Learn about OutLink’s impactful journey at BAE Systems, addressing barriers, inclusivity, fostering acceptance, and making a positive difference in LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Tell us about your accomplishments to date?

As an Employee Resource Group (ERG) we have grown over the last decade from a handful of volunteers in a corner of one business unit into a team of over 20 people, with formalised roles, strategic objectives and time allocation. During this time we have made a number of achievements that we are very proud of.

  • We have introduced and influenced a wide range of company policies covering everything from Gender Identity Inclusion to Global Mobility. We also introduced a UK Gender Identity Policy in our UK business.
  • We have launched an industry-wide network of like-minded groups for sharing best-practice on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
  • We have worked with Stonewall to identify areas of improvement and driven change across the business, moving BAE Systems up the Workplace Equality Index.
  • We have used our experience to help develop a new Framework for all our ERGs at BAE Systems in the UK and internationally.
  • We have trained around 7,000 employees in the last 4 years. This includes a Gender Identity workshop which we designed and a workshop on the Allies Framework which we created.
  • We entered the Stonewall Top 100 in 2023.
  • We sponsored and supported seven Pride events local to our sites in 2023.
  • We have collaborated with external groups and guest speakers on key LGBTQ+ topics such as same-sex parenting, history, mental health and gender identity.

Most importantly, we are helping to build a workplace at BAE Systems where colleagues are able to be themselves. We regularly help individuals to navigate complex topics such as gender transition, educate our people on how to be inclusive of expansive gender identities, and deliver training on how to be a great ally to our community.

What are the barriers in representing many intersectional identity groups?

As human beings, most of us want to feel part of a community. We identify ourselves with labels and seek others with the same labels. In BAE Systems, we find that many people choose a single ERG to affiliate with, and do not consider that they might be able to join and represent more than one. With such a small percentage of the population openly identifying as LGBTQ+, it can be very hard to find anyone willing to be seen as an intersectional role model.

When attempting to be inclusive of everyone in our rich community, it is very easy to miss people out. As a leadership team, we try in OutLink to keep on top of ever-expanding gender and sexual identity terms and make efforts to feature them in our newsletters and resources. We realised, for example, that our Gender Identity policy is already in need of a refresh as it was too focused on the concept of a singular transgender identity. We are working on improving that now.

Do you think acceptance is improving?

We are a large business made up of different areas of industry, and spread across many sites, each with their own cultures and demographics. Acceptance is definitely improving thanks to us raising the profiles of all our ERGs in BAE Systems. Our people are more aware of the diversity of each other and the adjustments required to be inclusive and equitable. In OutLink, we find it hard to engage with our populations who are less digitally connected, or who work shift patterns that take them away from activities scheduled during the day.

We are working to do better, starting with a member of this population joining our leadership team for 2024. We have received recent feedback from trans colleagues that they have been able to feel confident in themselves at work for the first time; we have received calls for support from colleagues who now feel able to speak up and seek help; and we have seen engagement and support from senior leadership at our events more regularly. Employees are able to challenge one another more appropriately, and support the community more proactively as a result of OutLink’s efforts.

We have seen significant engagement from our Early Careers community (apprentices and graduates) attending our training sessions on supporting our LGBTQ+ peers and coming to our events. We have apprentices within our OutLink leadership team who are working on making this training a core part of the Early Careers programme across the UK within BAE Systems.

What does been nominated in your category mean to you?

Over the years, our OutLink leadership team has changed a great deal. Some of those who started the ERG are retiring, others have moved on to focus on other aspects of their work, and some who recently joined the team are apprentices fresh into the workplace.

Being recognised as a top-12 ERG in Britain is testament to all those people’s hard work, passion and commitment. We already knew that we were doing great work for our community in BAE Systems. Now we can confidently say that others see it as well. It brings us joy to know that we are making a positive difference, and we hope that with this recognition others will want to learn from our achievements to apply it to their own communities, too.

Crucially, this nomination is an acknowledgement of the personal investment given by every member of the OutLink Leadership Team. These volunteers expend an extraordinary amount of their time, energy and passion helping to make BAE Systems more inclusive. It shows that their efforts are valued, encourages them to continue helping others, and inspires other colleagues to take up the mantle by joining any one of our employee resource group leadership teams in the future.