What I’ve learned from 3+ years of Chairing Fujitsu’s LGBT+ network
This is a somewhat bittersweet blog post for me – my last as Chair of Fujitsu’s LGBT+ network, Shine, but also an opportunity to reflect on all the positive things we’ve achieved in the last three years.
It has been an inspiring and emotional journey that has taught me a lot about the importance of having this kind of network in place. And I’ve met some incredible people along the way.
I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on it all and pass on some of what I’ve learned.
Why have an employee LGBT+ network?
For the uninitiated it might seem unnecessary, maybe even counter-productive. Why single out people purely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity? Don’t we have enough equality legislation and a tolerant enough society to not need this?
Of course the answer is no. We have progressed a significant amount in the UK – and in the last 10 years in particular – but you don’t have to look far to see many instances of casual bullying, intolerance and a lot worse.
Having a network that provides representation for a minority group gives clarity of purpose and helps an organisation to demonstrate internally and externally that it is serious about inclusion.
Fujitsu is a pretty good company in terms of respect and doing the right thing. It’s not perfect, but I don’t think anyone would expect any company can be – global organisations with disparate employee bases are incredibly complex things. But Fujitsu has the right approach at its core in terms of inclusion, and there is an organisational willingness to learn.
So why is there a need for Shine in Fujitsu?
Looking back at my involvement over the last three years or more – from that first phone call asking if I’d like to explore whether we need a network, to planning for my last member conference as chair – I can clearly see where we’ve made a significant difference in company behaviours and outlook.
Shine is now regularly engaged in shaping company policy and strategy for inclusion. It has provided support in instances of bullying (thankfully not a frequent occurrence). We’ve put parents who have LGBT+ children in touch with each other for peer support. We offer support, guidance and signposting for colleagues who are transitioning.
It gives us a focal point and a voice for employees who may be about to come out in the workplace and information for employees who have a family member or friend who has. We also support those who prefer not to disclose but still want to be comfortable at work.
None of this would be possible without a network, and Fujitsu has been very supportive during our initial growth. Along with our other inclusion networks (Cultural Diversity, Gender and SEED Disability), we receive funding, time allocation and visible board-level support.
Our objectives feed into company-level ones. We are encouraged to grow and to represent our organisation, and through our work we are having different conversations with our customers and suppliers.
One of the strongest and most valuable relationships we’ve nurtured is that of Shine with Celebrate, the LGBT+ network at Action for Children.
The two-year charity partnership between our organisations has drawn to a close but Shine and Celebrate will continue to support each other in future. I caught up with Claire Cahill (Chair of Celebrate) recently to get her thoughts on the growth we’ve seen in our networks as we’ve worked together over the last two years.
Claire didn’t have any direct involvement with the main charity partnership between Fujitsu and Action for Children initially. She knew it would be providing them with significant benefit but it didn’t touch her personally.
Then I invited Claire and one of her colleagues to attend Shine’s first externally facing event, a discussion evening with John Amaechi OBE as our keynote speaker:
“The event just blew me away,” she said. “I came away thinking: ‘look what they can achieve.’ It inspired me to stretch our capabilities and do similar things in Action for Children.”
We soon put in place opportunities for us to share what we knew between our respective LGBT+ networks, which really helped both Celebrate and Shine. What struck me at an early stage was that because we are so different organisationally we had complementary skillsets.
This was something echoed by Claire:
“Shine was a great example of positive role modelling and helped us to fast-track our development. Through Martin’s dedication we created a completely different way of connecting. It’s given us a model for how we can link with other sponsor organisations in future and helps us to add value to our wider corporate-charity partnerships.”
Of course this has benefitted Shine in totally unexpected ways too, particularly as Action for Children is a smaller and more nimble organisation.
When we were developing our approach around trans inclusion we were a little stuck on how to design some of the documentation to make it easily digestible. Action for Children had recently launched a similar guide and allowed us to incorporate some of it into ours – a marvellous example of sharing in practice.
This is also one of the key memories for me more generally: the generosity of people in other organisations and networks has always been superb. It’s great now Shine is more mature to have been able to share in return with others who are just starting their journeys.
Claire has mentioned on many occasions that it feels like we’re an extended family, and I agree. We look out for each other, for opportunities to extend our contact networks and to freely share what we know and have.
In future the primary focus for Shine will be MacMillan, our new corporate charity partner. I’m excited to see how this develops and we’ve already had encouraging conversations with them. But I see this as growing the family, whilst not forgetting existing family members.
What I’ll take away from this experience
Fundamentally the reason why we do this is about the people. It’s providing a safe space where someone can come for advice or support when things are not going well or they are in an unfamiliar situation. It’s a focal point to give people a voice and a say in how this aspect of our company develops.
It’s also a great opportunity to meet really inspiring people from other organisations and community groups who are doing the most amazing things. It’s about the generosity of time, knowledge and experiences.
I’ve had the opportunity to lead and take part in many events and activities that simply would not have happened without Shine, and I’ve built strong relationships with colleagues who I may never otherwise have met.
Of course for every group to survive it must continually evolve, and a change in leadership is a positive opportunity.
I know the future of Shine is in good hands with our new Chair Caroline, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing our new Co-Chair Justin grow into his role too.
The future’s bright – the future’s rainbow-coloured.
Find out more about LGBT+ diversity in Fujitsu.
Keep up to date with our latest news and activities by following the Shine network on Twitter.
He is a BITC Business Connector alumnus, has played a leading part in development of Fujitsu’s Responsible Business and Diversity and Inclusion approach, and is engaged in enhancing Fujitsu’s UK STEM engagement approach.
Martin joined Fujitsu in October 1996.
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- What I’ve learned from 3+ years of Chairing Fujitsu’s LGBT+ network - November 18, 2016
- “From dull grey to technicolour” – why we’ve published a trans* inclusion guide - October 11, 2016
- Pride in London 2016: solidarity, empowerment and inspiration! - August 3, 2016