ParliOUT : OUT in Parliament

ParliOUT : OUT in Parliament

Earlier this year the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual & questioning) network group at UK Parliament, ParliOUT, was recognised as one of our inaugural Awesome Networks. We announced in early September that the network were also finalists at our 2015 Inclusive Networks Awards in the Network Team of the Year category. ParliOUT Champion and network member Neil Johnston, pictured above (right), lets us know more about the network and their awesome work.

About me…

I’m currently a research specialist in the Commons Library helping MPs from across the political spectrum and their staff to find and interpret information they need in their Parliamentary duties. I have been working in the House of Commons for 20 years and when I first joined there was no equal age of consent and the idea of gay marriage was impossible to imagine; homosexuals in the armed forces was a controversial issue and some of the language used by politicians in relation to the LGBT community was offensive. It was never an issue being an out gay man at work but I was sometimes guarded about what I mentioned and to whom.

I first got involved in ParliOUT when it was established in 2010. I thought it was great that the organisation was taking its responsibilities to diversity seriously. I’ve become a diversity champion and had the opportunity to take part in role model and LGBT leadership programmes. ParliOUT is a great way to visibly contribute to the organisation’s diversity goals whilst being myself.

Photo : Members of ParliOUT walk with pride in Stonewall’s Walk For Equality.

“ParliOUT was the first of the networks to be established in December 2010, in support of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual & questioning) people in Parliament.”

About Parliament’s Workplace Equality Networks (WENs)

Parliament has established Workplace Equality Networks to provide an opportunity for groups of people to discuss and consider issues relevant to their situation or of interest to them. There are four networks which are open to all pass holders from the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Parliamentary Digital service working in and around Parliament:
ParliOUT : in support of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual, and questioning) people in Parliament;
ParliREACH : established to increase awareness and appreciation of race, ethnicity and cultural heritage issues in Parliament;
ParliAble : the network in support of disabled people in Parliament, open to both those who consider themselves to have a disability and those who have an interest in supporting disabled people; and
ParliaGender : which works on behalf of its members to raise awareness of gender inequality and to achieve positive change.

The networks work together to help make Parliament more inclusive. The WEN Steering Group (comprising the Chairs of each network) meets quarterly to share resources and ideas, and to ensure that we are working collaboratively and considering cross-cutting issues.

“The network also provides a welcoming social forum and an informal support network of people from across Parliament, and we currently have around 250 members from across both Houses of Parliament.”

For example, the WENs, in liaison with the Diversity & Inclusion Team, have developed the Parliamentary Role Models Campaign 2015 to recognise the importance of a working environment where people are valued for who they are and how they contribute to making Parliament a positive inclusive working environment and institution; and raise awareness that anyone, at any level, can be a role model. The campaign champions the importance of having visible, diverse role models in the organisation who people can be inspired by. The Role Models Guide has recently been published and has been shared internally and externally, in hard copy and on the parliamentary website.

Photo : Members of ParliOUT sharing their work and encouraging others to join the inclusive network.

About ParliOUT

ParliOUT was the first of the networks to be established in December 2010, in support of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual, and questioning) people in Parliament. A principal aim of ParliOUT is to make LGBTIQ role models, at all levels more visible and accessible. The network also provides a welcoming social forum and an informal support network of people from across Parliament, and we currently have around 250 members from across both Houses of Parliament. ParliOUT won the PinkNews “Employee Network of the Year” award in 2014 and was also honoured to be named one of the UK’s ‘Awesome Networks’ by Inclusive Networks in 2015.

Our networks are run by volunteers. The House of Commons Diversity & Inclusion team and House of Lords HR both support the aims of the WENs. In turn, the WENs actively contribute to achieving the Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, embedding the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace with the aim of making Parliament a more inclusive employer and service provider.

“The Speaker of the House of Commons is President of ParliOUT and is a keen supporter of LGBT equality. ParliOUT also has support at the most senior levels of the organisation through Executive Committee and Management Board Champions in the House of Commons and the House of Lords respectively.”

Video : Parliamentary staff discuss what they believe constitutes a Role Model and who they nominated within Parliament and why.

Visible support from senior management

The Speaker of the House of Commons is President of ParliOUT and is a keen supporter of LGBT equality. ParliOUT also has support at the most senior levels of the organisation through Executive Committee and Management Board Champions in the House of Commons and the House of Lords respectively. Recently, for example, the Clerk of the House encouraged all staff to take part in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index as an indication of how we are creating a culture of inclusion. The Clerk of the Parliaments also demonstrates visible support by frequently attending WEN events and has previously chaired a panel discussion to celebrate the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 coming in to force.

“We are hoping 2016 will be even bigger and better! We are also aiming to increase our work in supporting bi, trans, intersex and questioning members of staff.”

ParliOUT events and initiatives

ParliOUT has organised a variety of formal and informal events. We’ve had film screenings, fund raisers, panel discussions, lunchtime learning events, quiz nights, and training sessions. We’ve taken part in Stonewall’s Equality walks and Pride marches. We also recently invited our network members to submit evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee enquiry into Trans Equality. We try to raise awareness of LGBTIQ issues through our pages on the corporate intranet, our Twitter feed (@ParliOUT), and our webpage – www.parliament.uk/parliout.

So what’s next?

Well, ParliOUT is celebrating its 5th birthday this December, which is an important milestone. We are also looking forward to building on the success of Pride 2015: our walking group has been increasing in size each year and there was a lot of positive feedback from our increased presence in the 2015 parade. We are hoping 2016 will be even bigger and better! We are also aiming to increase our work in supporting bi, trans, intersex and questioning members of staff.

All the WENs have had a positive impact in embedding diversity and equality in Parliament. There is a greater focus on diversity and inclusion in terms of policy and practice than five years ago and there is general agreement that Parliament is getting more diverse, but there is always more to do. We hope that the Parliamentary Role Models Campaign will help demonstrate the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and expertise of those working in Parliament and encourage people at all levels to be visible role models.

Find out more about networks at Parliament :

Lots of useful information and resources here

Follow ParliOUT 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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