That was the advice of Rachel Williams, diversity and inclusion lead at the House of Lords, who spoke at a Westminster Briefing conference entitled Supporting LGBT+ People in the Workplace 2017.
She urged delegates to think about “what type of organisations they want to be”, as she highlighted the differences between the values perpetuated by football versus rugby.
“Football is often in the headlines – and not for the right reasons. There are numerous examples of racism, sexism and homophobia in football. With rugby [however], it puts its core values at the heart of everything it does,” she said.
“[Rugby] highlights its values on its website of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship. It puts them front and centre, that’s the difference. And it makes for a completely different culture – in 1995 rugby saw its first gay player come out. We’re still waiting for the first [male] gay Premier League player to come out.”
Williams said the House of Lords had faced its own challenges in creating a more inclusive environment – “we knew that not all of the staff viewed us as inclusive” – and she added the organisation subsequently began looking at its internal procedures.
“We started looking at our policies. We didn’t have a trans policy, so we put one in place. We had pledges, and more than 300 signatures from staff who said they wouldn’t stand for homophobia and discrimination.
“We got rid of The Sun newspaper, which used to be on the tables when people walked in, and we put up posters to highlight that we are an inclusive employer, so it’s the first thing people see when they come in.
“We worked with [LGBT rights charity] Stonewall, we created an ‘allies’ programme and we conducted unconscious bias training. We wanted to ensure that there were no barriers for LGBT staff.”
Williams added that key to the change was ensuring that senior figures within the organisation were also advocating diversity and inclusion: “If you want things to change, you need to get the leaders onboard. Our best champion is a married straight man.”