How everybody can build an inclusive business


Not everybody will know, but until the early 2000’s Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 stated that local authorities shouldn’t ‘intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’. An anachronistic rule that was only repealed in Scotland in 2000 and in England and Wales in 2003.

And it’s why LGBT+ History Month is celebrated every February across the UK. Founded in 2004 by Schools OUT UK co-chairs, Paul Patrick and Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders, it’s an opportunity to remember, celebrate and create a more positive future.

In fact Schools OUT UK’s aim is to make schools and educational institutions safe spaces for LGBT+ communities. And that’s important work that needs to be carried over into the automotive industry – somewhere that’s working hard to make positive changes – as well as wider society.

There are a number of organisations helping make positive change as well as Schools OUT UK including large well-known names such as charity Stonewall and smaller organisations such as The Inclusion Imperative consultancy. It’s founder Geffrye Parsons sat down with MotorPro to talk about how every business can make changes, no matter what their size.

Challenging times

“I call the business, The Inclusion Imperative because I believe it is an imperative that inclusion happens. Inclusion is not just LGBTQ+ specific but 90% of the time people come to me through that prism because that's what I'm known for and it's my lived experience. I try to work with organisations to make them understand the value of inclusion and what they're missing out if they're not being inclusive,” says Parsons.

The IMI Diversity Task Force has set out the challenges people in automotive can face through the work done by the working groups on Physical and Non-Visible

Disabilities, Race and Ethnicity and Gender and Sexual Orientation but also intersectional inclusion in the sector. And it’s formed a strong platform to move forward. But while some issues will be shared across groups, there are also a range of specific challenges that need to be addressed.

“Things that are unique to being LGBTQ+ versus for example, gender and ethnicity is its visibility or its relative lack of visibility. In most cases, not all, nobody has to come out as a particular gender. Nobody has to come out as a particular ethnicity. It’s visible. That isn’t the case for LGBTQ+. [Coming out to people] is a decision that has to be made. I speak from experience, half my career I wasn't out and that basically meant I was code-switching into a different persona for work purposes. That's a choice that you need to make not only once but pretty much every day,” says Parsons.

Being pressured to make the choice can have a huge effect on the person.  

“In every single circumstance as a person of a minority sexual orientation and a gender identity you need to assess, is this a safe environment to do that?” says Parsons. “That extra pressure of having to make that decision yourself is extremely difficult on the individual in terms of their mental wellbeing.”

It also means that it's more difficult for the organisation to manage, and brings us back to the Schools OUT UK aim, which is to make schools and educational institutions safe spaces for LGBT+ communities, where the pressure to make a choice doesn’t exist.

No need to reinvent the wheel

Across automotive there are a huge range of businesses, from enormous dealerships to family owned and run independents and everything in between. All of them have the ability to make positive changes and in doesn’t have to involve huge investments in time and money.

“I'm a small business myself so I understand that you can't be all things to all people. But nobody needs to be alone. There are plenty of umbrella infrastructures that you can plug into. It isn't just you alone. Always try to think about what resources are out there. What networks and other learnings are available that I don't need to invent myself?” says Parsons.

So if you want to be part of automotive’s change as it becomes more diverse and inclusive lean on others. As Parsons says most people are very willing to share because they want that rising tide to lift all boats not just their own.  

Find out more about the IMI Diversity Task Force and check out its EDI Resources Hub for a one-stop shop for all things EDI-related within the automotive sector