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Nº 1 / JAN 2023

Editor in Chief Kate Hodsdon


Head of Marketing Lisa Holberton


Content Specialist Alex Voskou

Diversity and relativity - The journey to self-awareness.


Design Jenny Saliendra

Photography Pexels, LIFEbeat

The latest trends in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.


With special thanks to the contributors

Nick Baxter, Sarah House-Barklie, Olivia Dodd, Derek Mackenzie, Kelly Fordham, Melanie Robinsion, Precious Adesina, Lucy Sicks, Marysia Szlenkier, Kate Graham, Katy Bhatti, Marc Lesner, Olivia Sixsmith, Norma Brescemi

Beware the ‘P’ word.




Spaces within spaces - discussing International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Head Office


10 Bishops Square, London, E1 6EG

+44 (02) 203 808 3111 hello@wearetig.com

Don’t put your foot in it - how to talk about disability.


LIFEbeat on managing mental health in young people.


The importance of encouraging creativity in young people.


Meeting Marysia.


Walking the walk. Culture at Kanso.


As a parent, I often wonder what the working world will be like by the time my two daughters grow up. They’re 10 and 12 now. Will they have equal opportunities in their careers? Children are growing up seeing a real polarisation of opinions, particularly in the US but increasingly in the UK. Recent global events and the actions of world leaders have made DEI divisive and political. As much as it would help if people could change that, it’s probably unrealistic. What we can do is make real change as individuals and as organisations, and I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Investigo during my time as CEO. The company’s changed. We’ve created our DEI panel and set targets, priorities and agenda topics, all of which have developed radically. It was a topic we didn’t truly understand five years ago, and even today, we’re still learning and are far from the finished article – but we’ve got momentum behind us. We’re not alone in this; most organisations have got better, broadly speaking, and some industries have made huge improvements. Organisations that traditionally recruited from Oxford or Cambridge, or hired people from a certain background, are changing their strategies. PwC, for example, now says graduates no longer need at least a 2.1 degree to work there, which is a positive step. Like us, lots of companies are on a journey and have appointed heads of DEI to support that, which is really positive. While it’s an educational piece across most businesses, I think it’s dangerous when organisations set quotas and targets because it sets the wrong precedent of not hiring the right people for the right reasons. DEI strategies need more time and thought invested in them. Goals should be based on education and expanding talent pools. The greatest challenge in any DEI journey is breaking habits. We’re all a product of an environment – same for me, my kids, and my teams – so unless we commit to making significant change and thinking about things differently, change simply won’t happen. So, where do we want to be in the future? Well, there’s no utopia for me, and as I said, setting company targets can be dangerous. What matters is that we’re behaving and thinking in the right way. Are we genuinely committed to improving and diversifying, and can we feel the difference? This is what we’re asking to make sure we’re heading in the right direction. As part of this, we’ll be releasing our TIDE report in November, which maps our DEI journey over the last year in detail.



In the meantime, enjoy the read and get in touch if you’d like to discuss anything we talk about.

Nick Baxter, CEO, The IN Group



Article written by Olivia Dodd, Associate Director for Client Success at The IN Group.

My role is to continually have conversations with business leaders who are looking to be more inclusive but don’t know where to start.

From prevailing attitudes to accepted terminology, it doesn’t help that so much about diversity, equity and inclusion changes so fast that we often struggle to keep up with it.



When the goalposts keep moving, it’s difficult to know where you should be kicking off. What do I tell these clients? Well, I often think the best way of approaching a complex, ever-changing challenge is to go back to basics. Start from scratch. So, I tell them to do what we did – start with your people.

Before you know where you’re going, you need to understand who you are

When we revamped our DEI committee 18 months ago, we conducted a survey with our staff to increase our understanding of our business’s makeup. Called “Identifying Who We Are,” the survey helped us understand the true nature of our diverse makeup – how we might not have been as diverse as we thought in some ways but were incredibly diverse in others. Just as importantly, this exercise has opened our eyes to how our people understand and view themselves. This was a critical signpost on our DEI journey.

For better or worse, everything about a person’s upbringing has helped them get to where they are now and is defining how they think about their future.



You take one step forward, I take two steps back

the different positions their colleagues are in? Are participants surprised or do they feel it’s no big deal? This exercise isn’t meant to instil guilt but rather to demonstrate the levels of discrimination across various categories. It shows us that we all have a relative level of privilege. The next step is to acknowledge it on a personal level. Doing so lowers defences, demonstrates vulnerability, and sets the tone for inclusive behaviours.

