Spotlight: Louise Bailey from OVO
We catch up with our Exceptional Inclusion Top 10, Louise Bailey, who has helped drive change within LGBT+ inclusion and particularly helping promote equity for those who identify as non-binary at OVO through her role in Inclusion & Diversity.
What has been your biggest achievement for LGBT+ inclusion at OVO to date?
Over the last couple of years I have worked on making changes such as making our policies more inclusive, designing and delivering new training to help managers create an LGBT+ inclusive workplace, changing procedures for our customers and building a fantastic LGBT+ network – but I’d say my biggest achievement was the Trans Inclusion policy I wrote and implemented.
All of my proposals to make things as easy and supportive for trans colleagues were fully endorsed and implemented, including making changes to our internal systems to support the new processes. Feedback from our trans staff has really proven just how important this was.
if we take the use of homophobic slurs or language use, it’s often dismissed as being ‘banter’ – but it isn’t as the definition says ‘…playful and friendly’
What are you most proud about working for OVO as an inclusive employer?
OVO are a breath of fresh air, they are such a progresive company with a clear vision and a plan to be the best place to work. They know to achieve this goal, they need the best people to work here and that is why we need diverse teams of people to lead us to the top.
In previous employment, I almost felt like driving LGBT+ inclusion was a constant battle to prove the need through business cases, long consultations and painful questioning. Since joining OVO in 2020, I have only ever felt empowered to make changes and supported to drive initiatives, both internally and externally.
We have a network of around 400 people committed to advancing inclusion within the workplace who have a clear voice within OVO. We work through any challenges we encounter together.
It means a lot to support LGBT+ charities and simple things like lighting our venues, the SSE Hyrdo and The SSE Arena, Wembley in the colours of the Trans, Lesbian and Pride flags has meant so much to so many people.
OVO are committed to achieving not just a diverse and inclusive workplace but a true sense of belonging for all our people. I was recently given the opportunity of working on Inclusion & Diversity for a 6 month secondment to really help drive this.
If you could change anything around equality tomorrow, what would it be? Inside the workplace? And within society and the wider world?
Where to start? There is a lot that still needs to change and this is why we need awareness through activities such as our Pride marches, we need to keep educating people and we need allies to be active and vocal.
LGBT+ hate crime is on the rise, tripling over the last 5 years, and this breaks my heart and terrifies me. Trans people face constant, daily, criticism and questioning of their being with so many public and influential people being nothing more than hostile towards trans communities. The one thing I would change is that people are aware of the struggles of LGBT+ people and instead of making things even harder, they are supportive and champion people to be who they are.
It’s the same inside the workplace; if we take the use of homophobic slurs or language use, it’s often dismissed as being ‘banter’ – but it isn’t as the definition says ‘…playful and friendly’ – rather, it is causing upset, can create a negative environment, and can often prevent people from being able to be themselves in the workplace. We have worked with charities such as mindOut and Time for Inclusive Education to deliver training on the use of and impact of negative language.
Workplaces need to celebrate the LGBT+ community, including their customers, and have strong allies, role models and leaders in place. We need to show people how valued they are and the massive contribution they bring to a diverse workplace.
We noticed that OVO has been drumming up support the Government petition to recognise non-binary as a legal gender identity, why is this so important to your organisation?
This is really important to us. We have non-binary colleagues and members who need to be recognised for who they are. We are really keen to publish fully inclusive gender targets but at the moment that is difficult to do as we need to report to HMRC using binary sex options of M/F only – as this is all they will accept – for reasons such as retirement age, NI contributions etc. We really need the Government to have legal non-binary recognition so that people can use and be their true gender identity.
What else has OVO been working on behind the scenes to help the LGBT+ agenda in the workplace and particularly for non-binary colleagues?
We have celebrated and participated in recognition events for the community, including International Non Binary People’s Day, Lesbian Visibility Week, Pride Month, IDAHOBIT, both internally and externally. We share resources to help people learn more about the LGBT+ar community, celebrate some amazing icons, and to also understand what it means to be non-binary. I am also on the committee of Pride and Energy and we held an ‘ask me anything session’ with 3 non binary colleagues from within the energy industry which OVO teams attended and took a lot of learning from.
We have also created an additional ‘gender identity’ category on our internal systems to give our people the choice on how they describe their gender. We have explained the challenges with reporting and our systems and our people know that we are supportive of the petition and are working with our system provider to try to make changes to how data is collected.
In the last 12 months we have trained hundreds of managers on an ‘Introduction to Trans Awareness’ and ‘Creating an LGBT+’ inclusive workplace and we can see a noticeable change in our internal communications and the language used within the business. I am also working with the OVO facilities team and we will have the option of gender neutral facilities on our sites by the end of this year.
All companies will be in the same position in terms of reporting binary sex options to HMRC so we need as many companies to get behind this petition as possible and to keep on looking at how we can influence Government to make these changes. I would say for people who are specifically looking to learn more about the non-binary community: get involved in sessions such as the Pride in Energy session and learn more about non binary people, proactively use your pronouns and become aware of your own unconscious biases and learn how to manage them.