Stonewall Gold Employer: our LGBTQIA+ inclusion journey

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Today Stonewall, Europe’s largest charity for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQIA+) rights, launched its widely anticipated Top 100 Employers List – recognising us for our work in supporting LGBTQIA+ colleagues to be the best versions of themselves at work and awarding us Gold Employer, the highest award.

We're proud to announce that we've ranked among the UK’s leading employers from the public, private, and third sectors in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index (WEI). We’ve also been recognised as a Gold Employer. Overall, we’ve ranked 38th in the latest WEI results, and 26th in the private sector, and 9th in the financial services sector. 

Our Stonewall journey

To mark the moment, Ian Buchan, an Associate Director in our Cyber & Digital Investigations team, shares his experience of bringing his whole self to work, creating everyday diversity - and the journey we’ve been on to achieve Gold Employer recognition.

"People who join the firm today join a very different working environment from the one I did back in 2010. I’m proud to be able to say that from an LGBTQIA+ inclusion point of view, we're miles away from where we were, and every day we move closer and closer to creating an environment where all our colleagues can feel that they're able to bring their whole selves to work.

Making strides

When I started, I used to keep my work and social lives very separate. Looking back, not being able to bring my whole self to work meant that I wasn’t at my best, and as a company, we weren’t able to attract diverse talent either. It caused a sea change in my thinking and made me realise that making do just wasn’t enough. Visibility is key to making people feel welcome and relaxed, and you can’t just sit back and expect it to happen.

We aspired to inclusion, but were consistently failing to hit the mark. In fact, when we first entered our submission to Stonewall in 2019 it was noticeable how little evidence we could provide to show we were an inclusive employer for the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s no wonder we placed 424th. I knew we needed to look up at the mountain in order to know we had a huge climb ahead of us.

Stonewall provides the framework, the impetus, and the targets for us to reach - and smash. Year on year we've improved, and this year, we’ve surpassed all our expectations and reached our own goal 'to achieve a gold award by 2025', two years early. This has only been realised through the intense and dedicated hard work of a passionate team and the support of our senior leaders.

Senior leadership support

In 2016 I posted in our internal social network, asking why we weren’t taking part in the Pride London Parade. My post garnered support and it was probably at that moment that the conversation kicked off; it was clear that our LGBTQIA+ people wanted to see movement. It wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that 35 of us attended the parade and we started our employee network group, Count Us In.

In 2017, when we started the discussion around joining Stonewall we knew we had a lot of work to do, but our senior leaders backed us. They take inclusion and diversity across the whole organisation very seriously and I believe their support has been the biggest contributing factor to change within Grant Thornton. It’s a truism that inclusivity trickles down and their proactiveness has been infectious. Creating inclusive environments makes the workplace safer and better for everyone – not just LGBTQIA+ people – and we can say we are achieving that thanks to them."

Malcolm Gomersall, Chief Operating Officer and Strategic Leadership Team sponsor: “What we've achieved this year with our Stonewall results is exceptional. We join a number of construction, legal, health, finance, and education firms who have all made the annual top list of LGBTQIA+ inclusive employers – but for me it means more than that. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. When we challenge ourselves throughout this process and compare our own, individual progress year on year, it’s phenomenal.”

Bradley Chadwick, Advisory Partner and LGBTQIA+ convenor: “While we participate in the Stonewall WEI, the focus of our energy, resources and time are those areas within it which are both authentically Grant Thornton, and which our LGBTQIA+ colleagues tell us are important to them. From the very simple changes we’ve collectively made, like sharing our pronouns in person, in our email signatures and on workplace systems - to the much bigger policy changes we’ve implemented concerning dress code, transitioning at work, and adoption and surrogacy​ - our journey has had ground-breaking results."

Jenn Barnett, Head of I&D and ESG: “We’re making our firm a great place to work for our LGBTQIA+ people, and our Stonewall results demonstrate that. Most importantly, the feedback we get helps inform our action plans and continually challenges us to be better. I have worked closely with our Count Us In community since we started to focus on an action plan, and we've achieved so much through focused and deliberate action. We hope that by making real and visible strides towards an inclusive working environment, more people will be encouraged to be openly themselves at work."

Webinar: Trans in the workplace: beyond the headlines

Join our webinar on 22 February to go beyond the headlines and explore the experience of trans people. Our diverse panel will speak openly about their experiences and the real issues they face in everyday life and in the workplace.

Our commitment everyday - not just for the survey

Completing surveys can feel like a tick box exercise, but for those involved in the Stonewall submission, it's an all-consuming task, which was once completed alongside the ‘day job’. This year, thanks to our dedicated LGBTQIA+ secondee, Syndie Simon, the rigorous submission and marking process meant we could best showcase and evidence the great strides we have made.

“Since our first submission, we’ve conducted a review of all policy documents, updating existing policies and introducing additional ones to ensure these are inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people and families - including chosen families,” says Syndie.

“We’ve also established a dedicated working group to help drive change, introduced regular network events for our internal community and allies (LGBTQIA+ coffee mornings and book club), and provided webinars and training sessions focused on educating others about LGBTQIA+ issues. By taking the learnings from each Stonewall submission since 2019, we've been able to collectively take our LGBTQIA+ offering to the next level.”

LGBTQIA+ at Grant Thornton

We are taking actions to make our firm a great place to work for our LGBTQIA+ people.