To demonstrate the meaning of equity and show that we don’t all start from the same point in life, I gave our participants a series of statements and asked them to take either a step forward or a step back, depending on their answer to each. Examples included: • Take a step forward if, when you’re walking alone at night, you rarely feel threatened or in fear of sexual assault. • Take a step forward if, when watching TV or going to the cinema, you can see your sexuality, race, religion or ability accurately and often portrayed. • Take a step backwards if you have ever felt isolated in a room. • Take a step backwards if you have ever been called names regarding your race, socioeconomic class, gender, sexual orientation, disability or neurodivergence, and it made you feel uncomfortable. Specifically designed to be emotive, these statements led to a really interesting discussion that helped increase our understanding of each other and the shifting nature of inclusion. Inclusion’s not just a point you achieve in your life that you don’t ever need to revisit. It’s something that changes with you and your relationship with the world around you.

Inclusivity means different things at different times

How participants answer these questions may change during their lives, as discrimination and diverse associations are fluid. Today, someone might be a white, 30-some- thing, middle-class man. Yet tomorrow, they may be diagnosed with a neurodiverse condi- tion – such as dyslexia – that automatically changes the way people see them. Or they might fall in love with a partner of a different ethnic heritage and experience discrimina- tion against them, their partner and, in the future, their children. It might even be some- thing out of the blue, like having a football injury, that results in them being classed as having a disability. Changes in our lives alter our relationship with the world around us and other people’s perceptions of us. Inclusivity in life ebbs and flows according to what happens to us and the decisions we make that also change what might happen to us. That’s when we can take advantage of our privileges to benefit others – by bringing them to the table, fostering an equitable workplace, being an ally and speaking out against injustices.




People are complicated and labels are limiting

An example would sound something like this: “I have come from a poor background and a family with a deep religious belief system, and that’s why I make sure I work extra hard to provide for my children so that they can have a better life than I did.” This is not a case of identifying as “poor” or “a religious person with low socioeconomic metrics,” but more associating that story with how they see themselves and live their life, today.

Our approach was to allow our people to define themselves rather than limiting them to specific categories of self-definition that would hopefully paint an accurate enough picture. Utilising enei’s (The Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion) resources, we surveyed our people on their protected characteristics – age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation – and then asked each person to write a few sentences about how they actually identify. In describing themselves, it was interesting that our people chose to use a storyboard approach touching on the past, present and future.

The meaning of equity

Once we understand our diversity, the next step is to ensure we’re being inclusive to this diverse group of people and their varying needs. At Investigo, we approached this by holding a series of Inclusivity Workshops for all teams across the business, featuring group exercises to help them learn something about themselves and their colleagues.

Inclusivity means different things to different people

This kind of discussion gets really challenging – and really productive – when you ask people how it feels to be in front of or behind their colleagues, from their personal lived experience. What do they think about


The impact of work and our inter- relational responses

more inclusive than others. If they wouldn’t accept the job for a loved one, would they accept it for themselves? Would they overlook the organisation’s inclusivity issues if remuneration were a factor? What if some statements were a one-off and not an accurate reflection of the organisation’s wider culture? This all serves to highlight our differing perceptions of inclusion. We’re all in different situations in our lives, and we all have different rationales for making decisions. These criteria might even change at different points in our lives. By being self- aware and challenging our own thinking, we can actively foster inclusive environments that are positive places to be – not just for us but for everyone.

What do we mean by inter-relational responses, you might be wondering? This is about how we relate to those we work with, how the past might impact the way we connect and clash, and how we process both the ruptures and repairs we create. We spend so much time at work that the relationships we build, the experiences we gain, and the way in which we respond to conflict or a potential fear of disconnection, are profound. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact we have on those we work with. This impact is felt not just in the present day but, more importantly, in the future, based on our inter-relational dynamics.

Our value of inclusivity

Where does this leave us?

Let’s explore the notion that inclusivity means something different to each individual. You may find, as we did during our workshops, that some people don’t think this conversation is for them, especially those who would class themselves as white, heterosexual and able-bodied. However, it’s important to make people think about what inclusion means to them personally. It might be to have a voice and be heard; to be respected; or to come to work as their authentic self. These are statements that apply to people of any gender, background, race, or socioeconomic group. They’re our basic social needs as human beings.

No one’s experience of the world is exactly the same as anyone else’s, and no one’s life circumstances are static. Our circumstances change, and therefore, so does our relationship with diversity. This realisation has been a crucial part of our work on DEI at Investigo. We’ve found that our approach has been incredibly useful as a business, particularly by bringing our teams together and helping them think about things a little differently. But every business is different, and so are its people. While there’s no one approach that will work for every business, our story can easily be replicated or adapted to suit your business’s needs and your position on your DEI journey. There’s a saying that you should treat others the way in which you wish to be treated. I have to disagree. I believe you should treat others how they want to be treated. That’s when we can truly show that we not only understand ourselves but are working hard to understand each other.



