Lord Brown, who is now a cross-bench peer but was formerly BP’s Chief
Executive, was outed as being gay in 2007. He has recently suggested that
British companies should be required to publish details of how many lesbian,
gay, bisexual or transgender people they employ in senior positions and his
reason for doing so was that he felt it would show how ‘coming out can be a
positive career move and allow younger gay employees to feel they are
working in an inclusive environment’.
Lord Brown himself was outed by a newspaper story that he sought to withhold
via an injunction but he now speaks openly about the issue saying things
like ‘when a person cannot see how someone like them can be successful in an
organisation, it is difficult to convince them that coming out can be a
positive career move’.
Whilst I agree with him that often information is the first step towards
steps being taken to improve a situation, I do have to wonder whether
employees would feel inclined to be honest and open in their answers to any
questionnaire they were given on the subject with a view to dealing with
such a measure? Surely only those who feel they are in an open and
inclusive environment already would be inclined to be frank?
In the last few years I have advised a number of individuals who have been
bullied in work and harassed as a result of their sexual orientation. When
you look at the Employment Tribunal statistics it is clear that this is an
area in which people may choose not to pursue their legal rights for obvious
reasons. Surely what would have been more useful would be if the leadership
in organisations took a stance in speaking out if they ever witnessed any
behaviours in the workplace which were contrary to the Equality and
Diversity Policy on whatever protected characteristics we might choose to
debate? Until that happens from the top in organisations, colleagues will
continue to make inappropriate comments as well as saying things that are
downright outrageous to their peers.