This month marks 20 years since the abolition of Section 28, a set of laws that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities. The removal of such divisive and harmful legislation is why we celebrate LGBT+ history month throughout February.
While laws can be changed, attitudes and behaviours take longer to catch up and it is important that we celebrate the history of LGBTQIA+ people while also acknowledging there is still work to be done to truly make our community a fair and inclusive one.
To speed up progress on this work I have established an LGBTQIA+ steering group and have appointed two university theme leaders for this area, Dr Lucy Jones and Sarah Wilson. This steering group will determine the future key priorities that need to be addressed to make the university community inclusive for all staff and students. With this in mind, I am delighted to see the range of activities that are taking place across the university during LGBT+ month including headline event Behind the Rainbow: Demystifying LGBTQIA+ and a film screening of Bad Women of China with a chance to ask its director Xiaopei He questions. I encourage each of you to join us in marking this month whether it be through attendance at an event or engaging with other resources.
The university is reinforcing its commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusivity and working on a number of further initiatives including a new progress crossing at Sutton Bonington campus and the repainting of the progress crossing at University Park. We have also invested in new progress lanyards which will be distributed to those in the university who demonstrate real allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community and we are looking to reinstate a programme of awareness raising and inclusive events such as the Pink-nic which stopped during the pandemic.
Visible symbols of our commitment to inclusivity are important, but these must be strongly backed up by considered and sustained actions to create a truly inclusive culture at the university. We have a very well-established university-sponsored LGBTQIA+ staff network with whom I work closely with to understand the issues and barriers to inclusion and to determine which actions to prioritise. We also have a newly formed LGBTQIA+ student network and I look forward to building strong links with them too.
Stonewall Diversity Champions
The Stonewall Diversity Champions programme was launched in 2001, with the goal of working with employers to create working environments where all LGBTQIA+ employees feel able to be themselves. To date, Stonewall has worked with more than 900 organisations including the University of Nottingham to demonstrate their commitment to creating a workplace that welcomes, respects, and represents LGBTQIA+ employees.
We have been considering our approach and our actions to support LGBTQIA+ colleagues and students as part of the process of renewing the university’s membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme. Being resolute about our commitment to ensure inclusivity means we must regularly take stock of our practices and should periodically review all such schemes in order to continue to learn, grow and ensure they offer meaningful benefits to all in our community.
Reviewing our membership of the Diversity Champions programme included a consultation with the LGBTQIA+ Steering Group, surveying all staff and students to understand their experiences of the programme, and respectful discussions around whether we were maximising our use of the Diversity Champions programme, or whether an alternative provider could bring greater benefits for our community. It also considered how best to protect academic freedom at Nottingham in light of Stonewall’s recent position on sex and sex-based rights.
Following this review, the university has decided that it will renew its membership of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme – a decision which is consistent with the majority of views expressed through the consultation as well as more than 80% of Russell Group institutions.
Furthering our commitment
The review that led to the decision to renew our membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme also highlighted that the university has not maximised the use of our membership in the past.
This means that renewal of our membership must also be seen as a commitment to investing in more of the professional development opportunities presented by Stonewall and to make greater use of the additional benefits of being a Diversity Champions member, not least to enhance the outstanding work of the LGBTQIA+ Steering Group.
Although important, Stonewall membership cannot act as our sole support for our LGBTQIA+ people and I look forward to delivering further allyship for this community. In addition to the initiatives outlined above the group is feeding into our inclusive recruitment practices and exploring what data exists on LGBTQIA+ and how this could be better used to inform decision making at all levels.
You can also see a snapshot of some of the research and creative output of LGBTQIA+ staff and students in a video of last year’s exhibition Unmuting Ourselves. Another project that has grown in popularity in recent years is the LGBTQIA+ reading list. Put together by libraries the list of staff and student suggested titles including award-winning fiction, graphic novels, essay collections, poetry and more and is designed to challenge perspectives.
I hope that our activities, discussions and celebrations during LGBT+ History Month act as a catalyst for new ideas and fresh approaches to ensuring that all in our University can be their authentic selves in work and study. I hope you can all find time to take part in LGBT+ History Month and I look forward to continuing to make Nottingham a place when we can feel inclusive, safe and welcoming for everyone.
Professor Katherine Linehan
How to say my name
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and People
31 January 2023