Civil service diversity reports: 'Paucity' of LGBT role models in Whitehall

Report by former Stonewall chief executive, commissioned by the Cabinet Office, says many LGBT staff feel 'pressured to fit into a conventional mould'

By matt.foster

27 Mar 2015

There is a "paucity" of senior role models in the civil service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) officials to look up to, a government-commissioned study has concluded.

The report, one of three independent studies into Whitehall diversity commissioned by the Cabinet Office last year, acknowledges that the civil service is now "unrecognisably different" in terms of its recognition of LGBT people compared to decades gone by.

However, it says LGBT staff still feel "anxious about being able to be themselves at work", and that there are too few role models in Whitehall's top tier.

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"Far too many express anxieties that they are pressured to fit a conventional mould and, if they don't, their professional development will be compromised," the report says. "Some have been told so explicitly."

One participant told the study: "Quite a few people go back into the closet in order to get into the SCS."

Former Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill, who carried out the report, said there remained "huge vagueness of accountability" for delivering diversity policies, adding that "too many" LGBT staff believed they had been excluded from programmes designed to recognise talented officials.

The report also calls for an end to the "slightly sceptical" approach taken by some departments to existing network groups for LGBT staff, saying "confusion still exists about what network groups can contribute to the business of the civil service".

"Across the private sector, it's increasingly recognised that employee networks add value to a business," the report adds. "In such businesses, their management is understood to be a valued part of an individual employee's day job, rather than the voluntary activity – or 'hobby' – that civil service staff engaged in LGB&T networks often feel their contribution is perceived to be."

All three reports published on Thursday draw on a separate, quantitative 'Barriers to Success Survey', conducted by the Hay Group consultancy.

Only half of the LGBT participants to that study said they were "comfortable initiating discussions about diversity and inclusion-related issues" with their departments. Just two in five of those asked said that they believed the record action of action by senior civil service leaders on diversity was "consistent with their words".

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has acknowledged that all three reports make for “uncomfortable reading”. The Cabinet Office has already announced a “refresh” of its Talent Action Plan, and promised that a new cross-government team will oversee Whitehall’s diversity and inclusion agenda.


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