Stonewall: private security could do better

by Mark Rowe

Private security companies could do better when it comes to inclusivity, says Stonewall, the gay, lesbian and bisexual charity:

The release of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2014 showed that there is not a single private security company in the nation’s top 100 employers for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) staff – despite the fact that the Army, the Royal Navy, the Security Service (MI5) and the Ministry of Defence all featured in the top 100, as do seven police forces from around the UK. There are lesbian, gay and bisexual people working in the private security industry already – but their needs are not being served by their employers.

There are a number of reasons that private security companies should be working on LGB equality – not least that it makes good business sense. Good equality and diversity training improves the customer experience – private security workers need to deal with all types of people in all types of situations and it is important that staff are adequately trained and prepared for anything they may come up against. Staff may be working in very volatile and stressful situations – so it is important that they have the skills to manage different types of people and are seen not to discriminate.

An example of this is when security staff at a detention centre have to work with LGB detainees – or when staff at a gallery, club or shop are dealing with LGB customers. It is imperative that staff are trained to act appropriately in order to avoid causing offence or illegal discrimination.

A strong equality and diversity programme offers a distinct business advantage – more and more organisations are asking questions about equality and diversity at the tender stage of contracts – and being able to evidence membership of a programme such as Stonewall’s Diversity Champions is a major advantage when biding for contracts, particularly with government departments. Good performance on inclusivity also enhances brand reputation and increases productivity. A business with a great reputation for equality and diversity will find it easier to recruit top talent.

The best performing organisations recognise that an inclusive atmosphere in the workplace aids staff retention – For workers in the private security industry who may be on the receiving end of homophobia, sexism, racism, and other discriminatory behaviour, the day-to-day experience may be so bad as to make them leave their jobs and move into another industry. People perform better when they can be themselves – and making an organisation a welcoming and inclusive place to be will make staff work more effectively, and they’ll stay with the organisation for longer.

There are still major challenges for people coming out in the workplace, especially for those at organisations without good awareness training or support from senior management. While some private security organisations have started to work on this issue – notably Geo Group and Wilson James – the industry has a lot of catching up to do.

Becky Thomas, HR Business Partner, Geo Group, said: “We really value the advice and guidance we receive from Stonewall and by working with them we have raised the profile of our commitment to supporting LGB staff and service users. Our membership of the Diversity Champions Programme gives us access to practical support to help make our workplaces more inclusive and encourages us to continuously review whether we are providing equality of opportunity to all. In addition, our LGB service users benefit from our relationship with Stonewall as we are better able to understand their individual needs and offer them the support they need whilst in our care, for example through our designated LGB Liaison Officer who is actively supported by Stonewall.”

And Peter McGowan Learning and Development Manager, Wilson James, said: “Wilson James are an inclusive employer and we are committed to embracing diversity and inclusion within our workforce. To enhance our knowledge and understanding of the work that Stonewall carries out, and to ensure we are reflective of this in our working culture in addressing the needs of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, we attended the Stonewall 2014 workplace conference. The day was packed with advice, shared experiences, guidance and engaging presentations which we can utilise and for a first time attendee, it was both educational and enjoyable.”


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