Considering workplace comments and microaggressions

What would make you take a job at an organisation where you know the level of inclusivity is not where it needs to be? We asked our teams to imagine they were making a decision on a job offer on behalf of a loved one, based on comments overheard in the workplace – some of them apparently


Our DEI committee is key in helping us to provide an inclusive environment for everyone, whether they’re staff, partners, clients or candidates.

We’re always learning and evolving internally to reflect what’s happening externally, so our mid-year committee meeting focused on the current major trends we’re seeing in DEI and their effects on our business and the people we work with. We gathered the thoughts of Sarah House-Barklie, Olivia Dodd, Kelly Fordham, Derek Mackenzie, and Melanie Robinson, challenged them on what’s important in DEI right now, and captured their key advice for organisations who are committed to being more inclusive.



Inclusive benefits are the foundation of people policy

The way we think about benefits has changed. Today, a benefit needs to be tied into an individual employee’s lifestyle and way of working. It needs to appeal to them as a human being; otherwise, it’s just another companywide policy that isn’t relevant. So how can employers use inclusive benefits to attract and retain talent? “Properly assess your employee base’s needs and how they’re likely to evolve,” said Sarah House-Barklie, our People and Culture Director. “Think about what you have in place now and what you can put in place that’s more relevant and supportive to them. It’s a win-win. For the business, it’s money well-spent, and for your employees, it’s a great benefit. Just as importantly, they know they’ve been truly listened to.”



in the office, wearing a suit every day, being at home – you will have happy people. And if you have happy people, that’s when culture comes with it.” It’s important to allow team cultures to develop independently in order to create an interactive and authentic environment. “Every team has a subculture, so they interact wonderfully together. But you will always have people who also seek to interact with other groups. Allow teams to have their subculture while facilitating interaction without it being forced fun. You will never get it right for everyone, but if you provide the opportunity to be inclusive, you’re already winning.”

Benefits will evolve with employees

happy to go into the office. That’s where all these nuances start becoming difficult. There’s no one size fits all anymore.” Organisations have the tricky task of factoring in all these nuances to maintain an inclusive culture where everyone can succeed – but an inclusive culture means different things to different individuals. So what’s the answer? “Provide an environment where people have a voice, are respected, and feel like they can bring their true selves to work,” said Olivia. “If you enable them to do those three things, in whichever circumstances you achieve that – whether it’s five days

Of course, there will be a cost, but it’s important to recognise that it will be more beneficial to the business longer term.”

Keeping up to date with your employees’ evolving needs, and catering to them, is no easy task – especially in a global organisation. How do you develop a global benefits framework and strategy when different countries have different local regulations? “Engage with benefit providers and understand local legal nuances,” said Sarah. “You may need to engage groups such as works councils or unions. Keep the strategy agile; don’t just launch something and think ‘that’s it.’ Continually review and evolve. Ensure your strategy looks to the people you’re looking to attract too. As that changes, so should your offering. Ensure you also have a way of evaluating and changing the benefit if needed and don’t stick with one due to poorly negotiated T&Cs.” What inclusive benefits should you look to bring in? “Anything, as long as it has value for both employees and the business. I’d look at what life events people are coming across and then ensure we offer benefits that support those. An example for us would be Bippit, a complete financial wellbeing platform that our people have found really helpful. I also wouldn’t rule out a benefit just because it appealed to only 20% of the organisation. If it’s good value and seen as something that’s needed, then you should consider it.

Hiring, retention and promotion will be key to career equity

Hiring’s only the first part of the battle.

The move towards hybrid working means hiring is no longer restricted to geography, which should present organisations with more diverse talent pools. Yet as Olivia Dodd, Associate Director for Client Success, explained, “That’s not necessarily the reality. People’s priorities are changing. Before it was all about salary, now it’s about flexible working. On-target earnings can be really exciting, but if they’re split between 60% salary and 40% bonus, this might not help people who need a mortgage or are pregnant. In a cost of living crisis, some people are living paycheque to paycheque.”



Retention is a generational juggling act.

What a person wants from a job varies considerably between generations and is more of a factor as Gen Z join the workplace. “We now have different generations in the business expecting different things,” said Olivia. “The older generation are keen to be in the office, getting back to what they recognise as normality. Younger generations really appreciate hybrid working and can be quite flexible. At the same time, parents often value the ability to work from home, and some younger staff want a proper space to work instead of their bedroom, so they’re



Providing a level playing field

personality for the business.”

Could an organisation expect different things from different employees, depending on their individual skills and ways of working? “In our industry, the components that go towards deal-making could be recognised as merit-worthy in isolation and, in that way, broaden expectations and definitions of success. That said, there should be no mistaking that all things lead to making placements, and this is the lifeblood of a recruitment business.” As well as considering sales performance, The IN Group awards places on its high achievers’ lunches and vacations based on adherence to our values, and directors have the freedom to nominate top performers based on non-sales criteria.

