Compass : Sailing in the right direction

Compass : Sailing in the right direction

Compass is the sexual orientation and gender identity network of the Naval Service. Lt Cdr Chris Wood and Lt Cdr Sam Truelove both serve in the Royal Navy and work in London. Sam works for the First Sea Lord in the International Defence Engagement area which includes facilitating partnerships and international defence engagement whilst Chris works for the Ministry of Defence in the resettlement area for military personnel transitioning to civilian life. They were finalists in the Network Leader of the Year category at our inaugural Inclusive Networks Awards, where Chris was also a finalist in the Inspiring Member of the Year category. Here they introduce us to the awesome network.

The network is open to all members of the Naval Service, which includes the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Maritime Reserves and our civil servants. We also work closely with the MOD, British Army and Royal Air Force. We really believe in sharing and learning from each other’s experiences so we engage with other networks in our organisation and external to our sector. As a virtual network, we communicate internally by our social business space ‘Defence Connect’, email and newsletters and externally on the Royal Navy website and social media.

We often support events across a range of sectors – one of our network members in the Royal Navy Police spoke at the inaugural National Gay Police Network event and we have taken part in panel discussions for Societe Generale and a Defence Science & Technology (DSTL) event. We also assist at diversity recruiting events allowing potential sailors and marines to talk to our members about their experiences.

Photo : They’re awesome – Sam and Chris at the Inclusive Networks Awards

“We really believe in sharing and learning from each other’s experiences so we engage with other networks in our organisation and external to our sector.”

Compass, alongside our colleagues from the MOD, Army and RAF, formed the largest military contingent seen at London Pride 2015 and held a cross-network training event and conference. The network is keen to promote wider awareness and education in the workplace – we actively support Stonewall’s excellent No Bystanders campaign and IDAHOBIT, Asexual, Intersex and Bi-Visibility days/weeks with an active social media presence and campaign and our members and colleagues take part in Stonewall Workplace Conferences and Programmes.

“It can be challenging to reach out to all our people, especially those who are deployed globally on operations. We are keen to reach all areas of the Naval Service.”

The significance of this can be summed up by one of our young sailors who attended Portsmouth Pride and then subsequently met the Admiral at a different event. She posted this on Facebook : “I was just at a rugby match when a gentleman in a suit came up to me, said hello and shook my hand. He then asked how I was and how the network was getting on. It was non-other than RAdm Burton. WOW! He made the effort to say hello and was genuinely interested!”

This demonstrates the power of what a Champion can achieve in terms of influence, an ally can achieve in getting the workforce to see Senior Support and their gratitude for senior support and also what a network can achieve and get from their network, so get involved!

Our Champion Brig Peter Cameron said : “I’m delighted to see how even doing something seemingly low key can have a powerful impact. I am looking forward to to an exciting year ahead for COMPASS and playing my part in helping our personnel appreciate that they are all respected and supported.”

It can be challenging to reach out to all our people, especially those who are deployed globally on operations. We are keen to reach all areas of the Naval Service but we have no visible network members from the Royal Marines community. Our senior Champion is a Royal Marine and we are hopeful that his presence will encourage others to get involved.

The network supports the Naval Service in improving understanding and awareness of sexual orientation, gender identity and wider diversity to provide an inclusive environment where everyone can contribute and are confident to be themselves at work. In turn this enhances the Naval Service’s reputation as an inclusive and progressive organisation.

We have had some recent successes as a network, most notably the relaunch to Compass to be more inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. In January 2015 we led a Defence-wide engagement event to mark 15 years of LGB people being allowed to serve openly in the Armed Forces, with over 120 distinguished and influential guests attending.

Photo : Be Yourself – Members of the Armed Forces employee network groups at the Inclusive Networks Awards

“The network supports the Naval Service in improving understanding and awareness of sexual orientation, gender identity and wider diversity to provide an inclusive environment where everyone can contribute and are confident to be themselves at work.”

Our trans rep, Gemma Watkins embarked on a roadshow of naval bases giving presentations on ‘Being Transgender within the RN’ to raise awareness across the organisation including our welfare and medical teams. She also participated in the My Genderation / All About Trans Projects which have been used by Mermaids (the Transgender Youth support group) at several of their camps.

Our former network chair, Douggie Ward, was shortlisted in the Scottish Icon LGBTI Awards and Sam has been shortlisted as an LGBT role model in the European Diversity Awards, British LGBT Awards and National Diversity Awards. Chris has received a prestigious Second Sea Lord Commendation for his work across the diversity and inclusion arena.

We are passionate about raising awareness of sexual orientation and gender identity, not only within our organisation but also in external communities. It is immensely satisfying and rewarding to see people being able to be themselves fully in the workplace. To see someone being authentic and confident in who they are, makes the time and effort we put in well worth it.

In the next year we will be looking at our network strategy and how we can collaborate more with other networks and community groups. We will be looking at projects in the community, how we can encourage greater visibility of role models, and focussing on trans issues, giving blood, HIV awareness and mental health.

Follow the Compass network, Sam and Chris on Twitter :

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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