LGBT employee networks under the microscope

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In the first of a series of blogs Dr Anna Einarsdóttir, senior lecturer at the University of York, introduces the research project she is leading in partnership with NHS Employers (and others) on LGBT networks in the NHS. 

The primary function of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employee networks has been to increase the visibility of gender and sexual minorities in the workplace and to build communities, but equally, to give voice to otherwise silenced minorities. With that it is somewhat surprising that we still know very little about how LGBT employee networks operate and what benefits people can expect from membership. We also do not know what networks can deliver for non-members, colleagues or even organisations at large. Why you may ask? Has the issue of visibility been resolved? Are lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender individuals heard? Or have networks simply run their course? I think not.

We may well have reached a point where visibility is no longer an issue for some, but for others visibility is marred with problems and conflict. We may also have reached the point where some voices are being heard, but again, not others. As a group, our experiences also tend to differ placing some at a greater risk of being bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work. With this in mind, it is clear that a one size fits all approach to LGBT related matters is no longer viable. It is time to think this through again.

Backed up with major Economic and Social Research Council funding to work with LGBT employee networks within the NHS, the opportunity to rethink and enrich our understanding of networks is now firmly on the table. Led by a team of experts in the field of gender, sexuality, health and equality and inclusion at the University of York (myself, Professor Karen Mumford and Professor Yvonne Birks), the project involves partnership between NHS Employers; Stonewall; Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei); and a theatre production team delivering state of the art research amongst LGBT employee networks within the NHS.

As a research team we see the potential for networks to grow and with your support we would like to explore how LGBT employee networks can be mobilised as drivers to build a more inclusive working environment within the NHS. The project will commence in May 2017 so please look out for us when we knock on your door, visit your ward or request collaboration. We would be delighted to work with you to make the NHS a better place for gender and sexual minorities. 

I look forward to keeping you updated as our research progresses.

Anna Einarsdóttir

Senior lecturer, University of York



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