everyone needs to be comfortable being themselves at work.’

Besides the top 100 ranking, Stonewall survey always provided a snapshot of the experiences of many LGBT workers in the UK. Of these, 27% said they felt comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation to all colleagues and customers (33% of gay men but only 23% of lesbians and 12% of bisexuals).

However, coming out at work pays dividends, with people who are out as LGB experiencing better job satisfaction and a higher sense of achievement, according to 67% of LGB people.

Respondents indicated that senior leaders were increasingly demonstrating a commitment to LGB equality – up from 53% in 2015 to 63% in 2016. However, only 42% of trans respondents said that senior leaders demonstrated a visible commitment to trans equality.

The full Workplace Equality Index, featuring Stonewall Top 100 employers, can be viewed on the Stonewall website.