Once they’ve brought in a more diverse workforce, how can organisations provide opportunities for everyone to achieve promotion? “Diversity is only the beginning,” said Derek Mackenzie, Executive Director, The IN Group. “If the entire workforce doesn’t feel included, then engagement will be limited and ultimately, so will success and promotion opportunities. To encourage inclusion, think about how you make your environment welcoming for all, recognise and discuss differences without judgement and provide a platform for employees to be themselves at work. An employee who’s engaged and can be authentic has a far greater chance of success, as they’ll be investing their energy in the objectives of their role, as opposed to the stresses and distractions of being different in an unwelcoming culture.” A diverse talent pool will have different ways of performing their jobs, but they might be equally successful in driving the company’s mission or increasing revenue. How does Derek think organisations can change their measure of success to give all their people the chance to thrive? “In a sales company, it’s hard to extricate the ultimate measure of success from done deals alone. However, the part a person plays in that deal, or the route they take to make it happen, could differ greatly.” He continued: “In recruitment, an organisation should recognise the diverse approaches that a more diverse workforce brings. An ‘old school’ recruiter, for example, would be synonymous with ‘banging the phone,’ whereas a more diverse environment could celebrate someone who puts together amazing marketing emails, or give delivery people greater status and a platform, achieving a broader sales

Pay equity will be a key part of career equity



Legislators, regulators, employees, and external talent are placing increasing pressure on organisations worldwide to ensure fair and equal opportunities. How important is a strong focus on pay equity in achieving equal representation in top management positions? “A number of firms are still on a journey to achieve a more balanced board in terms of underrepresented groups,” said Kelly Fordham, Director of Financial Services. “However, pay equity will support the longer-term goal of ensuring balance at board level. Pay equity is there to try to address occupational segregation and opportunity gaps. But true pay equity can’t be achieved until we provide opportunities to people from underrepresented groups to take on senior roles and empower them to do so.”



Remuneration will pay

It’s easy to fall behind market pay once talent is through the door. How can organisations achieve pay equity longer term? “The challenge around pay equity is not just about propelling underrepresented groups into management positions but also about retaining them at the top,” said Kelly. “That means a change of infrastructure. Pay inequalities will often return as firms are dynamic, hiring new people and reshaping constantly. It’s about recognising the practices in place that cause the initial imbalance. This includes looking into the ways in which you source, how you develop people, how you promote; none of which cost money, but they are about HR foundation practices.” What strategies has Kelly found most effective at Investigo? “Those that both showcase our commitment towards pay equity and measure and review pay equity regularly. This approach, with a multiyear DEI strategy, is essential. To achieve true pay equity, you need an intentional, ongoing commitment to equal opportunity and fair compensation. Data needs to be effectively captured and monitored, reviewed and published to hold the business to account whilst ensuring the DEI strategy helps attract, and of course, include underrepresented groups.”


There are so many more options allowing women to feel more included in the workplace, such as greater internal mobility. There’s the opportunity to have that equality in the household because of the pandemic.” But there’s still work to do to make the workplace more inclusive to women in the business. “Family planning should be high on the agenda. Encourage people to talk openly about it. Policies making it easy for couples to split childcare, such as shared parental leave, would be a game-changer in any organisation. Statutory pay is still geared towards women staying at home, and this needs to change.”

We’ll continue to feel the inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic

The pandemic has had a massive effect on all of us, but sectors like retail, hospitality, and food services, which tend to have a higher population of women, have been among the worst hit. School closures and lack of childcare support have also had a bigger impact on women, as the statistically largest source of caregiving to children. This is making an already challenging situation almost impossible. “Balancing life decisions and career opportunities has always been very challenging for many women, but it was made worse during the pandemic,” said Melanie Robinson, Principal Consultant, Investigo. “Organisations who have adopted more favourable working practices, such as hybrid working, and let women and men share childcare responsibilities with part-time working or job shares, have been able to retain staff.” Once again, the key for organisations is to listen to their people and understand what they really want. “People are looking for different things now. Hybrid working is now a given, and if companies don’t adopt it, potential hires will look elsewhere. It’s important to feel included and have your wellbeing considered. Benefits that aren’t necessarily financial, like the flexibility to pick up your kids from school, are more important because they support diverse working groups like parents, co-parents and extended child carers.” The pandemic has really changed the way we view work and our place within a company. At the same time that it has widened gender inequality, Melanie strongly believes it’s given us the chance to make things better. “People want more accountability for their own lives rather than being trapped in this pre-pandemic grind or Groundhog Day.



