Travel businesses need to focus on thawing the “frozen middle” management within their businesses to prevent diversity policies implemented at a senior level from getting lost lower down the employment ladder.
That was the warning from Liz Grant, who was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to LGBT equality in the workplace. Opening the TTG LGBT Conference, Grant said firms faced missing out on the expertise and creativity of employees who do not feel comfortable or motivated enough to contribute.
She explained that in her experience – which includes almost 30 years with tech giant IBM – “people don’t just leave companies; they leave because of bad managers”.
Grant also extolled the benefits of a happy workforce and advised delegates they should explain the “value from a business perspective” of encouraging an inclusive attitude among employees, which she said could help businesses to grow.
“Make yourself part of the process,” she said. “It’s about making [non-LGBT] colleagues feel at ease and giving people the permission to get things wrong or use the wrong word in an open environment.”
Grant’s session was followed by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s first director of diversity and inclusion, Grant Van Ulbrich, who urged delegates to seek guidance on how to improve diversity policy from organisations outside their industries.
Van Ulbrich, who pioneered the cruise sector’s first LGBT advisory board, approached the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) among a number of large corporations.
In his speech, entitled Coming Out of the Corporate Closet, he said: “[The organisations] opened their doors and there’s no competition in diversity and inclusion. Call HR offices – every organisation wants to share their ideas, and so do we.”
His comments were supported by transgender champion Amy Stanning, shared services director at Barclays, who joined a panel discussion on stage. She told delegates that it was important that a company’s commitment to diversity was “embedded”, with employees company-wide subscribing to the same standards.
Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises managing director UK and Ireland, and Asia Pacific, admitted concerns when she was younger that revealing her sexuality could damage her career progression.
Meanwhile, Simon Altham, managing director revenue, Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, said the positive reaction Hoseasons had received on social media for its LGBT-focused advertising made the operator acknowledge that “we got this right”.