Launching an LGBT+ & Friends Employee Network at Vodafone

Hear from Carl, chair of the Vodafone LGBT + Friends Network, both in the UK and globally and his guide on how to launch an LGBT+ Employee Network

By Vodafone LGBT Network

Carl currently works for Vodafone Group’s HR Director Ronald Schellekens, as his lead on global Organisational Effectiveness projects.  Carl is chair of the Vodafone LGBT + Friends Network, both in the UK and globally, and was recognised at the 2017 British LGBT Awards for his work.

I know what it’s like to feel you don’t belong.  When I started my first graduate role (not with Vodafone!) I wasn’t ‘out’ at work. When I look back, I realise just how much time and energy went into not being myself, and how much of a negative impact this had on building relationships with colleagues.  When you’re not yourself from the get go, it becomes much harder to then ‘come out’ to a colleague, especially if they have known you for a while.

It wasn’t until I moved organisations some time later that I decided to be open about who I was.  My new team were brilliant and weren’t fazed in the slightest – so much so that my Civil Partnership became the big thing that everyone wanted to be part of!

I joined Vodafone three years ago.  I was attracted to the business by the truly exciting things planned on digital and customer experience. I also wanted to be part of a global company that was passionate, up for change and somewhere I could really make a difference. Since joining, I’ve worked with teams from across the world on everything from building new capabilities through to implementing new ways of working.

When I started at Vodafone, I discovered that not everyone felt as I did – comfortable being who they were at work. I felt I needed to do something, so I got in touch with some colleagues, and a group of us met in a coffee shop and formed the LGBT + Friends Network.

Set a goal

First, we reviewed the outputs from a Stonewall LGBT+ inclusion benchmarking activity.  Stonewall assess more than 430 organisations on LGBT+ inclusion, which provides fantastic insight into areas of strength and improvement.  Early on, we committed to use the benchmarking tool as a barometer of progress and set a goal to reach the Top 100.

Build an inclusive team

After the initial brainstorm we carried out a series of roadshows across all of our UK sites and selected people from across the UK to join a newly formed Steering Committee.  The Committee comprises 12 members made up of local site leads and specialist roles.  The overriding purpose of the Network is to champion acceptance for all, be a critical friend to the business to improve LGBT+ inclusion, and encourage and enable LGBT+ inclusive behaviours – benefiting colleagues, customers and the communities we work in.

The importance of ‘Signature Days’

The committee sets the agenda and pace throughout the year and decides which topics to focus on.  We then use LGBT+ ‘signature days’ throughout the year to put the spotlight on key aspects of LGBT+ inclusion. In the last year, this has included:

- Transgender Day of Visibility

- International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

- Pride
- Bi Visibility Day
- Spirit Day (supporting LGBT+ young people)

The progress we’ve made

Everything we have done over the last 18 months has taken considerable effort from lots of people across the organisation.  Everyone who gets involved in the LGBT + Friends Network is a volunteer.  To continue, we need even more people to get involved, whether that’s getting involved in a Yammer conversation, wearing a rainbow lanyard or attending an event. Positivity infuses passion and energy, and we need everyone’s energy to take us on the next step of our journey.  I really hope others, whether they identify as LGBT+ themselves or not, will lend a hand and get involved.

Introducing the great LGBT & Friends network.

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