Our key takeaways

The key trends in DEI over the next year will revolve around getting to know your people, understanding which inclusive benefits will appeal to them individually, and then evolving as they do. Pay equity will help employers ensure balance at board level, but they can only achieve this through an ongoing commitment to equal opportunity and fair compensation, backed up by data that allows them to spot and fix any disparities. At the same time, companies are starting to realise that talent acquisition isn’t enough. It’s about retaining your people long-term and giving them a level playing field to showcase their abilities and achieve progression. This is what forges a path to career equity. It needs to be allied to a long-term DEI strategy that attracts and includes underrepresented groups. While the pandemic has presented us with challenges that still remain, it’s also given us the means and the understanding to meet those challenges. People want to work for an organisation that cares about their wellbeing and gives them the flexibility to weave their work into their lifestyle. It’s by listening to our people and understanding what’s important to them that we can be truly inclusive today and build for tomorrow.


Investigo was thankfully quick off the mark – they made our daily lives so much easier. You could say it was an act of generosity. A show of trust. A commitment to supporting us. A privilege, even. But I’m not here to get into semantics.

Assumption’s the mother of all… misunderstandings

Article written by Alex Voskou, Content Specialist at The IN Group.

While attempting to be more understanding and respectful, we need to recognise that using the word ‘privilege’ insensitively can cause problems on many levels. Picture a large family living in a neglected area, barely scratching by on minimum wage. They’re unlikely to take kindly to being viewed as privileged on the basis of other criteria, such as their ethnicity. Now picture the other end of the scale. A person may acknowledge that they’re privileged in some ways and feel a huge sense of guilt about it – which, in turn, is also unproductive. There’s a danger that the word privilege can become a tool of one-upmanship – we might be of the same ethnicity, but you’re more privileged than I am because of your gender, for example – which is not conducive to productive debate and instead creates resentment. Does it distract us from actually dealing with issues such as racism and power? Do we need to reenvisage our use of this word? (link here) . In the last couple of years, there’s rightly been a greater focus on groups who may previously have been overlooked. We’ve seen this in business, the media, the entertainment industry and literature, where some have dismissed the traditional classics as the irrelevant, out-of-touch perspectives of the privileged. However, that isn’t always the case. George Orwell, for example, actively rebelled from his lower-middle-class heritage and chose to experience poverty first-hand, living on the streets of east London in the late 1920s. His work often criticises class inequality and attacks privilege: “Money for the right kind of education, money for influential friends, money for leisure and peace of mind, money for trips to Italy. Money writes books, money sells them. Give me not righteousness, oh Lord, give me money, only money.”

A word beginning with P has caused a lot of consternation over the last year or so. No, it’s not ‘pandemic,’ ‘penalties,’ or ‘patriarchy.’ Nor, surprisingly, is it ‘parties.’

The word I’ve got in mind, the word that arouses almost as much annoyance, is ‘privilege.’ It’s become the ultimate abridged character assassination, an assertion that whatever role, rank, or bank balance a person may hold is attributable to who they are and where they’re from. That it’s not truly deserved.



The great leveller?

The social instability of 2020 – I’m thinking George Floyd and the riots up and down the US – really sharpened our focus on social inequality. It made us acutely conscious of people who are treated differently. It made us ask ourselves how we treat our fellow human beings and how we can be more tolerant, understanding and respectful. The pandemic has done the same. In some ways, it’s been a leveller, but in other ways it really hasn’t. There’s been a widely publicised disparity in the effects of COVID-19, with the poorest areas of England and Wales hit the hardest (link here) . While many of us take remote working almost for granted, we don’t all have jobs where remote working is possible. We can’t all afford laptops or broadband. We don’t all work for an employer who can provide us with the tools we need to keep working from home. When organisations issued company laptops to their employees at the start of the pandemic –

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell



It’s not a competition

I’ve been called privileged a couple of times in the last year, purely on the basis of being male and closer to the ‘white’ end of the spectrum. According to my parents’ ancestry DNA tests, we’re a mixture of Greek, Middle Eastern, North African and a host of other things. Their story is very much the old cliché – arrive in a new country with nothing and start again. Things were by no means easy. I did a bit of moving around as a kid, and it’s fair to say that not everywhere we lived was as diverse or as tolerant as London. When I’m called privileged, I remember all the offensive names I was called as a child by people I’d never even met, simply because I was ever so slightly different to them. My family’s originally from Cyprus, which has had multiple rulers over the centuries and politically has struggled with ethnic infighting for many years – as have countless other countries. Division, occupation and all the associated hardships don’t necessarily lend themselves to the idea of privilege. But like I said, it’s not a competition.

