Don’t ask, don’t tell policy sparks barriers warning

COMPANIES and organisations that operate a ‘Don’t Ask, don’t tell’ policy towards staff who come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender should be careful that they are not allowing perceived barriers to flourish.

Dr Charlotte McCarroll, 32, a transgender academic at the University of Glasgow, will amplify this warning when she addresses Scotland’s National Diversity Conference 2017 next month.

Last October she won the Diversity Hero of the Year title at the inaugural Diversity Awards last year, for her work supporting a greater understanding of transgender issues on campus.

She said: “Even those companies or organisations that do not appear hostile to people who come out as LGBT, who say they don’t mind what they do in their personal lives – that can actually be a barrier in itself for people who come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“People might perceive hostility when there might not be actual hostility, and the organisations might therefore be held back from being seen as welcoming and understanding, and allowing people to be themselves and to get on with their work.”

Dr McCarroll added: “Let’s say I had a boss who was not understanding. In my career, that one person can be responsible for how well I do – whether I get a good reference or not. If they’re homophobic, or transphobic or whatever, then they can hold me back.

“It’s actually very hard to prove – and that is another perceived barrier, if you don’t know the attitude of your boss.

“Such perceived barriers are not necessarily genuine barriers, but they are barriers that someone will perceive may exist, and just that the belief they may exist can hold someone back.”

Dr McCarroll grew up in Gloucestershire and initially trained as a veterinary surgeon. She is now a Research Associate at the university’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences.

She tweets as @DrCharlotteMcC, and is a founding member of the online site nGendr, which was launched last year as a way of promoting the voices of trans and non-binary people. “It is a platform for them to express anything they wish. They contribute articles and videos to it, and it has a lot of interesting content.” The group is also active on Twitter as @n_gendr and on YouTube, where its uploaded videos range across such subjects as the ‘Best thing about being transgender’ and the ‘Hardest part of transition’.

She has spoken of the importance of sport to her, and she was co-founder of Seahorses, a community swimming group for trans and non-binary people in Glasgow. “Sadly, it wasn’t popular enough to keep going on a monthly basis, but it still exists on paper and the idea is that we will have access sessions in future.

“The aim in the future is to make the training of life-guards and pool staff a priority so that they are more understanding and to make these environments more welcoming, to enable trans or non-binary people to go swimming in regular, open public sessions and for them to feel safe there.

“I think it’s better for everyone to integrate and be part of society rather than to only have exclusive group sessions. Unfortunately, and sadly, there are still people who will question your presence in changing-rooms.”

Asked whether such attitudes could be addressed and overcome, Dr McCarroll said: “I think it is just a question of time, and education. In the UK it is not such an issue but it is a big problem in the United States. Sadly, the attitude there seems to be starting to seep through into British culture”.

Lynne Connolly, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Standard Life, said;
“Making sustainable progress in building diverse and inclusive workplaces will be achieved by collaborating with and learning from each other. The conference is an exciting opportunity to share the great work which is happening across Scotland.”

Audrey Ross, Sales and Marketing Director for Taylor Wimpey West Scotland said: 
“Being involved in The Herald Diversity Conference recognises the importance that we’ve placed on embracing diversity and inclusion within our business and the opportunity that it creates for the wider housebuilding industry.  The conference will provide a great opportunity for us to be part of the conversation with other organisations that are as equally committed to diversity and inclusion and the positive benefits it brings to our collective businesses.”

Katy Wedderburn, Partner at MacRoberts LLP said:
“Following our sponsorship of the hugely successful Diversity Awards in 2016 we are delighted to be on board for the first Diversity Conference for Scotland. Fostering and promoting diversity in the workplace continues to be at the forefront of MacRoberts agenda for 2017 and supporting this event is very important to us.”

Wheatley’s Employee Relations Leader Lesley Wilkinson said:
“Too many people, through no fault of their own, still face disadvantage, prejudice and barriers in life. At Wheatley, we believe staff and our customers should be treated fairly and with respect and dignity, regardless of their colour, sexual orientation, ability, gender, culture or religion.  That’s why we are proud to support the Diversity Conference.”

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Head of National Training Programme Development, Karen Murray said:
“SDS is committed to supporting equality and diversity through working with partners to help make Scotland a more inclusive place to live and work. Recognising effective action that employers have taken to attract, recruit and keep more diverse talent is a great way to get the message out there that diversity in your workforce is good for business.”

Kathryn O’Shea, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Royal Mail said:
“As Diversity Award Scotland winners, Royal Mail is proud to support this year’s Diversity Conference. We aim to promote diversity within our business, and welcome the opportunity to highlight our commitment to this agenda.”

Graeme Brewster, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager said:
“City of Glasgow is delighted to be sponsoring the Diversity Conference and Awards 2017. At city, we have a track record for advancing equality, diversity and inclusion for all; a commitment recognised by Education Scotland during our 2016 review.”

Ed Cochrane, Managing Consultant & Head of YSC Scotland said:
“YSC are proud sponsors of The Diversity Conference; we firmly believe that a diverse and inclusive workplace brings to life each individual’s unique potential and perspective. We are delighted to be part of contributing to this powerful agenda in Scotland.”

Steve Dunlop, CEO of Scottish Canals, said:
“I’m delighted to be speaking at the Diversity Conference. Scottish Canals’ vision for the nation’s inland waterways is one where these historic assets are utilised to bring transformational change for all. By promoting inclusion at all levels, from frontline staff to the Board, we’re harnessing a wide range of skills, strengths, knowledge and experience to deliver diverse services for diverse communities across Scotland.”

Hamish Watson HR UK Director, Scottish Power said:
“ScottishPower recognises and values the importance of an inclusive workforce. We are delighted to support The Herald Diversity Conference and to be part of the important conversations that businesses are having on the best ways to achieve inclusive growth within Scotland”.