Equalities secretary Liz Truss has appointed communications expert Iain Anderson to serve as the government’s first LGBT business champion.
Anderson is co-founder and executive chairman of the Cicero/AMO agency and focuses on public policy and corporate communications strategy, supporting global FTSE and Fortune 500 blue chip companies.
In his champion role, which is an unpaid post, Anderson is tasked with working in partnership with business to support LGBT people at work and developing and sharing solutions to workplace discrimination.
He will also work alongside the government’s special envoy on LGBT rights, former policing minister Lord Nick Herbert, to showcase the UK as an inclusive place to live and work ahead of next June’s Global LGBT Conference.
Truss – who is also international trade secretary – said Anderson had been widely recognised for his work to champion equality in business, and was a Stonewall ambassador and a member of the Queer Britain advisory board.
“I’m delighted to appoint Iain as our new LGBT business champion,” she said. “As we seek to build back better, his considerable experience working with a range of businesses will be crucial to forming policies that will actually make a difference, improving the workplace for LGBT people.
“We have a responsibility to ensure LGBT people can be themselves at work, not just for their own wellbeing, but also for the best interests of business and the UK economy. Attracting and retaining a talented workforce is fundamental to the success of any enterprise.”
Anderson said it was vital for businesses of all sizes to unleash the potential of all their LGBT employees and customers.
“There is an opportunity for the UK to be a world leader on action by business to make this happen,” he said.
The Government Equalities Office said Anderson’s role was for an 18-month term that could be extended for a further 18 months.
It said Anderson’s early priorities would include helping to establish a business-led network that connected large organisations and SMEs, focussing on sharing best practice, and potentially resource, in order to progress LGBT equality at work.
Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development, said the organisation’s own research suggested many LGBT+ employees did not feel safe to express themselves and be accepted at work.
“There should be visible commitment from senior leaders to foster open and inclusive working environments where employees feel safe and supported, and difference is valued,” he said.
“This is a vital part of being able to attract and retain the diversity of skills and experience every organisation needs; ensuring organisations reflect the communities and societies they serve and are part of.”
Earlier this year Truss was publicly criticised by former members of the government’s LGBT+ advisory panel, which she disbanded in April. The secretary of state subsequently admitted she had “fundamental disagreements” with panel members and cited self-ID for gender-recognition certificates as one example.
The former chair of the panel, Jayne Ozanne, told a hearing of parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee that speeches made by Trussdemonstrated she did not understand the people she was there to champion.
“We need a minister who truly understands and wants to stand at the front and be our voice in government for the concerns that we have,” she said. “If anything, we were seeing the very opposite of that.”