Respect each other

If there’s one thing the last two years have taught me, it’s not to judge. To be sensitive to the challenges experienced by others. But that should apply to everyone we meet, not only to those we perceive – perhaps erroneously – to be disadvantaged in some way. You never really know what’s going on in someone’s life. Sometimes, judgementalism comes from safety. We judge others to deal with our own potential feelings of shame or inferiority. Sometimes I catch myself doing it and give myself a metaphorical slap around the ear. That’s when it’s important to acknowledge who we are, who we want to be and, most importantly, our own value. As someone once said, “It’s always the ones who know the least about you who judge you the most.”



Don’t judge a book by its cover

People of a certain background are more likely to experience certain benefits or, at the very least, to be exempt from some of the challenges experienced by other demographics. But by making assumptions about people purely based on their gender, their race, their socioeconomic group, or any combination of these factors, we’re in danger of falling into precisely the trap we’re trying to avoid. We’re being judgemental. We’re perpetuating negative stereotypes. Though our need for ratification and the rise of social media are accelerating our hunt for meaning and fellowship, no two people are the same. At this time, more than any other, we don’t need excuses to emphasise our differences. It’s far too easy to do that. Instead, by singing from the same hymn sheet while acknowledging our different voices, we can actually learn from each other. After all – and here’s another interesting word beginning with P – no one’s perfect.


Article written by Marc Lesner, Partner at Investigo US.

The day is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same sex acts are illegal.



Our roundtable discussions provide a safe environment for In Group people to talk frankly about their experiences and help to increase each other’s understanding of the most sensitive issues affecting the workplace. Marc Lesner, who heads up the Pride subcommittee of our DEI committee, led a roundtable discussion on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Founded in 2004, this global annual landmark aims to draw the attention of decision-makers, policymakers, the media, and the general public to the challenges still faced by people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. The specific date of May 17th was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organisation’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990 – a date that’s more recent than many of us might have expected. The roundtable gave our panel the chance to highlight some of their own personal experiences of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia and share their advice on how we can all be more supportive of people from these communities.



Out of earshot – but not out of mind

community, who are willing to learn about the challenges faced by underrepresented groups and make sure they have a voice. “It seemed like a good opportunity to make a difference,” said Terry, explaining his desire to get involved. “If I can educate others on what I’ve learned and be a good ally, if not necessarily an expert, then all the better.” Education’s crucial in increasing our understanding, whether it’s reading a book, watching a film, supporting LGBTQ+ charities, or getting involved in campaigning. Asking questions is also a big part of that education. “Don’t be afraid to be inquisitive,” said Terry. “If you’ve got a genuine question, and you don’t want to offend somebody, it’s better to ask in the right way than to never learn or understand. We all need to make sure that we’re sensitive to other people’s feelings.”

These kinds of comments are no more acceptable – and no less damaging – when made in a closed group. They only serve to breed, embed, and normalise ongoing incorrect behaviour, which can also slip out in a public forum and offend somebody. By actively being an ally and creating a ripple effect on those around us – including having the courage to call out this kind of language – we can have a significant impact on the quality of someone’s life.

Why allies are so important

We can’t underestimate the importance of allies, especially from outside the LGBTQ+




Early homophobia – how first experiences set the tone

now at a stage where I would call somebody out on that explicitly, explain why it shouldn’t be said, and how it would make somebody feel,” said Marc. That’s why thinking about the language we use is so important. “If you were to turn around and ask if they’ve got a problem with gay people, they’d probably say no,” said Terry Dawson, a vocal ally for our Pride subcommittee. “But they’re almost not linking that insult to someone’s sexuality. It’s a throwaway comment, but throwaway comments can be really harmful. It shows people need to educate themselves about the potential impact of that kind of language.”

Marc’s first experience of homophobia was at school: “The word ‘gay’ being used in the context of, ‘that’s so gay.’ For that term to be used to denote something that’s bad or stupid probably impacted me subconsciously. You’d never want something that’s such a big part of your life, something that’s so inherent to who you are, to be viewed negatively.” Though this usage of the word has diminished over time, individuals do still subconsciously use it in this context – not necessarily with any malice, but as a result of growing up hearing it used in a negative way. “I think I’m



Days like this highlight the experiences of people in this community and remind us that there’s still a lot of work to do. Changing this will require not only a seismic cultural shift but a shift in the mindsets of these individuals – some of whom may feel reluctant to aim for these roles because of the discrimination they faced growing up. Organisations need to make a conscious effort to be as inclusive as possible across all types of diversity, making a systemic change to foster a real sense of inclusivity amongst their workforces. Changing people to suit the world around them – or changing the world so everyone’s welcome? “We’ve certainly made a lot of strides in the past 10 years, but it’s still somewhat of a jagged line, and we still have a long way to go,” said one attendee, who described the challenges he experienced as a gay person growing up in a very religious household. “Before I came out, it was thrown around pretty often how people like me were going to hell. My parents put me in conversion therapy when I was in my early teens.”

