Improving the experiences of bisexual, pansexual, asexual and queer civil servants
By Mary Peart, Civil Service LGBT+ Network
- Issues identified and our response
The Civil Service People Survey shows that colleagues identifying as bisexual or with “other” minority sexual orientations consistently report lower engagement and lower wellbeing than their gay, lesbian and heterosexual colleagues. They are also more likely to report being a victim of bullying, harassment and discrimination.
We wanted to understand these results in more detail so we could do something about them.
In 2017, the Civil Service LGBT+ Network carried out a consultation on the specific experiences of bisexual, pansexual, asexual and queer civil servants. We carried out focus groups and interviews across the country and across departments.
These results were analysed by an HR professional. They identified common themes from the consultation and developed proposals for activities we could undertake.
This document summarises the findings, and the things the Civil Service LGBT+ Network will do, working with the Civil Service’s Diversity and Inclusion Team, to improve the experiences of civil servants identifying as bisexual, pansexual, asexual and queer.
Issues identified and our response
Respondents to our consultation cited a lack of community and a lack of visible role models for bisexual civil servants and those with other minority sexual orientations.
To start to address these issues, we will run a series of community events for colleagues called “Bi Space”. These will include small, safe-space events that are not centred around bar/club culture. These will be accompanied by a mailing list in order to share information.
Respondents to our consultation said they can sometimes feel that their identity is invisible, ignored or erased. This can relate to official documentation, community spaces, or a sense of personal invisibility in the world. They said this can also make it difficult to come out and be accepted in the workplace as themselves, thereby perpetuating the cycle.
To start to address these issues, we will:
- work with departmental LGBT+ networks to support them to be actively inclusive of those who identify as bisexual, pansexual, asexual, queer or with other minority identities
- as part of our plan to share best practice across departments, work with Civil Service diversity and inclusion teams to ensure departments know how to recognise these identities and sign-post staff to relevant materials, networks and role models that specifically cater to their needs
- continue to celebrate Bisexual Visibility Day and raise the profile of bisexual civil servants, as seen in our CSRA Talks Bisexuality event, blogs and Civil Service Impact Index.
Knowledge, information and support
Respondents to our consultation said that they often found themselves in a position where they were perceived as a source of knowledge on LGBT+ issues amongst their colleagues. Whilst an environment of open questions and peer-to-peer learning is a positive one, this put considerable strain on those individuals who may not have the information themselves, may not feel comfortable answering personal questions, and who are also trying to do their day job. They said this sense of strain was sometimes exacerbated by a well-intentioned desire to role model and do things for others.
To support those civil servants in these situations, we will work with colleagues to develop a series of factsheets. These can be shared by networks and HR functions in order to raise awareness of the full range of LGBT+ identities in the general workforce. They can also be used as a source of information which bisexual, asexual and polyamorous people can share with their colleagues in order to avoid answering all the questions themselves.
Bullying, harassment and discrimination
When discussing the high level of discrimination, bullying and harassment that bisexual and “other” civil servants report in the Civil Service People Survey, respondents cited that this stems from assumptions and misconceptions around bisexuality and asexuality. They said this was accompanied by an inconsistent approach to tackling these issues between work teams, cultures, managers and even within LGBT+ communities.
To begin to address this issue, we will investigate how training and guidance can be developed or improved to tackle discrimination, bullying and harassment within the wider Civil Service, and also within LGBT spaces.
Respondents to our consultation describe how those who experience an LGBT+ identity in interaction with other minority identities such as ethnicity, faith, gender and disability can experience more and greater barriers to participation in the workplace, and tend to be less likely to access support and community spaces.
To begin to address this, we will begin to work more explicitly with other Civil Service diversity networks, including by organising joint events.