"We want to champion acceptance for all, challenge our business to improve on LGBT+ inclusion, and encourage and enable LGBT+ inclusive behaviours across the organisation - to benefit employees and customers."
I’ve been working at Vodafone for two and a half years now, and was first attracted to the business by the truly exciting things planned on digital and customer experience. I 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 have worked with 9 countries across Europe, enabling teams to respond to customer needs by simplifying the organisation and investing in new capabilities.
I’m currently working for our Group HR Director, Ronald Schellekens, as his lead on global Organisational Effectiveness projects. I’m also proud to say that I’m the chair of the Vodafone LGBT + Friends Network, both here in the UK and globally.
Within the UK, the LGBT + Friends Steering Committee comprises 12 members made up of local site leads and specialist roles. The Network has three key objectives: (i) to provide education and resources to managers and employees; (ii) to equip our employees with the skills to engage on LGBT topics; (iii) to provide support to both Vodafone colleagues and to the communities we work within.
We want to champion acceptance for all, challenge our business to improve on LGBT+ inclusion, and encourage and enable LGBT+ inclusive behaviours across the organisation – to benefit employees and customers.
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
– Spirit Day (supporting LGBT+ young people, who can be particularly vulnerable when online, to be themselves)
The focus on LGBT+ young people is very relevant for Vodafone. With so many young people having a smart phone, we want people to be safe on and off line. We also place a lot of focus on graduates; this year we have a commitment to connect with 20,000 young people globally. The Network wants everyone who comes into contact with Vodafone to know at the outset that we are an inclusive organisation and to see the difference this makes to our people and our customers.
Personally, this is really important for me. I know what it feels like to think you don’t belong. When I started my first graduate role (not with Vodafone!), I wasn’t ‘out’ at work, but I was able to be myself outside of 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 phased in the slightest! So much so, that my Civil Partnership became the big thing that everyone wanted to be part of!
When I started with Vodafone, it didn’t occur to me not to be myself, so when I then found out that not everyone was having the same experience, I felt I needed to act. I didn’t want someone to feel they needed to be secretive as I know how much of a negative impact this can have on confidence, team trust, career development and job satisfaction amongst other things.
So, a group of us came together in Starbucks (that’s where the idea all started!) to map out how we would move things forward. Although my experience in my direct team was a positive one, we reviewed the recent Stonewall benchmarking results which provided a benchmark on the areas to focus on. Stonewall now assess over 450 organisations each year to identify the UK’s Top 100 LGBT+ inclusive employers so the insight is fantastic.
Since our initial Starbucks brainstorm, we have carried out a series of roadshows across all of our UK sites. We have moved Vodafone up the Stonewall benchmarking index from 357th place to 157th place and are now working to help Vodafone become a Top 100 LGBT+ employer.
We’re making fantastic progress and our employees from Glasgow through to Bracknell have really engaged in the conversation. From waving a flag through to bake sales and we even had someone dye their hair purple for Spirit Day – it’s been a lot fun. There’s also a serious side and the network has produced a suite of resources for managers and employees on the L,G,B,T. This is intended to provide support to engage on LGBT topics.
Our leaders have also been brilliant and have been true friends of LGBT. This year we were able to talk with our global CEO, Vittorio Colao on where we need to make further improvements. This has given everyone new momentum to go even further this year.
Everything we have done over the last 18 months has taken considerable effort from lots of people across the organisation. 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 come out and get involved.
Carl was recognised in the British LGBT Awards in 2017. As well as leading the Vodafone LGBT + Friends Network