We spend much of our life at work, so it goes without saying that we’d want to do it in an environment that is accepting of who we are.
A workplace culture is made of the sum total of everything from the company values and formal policies to the small talk before meetings, and it plays a significant role in how comfortable we feel. For many, being accepted and understood by colleagues is taken for granted, but for those from minority or underrepresented backgrounds, it’s not always so simple. That’s why we consciously focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives across our business. We want to build inclusive teams that are welcoming to all.
One of the factors we consider as a part of our DEI focus is the experience of our LGBTQ+ employees. Founded in 2021, our Stonewall Diversity Champions Committee actively work to spread awareness and make changes around issues that impact this community. We recently spoke to two of its members, Phil Hudson (Principal Consultant and People Lead) and Edgar Enuta (Software Engineer), to talk about the Committee’s activities right now and get some insight into its plans for the future too.
Founding the Committee
Phil explained that the formation of the Committee was catalysed after he and some other Zühlkees noticed an increase in discussions around individuals' identity during the 2020 pandemic. As people’s personal and professional lives overlapped, talking about topics like gender and sexuality was increasingly normalised – and he and his colleagues wanted to keep this positive momentum going. At the same time, we at Zühlke had also committed to making the workplace more inclusive generally, so it was the ideal moment to put a formal group in place for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Committee was formed in partnership with Stonewall one of the world's biggest organisations standing for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) people. Over the last 30 years, they have helped create transformative change in the UK, and their work with employers is a big part of this. Phil was a founding member of the Committee and now focuses mostly on writing blog posts and raising awareness. Edgar joined the team, and the business, more recently. He became involved after receiving an email call for volunteers and now works on internal communication, developing a calendar of events and content to have topical conversations at relevant times of the year.
“There’s already a general feeling our culture here is very human and people-oriented – we want to make sure LGBTQ+ people feel that way too,"
Edgar explained, talking about the general aims of the group.
When asked about how this shows up more specifically, he and Phil shared examples of topical lunchtime talks, as well as mini-seminars around micro-aggressions and discrimination, sharing experiences with an audience of allies and LGBTQ+ individuals. Edgar also went on to mention a current project advising on updating the corporate policies to be more inclusive, removing any gendered language and assumptions that had been unintentionally included in the existing wording.
The Current Focus
One of the significant focuses for the Diversity Champions Committee is its work with Stonewall on raising Zühlke’s ranking in the annual Workplace Equality Index. As a part of this initiative, participating employers are assessed based on eight policy areas, validated through an anonymous survey. This enables participants to establish how they compare to others in their sector or region, and identify points for improvement. Importantly, Stonewall works closely with Diversity Champions within the organisations to implement this positive change in a meaningful way.
When asked about the value of the partnership with Stonewall, Phil pointed to the very real impact company policy and P&C practices have on people’s experiences with an employer. “These aren't things you think about every day, but when you are dealing with them, it’s usually for something important,” he noted. Edgar also emphasised the value in working with a third party on this.
“There are aspects we may never consider because we as individuals on this team haven’t experienced them,” he explained.
Phil added to this with a few initiatives that the Committee was now considering in the future thanks to the work with Stonewall, including a company-wide LGBTQ+ policy, a formal LGBTQ+ Network for Zühlke Group, and specific support for trans employees.
Looking to the Future
Reflecting on the impact the Committee has made so far, Phil first pointed to some positive feedback from others. “We’ve had allies come forward to support us in what we’re doing, and it feels like the environment is definitely more inclusive now,” he said. Both Phil and Edgar were clear that this is only the beginning, however. Our performance as a company in the Stonewall ranking still needs an ongoing focus, but the upward trend is heartening.
Speaking to more general goals for the future, Edgar described how he wanted to ensure Zühlke is seen as a safe space outside the business too. He shared his own experience of onboarding and how the welcoming culture he felt once he’d joined wasn’t necessarily something he would have known of at the outset. Phil builds on this with his final thought too.
“I want us to reach a point where people can go through the whole journey with Zühlke and know that they’re supported in being the person they are every step of the way,” he concluded.