Up until 2020, when it was banned in the US state of Utah, where this particular attendee grew up, conversion therapy – carried out by licenced therapists and aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression – had been a common practice. It was also linked to higher rates of suicide, homelessness, and drug use among minors. While conversion therapy is now banned in the UK for gay people, it still exists for trans people, and the legislative battle will need to continue. “When I officially came out at the age of 18,” he continued, “I became a stranger for my family and was even homeless for a time. So it definitely had numerous effects on my confidence and self-value for a long time.” His experience really shows why these days of recognition and reflection are so important. From a visibility perspective, the more people see something that they’re not familiar with, the less abstract it becomes. This is where queer representation in the media really has an impact. The increase in the number of LGBTQ+ characters in films and TV series, for example, is helping to increase visibility and, therefore, acceptance from outside the community.

While we often talk about gender and racial diversity on boards, we don’t talk much about LGBTQ+ representation. Only 26 of the 5,670 Fortune 500 board positions are held by LGBTQ+ individuals, which amounts to 0.4%.

trans people fairly.’ Just having that conversation with your child can hopefully have a knock-on effect throughout society,” said Marc. Again, this is where allies, particularly from outside the community, can have such a huge impact. “It immediately makes me feel more supported that there are allies out there that really want to make a difference,” he added.

Educating from an early stage



While our awareness of these subconscious verbal transgressions will often increase as we mature, it’s important that we pass on our lessons to young people. If you’re a parent, having a conversation with your child about treating everyone fairly and taking a stand for their LGBTQ+ friends is invaluable. “Growing up, I would probably have talked about not being racist, but I don’t think my parents ever said, ‘make sure you treat gay or

Why is it important that we recognise these days?

The rights of the LGBTQ+ community have evolved so much in recent years, most notably with the legalisation of same-sex marriage. While we should recognise that we’ve come a long way, there continues to be widespread homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, even in westernised countries which are more advanced in their thinking.


The trans vacuum

In 2021, there were 375 trans murders, the highest figure in history.

While gay representation is increasing, the same cannot be said of the trans community, which is still often marginalised. There’s very little trans representation in the media beyond drag shows, which can fuel misconceptions. “For people that tend to be more on the fringes even within the queer community, such as trans people, I think there needs to be a lot of focus on making sure those people have more visibility and feel included as well,” said Anna Koutelas from our New York office. Our panel shared their experiences of working with trans colleagues at various stages of their transition. Those who have witnessed an entire transition over a period of years – the operations, hormonal changes, injections, and medication, not to mention the minor cosmetic alterations to clothing and hair – have really gained an understanding of the physical, mental, and emotional turmoil involved. You don’t go through a process like that on a whim. You don’t go through a process like that unless you’re absolutely sure you’re not living the life you’re supposed to be living.

Why difficult conversation can make lives easier



Allyship not only provides crucial support for people undergoing such a change but also increases our understanding. We’re often understandably reluctant to ask questions about an incredibly sensitive issue because we’re scared of causing offence. But asking questions will help us grow our knowledge and show a trans person that they’re not facing this challenge alone. “It really opened up my eyes and told me not to be afraid to ask questions,” said one attendee. They described how a former colleague of theirs had been desperate to talk about their transition from female to male and also wanted to become more accustomed to interacting with the males in the office. The process of transition presents a whole set of challenges that many of us could never even comprehend. That’s why we should actively offer our support and allyship and why organisations should amend their internal policies to cater for trans employees. People’s common mistake is avoiding the issue. Don’t be afraid to approach someone and have an honest chat. By taking the easy way out and avoiding an issue that makes us uncomfortable, we risk alienating trans people even further. They might really appreciate having a sounding board – especially a new acquaintance – when many of the existing people in their life still see them as the old person. If they don’t want to talk about it, then providing you approach them with courtesy and sensitivity, that’s not a problem.


Bisexual stigmas

helps if people within these safe spaces remain open to different forms of female queerness beyond the strict label of lesbian. “The nuances, the funny and fuzzy lines, and the grey areas within our sexuality shouldn’t be reason to exclude people or box them out. People should be celebrated for being uniquely themselves, whatever that may look like, and whatever trajectory they’re on in their dating life.”

The danger of grouping very different people together into a single community is that we lose sight of their individual challenges. There’s a perception that bisexual people are chameleons of sorts, able to fit into whichever community they want. However, this often isn’t the case. Anna shared some of the stigmas of bisexuality she’s experienced, both within heterosexual and homosexual communities. “Some of the heterosexual people I’ve met have equated bisexuality with promiscuity,” she said. “People can assume that because you can be attracted to both men and women, that you are attracted to both men and women at the same time, all the time.” This attitude can cause bisexual people not to openly identify as bisexual in public. “I don’t want the reaction that comes with telling people that I’m bi. People can assume that you want to engage with both them and their partner.

