Clive Memmott's Pride Month Blog

Date: 08/06/2022
Author: Clive Memmott
Company: Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

One of the more interesting things to come out of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations has been the many reflections on the scale and rate of change over the 70 years of the Queen’s reign. The world is incomparable today to what it was then, and our lives now are unimaginable to what they would have been in 1952. Being different is undoubtedly easier in many countries, many places, many towns and cities but let’s be clear it’s far from a universal truth and prejudice is still very much alive and kicking. The scale of prejudice individuals experience is sadly often related to where they happen to live, work, or learn.

I don’t have a problem with the notion of “unconscious bias” and it’s something I need to think about, and act on, but I do think there’s a real danger that this masks the cause of much intolerance and discrimination – namely very conscious bias. It’s too easy to say that someone who said something offensive or inappropriate was just being clumsy, was taken out of context or was making a bad joke.

We are about halfway through Pride Month and this wonderful explosion of celebration, self-expression, confidence, and pride is something to be treasured – again something that was unrecognisable not that long ago.

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which stated that a local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality was only repealed in England in 2003. As my friend Claire Ebrey points out, this means that anyone in our/your organisation today who is over 35 and LGBTQ+ went through secondary education with no support or acknowledgement. If they did “come out” the consequences were often unpleasant and dangerous to physical and mental health.

I’ve had a long career in business and although things are so much better now and many businesses genuinely do understand and promote the unequivocal benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, fairness in the workplace is again far from universal. Gender, class, race, ethnicity can still define where you work and how far you can progress. There is a huge number of exceptions to this but there are also huge numbers of people denied the opportunities that are their right and should be their expectation.

Research tells us that c35% of LGBTQ+ staff hide their identity at work for fear of discrimination, and that about 18% are the target of negative comments or conduct. 12% of trans people claim to have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year. Yes there has been progress but, by any stretch of the imagination, a lot more needs to be made and made quickly.

Business needs to improve the way it supports LGBTQ+ colleagues and other groups because why on earth would you not want to attract future talent of all types in a remarkably volatile and competitive labour market? Successful role models will attract others into business and help break down some of the deep routed preconceptions about glass ceilings.

It’s clear that equality is not evenly distributed across industries and sectors. Whether you work for a large company or a smaller one, whichever sector you happen to be in, wherever the business is located you can make a difference to how your company addresses the issues above. By actively promoting and celebrating diversity and inclusion you are sending out positive and supportive messages to your staff, your customers, your suppliers and your community. Finally, I want to return to my earlier comment that although bias can be unconscious if often isn’t and that it what we need to understand and address if we really want to seriously do something about this.

And lastly, I would like to promote Pride in Leadership, a new community working to elevate, connect and support LGBTQ+ business leaders and make them more visible. It was set up by Manchester’s Claire Ebrey and Matt Haworth, and GM Chamber is proud to get behind it.

Pride in Leadership will launch on 7 July, with an in-person event at our offices, and the guest speaker will be Malcolm Press, the Vice Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, and one of the leading names in our city. I encourage business leaders – that’s LGBTQ+ and allies – to attend, and to help spread the word.


Happy Pride Month!