This week I was invited to present an award at the inaugural Inclusive Networks Awards evening in Manchester, set up to celebrate the achievements of the UK’s extensive networks working tirelessly to nurture and create an inclusive society. Of the 16 Awards open to all categories i.e. gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and many more, the LGBT community won over 50% and apart from a couple of women, all the acceptance speeches were delivered by gay men. This really got me thinking…..
However, before I explain what I had cause to reflect on, please know for sure I am not homophobic and have nothing but admiration for the work these LGBT networks and individuals have done over the past year and more. I have many openly gay people in my network and I am sure many more who choose not to share this personal information with me and this is OK. I have no need to know people’s sexual orientation to do business with them or connect, if they choose to share this so be it, but I do not walk in a room and introduce myself as straight, it seems utterly bizarre to me to put this up front and centre in any situation, however….. to my point –
It strikes me that the power of the LGBT groups is something women can learn from. In only 10 years they have managed to get their voice heard and hold a very clear position of power in organisations across all sectors in the UK whilst women’s networks still struggle to be taken seriously and many are in danger of being wound up altogether, or converted into more generic talent networks so as not to alienate the men; this, at a time when the campaigning is far from over and equality still a pipe dream.
Sexism in our society continues to be downplayed and accepted whilst homophobia is seen as a hate crime. The fear element and extreme political correctness surrounding the LGBT community has made it appear untouchable and the impressive campaigning lead by strong professional gay men has seen major progress that puts the women’s agenda back in the shade. I often think if our roles were reversed in the UK and it was mainly men who were marginalised, abused, sexually exploited, trafficked, discriminated against, dismissed, paid less, raped and battered the fight would have been over decades ago and I think this is one of the reasons the gay community has harnessed its power so well. I admire their focus, tenacity and passion and think we need to take a leaf out of their book.
We seem to have stepped back and accepted our lot and we are not even a minority! We represent over 50% of the population and yet we are still patronised, considered secondary and not represented across all sectors of our society. I have seen women silenced over the past few years for even suggesting their organisation still has challenges or issues with how it treats women. If we take anything from our LGBT comrades, it should be their commitment to join forces and demand recognition, a voice and change. I am almost jealous of their version of sisterhood because I feel we have lost our way.
Well done to all my gay comrades – I salute you and am loving ya work!