Perceptions, personality and the problems with presentation

There are also stigmas with sexual presentation in the lesbian community. Within different queer communities in different parts of the world, Anna’s experienced very different perceptions of how a lesbian should look and behave. In some countries, she’s experienced the idea of a “cookie cutter lesbian,” whereby a person is expected to dress and look stereotypically lesbian, which is seen as more traditionally masculine. This can make it very difficult for a person to immerse themselves in a queer community and find the fellowship they need. “One of the many things that I just love about New York is that I haven’t had this expectation to look a certain way as a queer woman. You can be a lipstick lesbian; you can be a ChapStick lesbian; you can be a butch lesbian; you can be anything in between. There seems to be a lot more openness to the way you physically present yourself and your sexuality. Humans are dynamic; we all have our own individual paths and sexualities, some definitely more complex than others. Rather than boxing someone out or making them not feel welcome in a space for their sexuality, I really feel that our individuality and our sexuality should be nothing but embraced, supported and celebrated.”



But bisexual people can be just as monogamous as straight people.”

Perhaps more surprising is the stigma that bisexual people receive within the queer community. “I always assumed that if you were under the queer umbrella, there would be a sense of camaraderie and overall acceptance,” said Anna. “That it’s kind of one big happy family. But oftentimes, this isn’t the case. In the lesbian community, in particular, it can be a huge red flag if you’re bisexual. Some people can think that if you identify as bisexual, you’re just a straight girl who’s experimenting and going through a phase.” It can feel hard for bisexual women to fit into a safe space where men are intentionally boxed out. That’s why it



Perhaps the spirit of the discussion was captured most succinctly by one comment from the floor: “I would have really liked if someone had said, ‘You’re welcome in this space, just as you are, and you don’t have to change anything about yourself to fit into this space as a queer person.” Maybe that’s a lesson we can all learn not just when actively being allies but in our interactions with everyone we meet.

The lessons

Same sex acts remain illegal in 70 countries.

Thanks to our wonderful panel, who were prepared to put themselves on the line to discuss an extremely complex, and sometimes very personal topic, we picked up some simple lessons that can make a big difference to people’s lives every day:

• Be careful of the words you use and be conscious of the impact they can have on others. • If something doesn’t sit well, call it out. • Allyship is really important. You don’t have to be an expert – just be open, understanding, and willing to listen. • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this will help you support someone who really needs it, increase your understanding, and make you more comfortable with a sensitive issue. • As an organisation, foster a sense of inclusivity, so everyone knows they have a chance to progress.



It’s by opening ourselves up and having, at times, uncomfortable conversations that we can educate both ourselves and others, allowing us to create better experiences for people who are underrepresented or going through difficulty. To discuss any of the points raised in our roundtable or for advice on how to foster an inclusive workplace, contact our DEI committee. They’d love to help.



Article written by Katy Bhatti, Contracts Manager, The IN Group.

People who use wheelchairs ‘go for walks.’ People with visual impairments may say they are pleased to ‘see you.’ According to the gov.uk website, most disabled people are comfortable using everyday phrases when talking about disability. One thing you’ll often hear at an Investigo diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) committee meeting is that it’s a ‘safe space,’ and it is. We’re all coming from a good place, so even if a word lands in the wrong way, we know the intent behind it was good. Yet, one of the things we hear time and again is the question, “What if I say the wrong thing?” Jennie Berry, a disabled content creator, recently highlighted the negative language often used when talking about disability. Jennie says, “I’m loved, I’m safe, I’m free. Being disabled is by no means a walk in the park,” showing an example of how disabled people do use everyday phrases. Jenny then asks that “next time you see a disabled person, try not to pity them. Have an open mind about their life and how fulfilling it may be.” There are countless similar posts from disabled content creators on social media demonstrating the importance of the language used around disability and to people with disabilities.




Should we use a different word?

I would guess that when most people hear the word ‘disabled,’ the image of a person in a wheelchair immediately comes to mind. If you think about disabled signage in parking spaces, toilets or a multitude of other places in our daily lives, it almost always has a wheelchair symbol attached to it. So it’s natural that every time we see disabled signs with wheelchairs, we’ll associate wheelchairs with the word disabled. It’s interesting that when I put the word ‘disabled’ into Google, it’s only in the 78th picture that I found a person not in a wheelchair. Disabilities come in a whole range of forms. In fact, only 8% of disabled people use a wheelchair, and many disabilities are invisible, such as chronic pain conditions.

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