When MI5 was named the most gay-friendly employer in Britain by Stonewall, it made us reflect on the fact that up until 1992 LGBT people were banned from becoming intelligence officers. We now have an active LGBT Network with over 130 members.
The culture of MI5 is one that embraces diversity and supports people being true to themselves. I truly believe that I’ve never worked somewhere that is so embracing of diversity, which strives to make its workforce as diverse as possible. It means you have the richest mix of talented individuals which helps keep the country safe. The Security Service works very hard to reflect the country it protects; not just for LGBT but for all diversity groups.
This year we relaunched our Allies Programme and we produced a more formal guide on how to be an Ally to your LGBT colleagues. We created this to give our Allies some easy steps or direction on how they can be more inclusive by making slight adjustments to their language or developing a better understanding of issues within the LGBT community. In less than two weeks, we had over 180 people signed up as Allies. These individuals receive a fortnightly article from myself or one of our LGBT network highlighting key points/ issues/ challenges we face as a community. We have received amazing feedback on this and we strive to achieve an Allies working group to develop projects for the wider workforce (e.g. a guide for parents on how to explain LGBT+ to children).
I firmly believe that once the people around you understand LGBT then you are not wasting energy on hiding or concealing your personal life. 25% of LGBT people across the country are not ‘out’ at work and the advice we have given to our Allies about more inclusive language allows any of those individuals that we have in our workforce to still talk openly about their personal lives without outing themselves.
We have shared our Allies guide with other intelligence agencies, government departments and the other diversity networks. The advice we give can be utilised more widely so that MI5 and other workplaces can be inclusive places to work for everyone.