Rachel Poole

At this very moment, one of my colleagues feels like a freak. One of your colleagues feels like a freak.

That person is probably sitting quietly in the office, getting on with their job, feeling wretched inside. As the office banter turns to discussions about the weekend, that person isn’t going to join in. They are keeping a secret, and they don’t want to say anything that might give it up. And this could very well be because they don’t feel comfortable enough to be themselves at work; they can’t see anyone else like them in the office and they aren’t aware of any role models who are similar to them – so sadly they don’t feel ‘normal’.

I really don’t like the thought of that person sitting alone, feeling desperate. As a D&I champion in DWP, that’s one of the reasons why I volunteered to help run a joint DWPride and HMRC PRISM LGBT+ networks stall at Civil Service Live in Blackpool last Wednesday. Civil Service Live is the government’s annual, cross-department learning event, attracting thousands of civil servants to regional events to learn, network and share best practice, so it’s the ideal place to showcase our networks.

In my day job I advocate the benefits of a career in DWP Digital and I truly believe that one of the fantastic things about working here is that in the Civil Service, we are diverse, we are inclusive. We don’t just want you to come to the party – we want you up dancing with us!

In DWP we have hundreds of offices, and although we have a thriving LGBT+ network for colleagues - DWPride - if you’re working in a tiny jobcentre somewhere, there’s a chance that you don’t know about it yet.

The power in people

You cannot underestimate the power of a network. Bringing together people with shared minority characteristics is a powerful, visible sign that you’re not alone. Actually there are lots of people just like you! Not only that, but these people may have had, or be having similar experiences to you. And, the people championing these networks want to help.

There are lots of role models and leads who want to assist you, discuss any issues you’re having and help you find the support you need. Not only that, but networks aren’t an exclusive club for those identifying with a minority characteristic, they are for allies too. At Civil Service Live, one of the most important things we did was sign-up allies; people who are team leaders and line managers. We passed out our flyers and asked them to spread the word when they get back to their offices.

So if you’re reading this now, and you’re a manager of an individual or a team, take the time to find out about the minority networks in your department. Talk about them at your next team meeting. This simple action could help that one lonely colleague see that they don’t have to be alone.

Go on, spread the word!