Chair of Cambridge Assessment’s LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning, Intersex, Asexual +) staff network, David Wikramaratna, shares how we’re marking Pride this month and highlights some of the ways the network is helping to make the workplace a more inclusive and safer place to be for all our colleagues.
Pride Month is celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, one of many acts of civil disobedience that form part of the arc of numerous Queer civil rights movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. The transformative impact of these movements on the lives of many LGBTQIA+ people in 2021 cannot be overstated, but there is still plenty of scope for more radical change.
As chair of the LGBTQIA+ staff network, I want to work towards ensuring that all our staff, wherever they are in the world, feel safe to be who they are at work.
Around the globe are still 71 countries where it is illegal to be gay, and at least a dozen where the death penalty is listed as punishment for same-sex acts. Many countries do not have laws that protect against discrimination towards LGBTQIA+ people, and even in places where legal protections exist, discrimination is still widespread. Even in the UK, nationwide surveys by charities in the past few years have indicated that around 35 percent of LGBT+ workers do not feel safe to be themselves at work. Around a third of bisexual people report having been insulted or harassed due to their orientation. Transgender and Non-binary individuals routinely experience abuse or misgendering as part of their day to day lives, and asexual people are often made to feel unwelcome in both straight and Queer spaces. Clearly, there is still much road to be travelled on the very long journey to a truly equal society.
At Cambridge Assessment there are multiple staff networks, colleague-led community groups intended to help and assist each other on a diverse range of topics from disability and neurodiversity to protecting the environment. As chair of the LGBTQIA+ staff network, I want to work towards ensuring that all our staff, wherever they are in the world, feel safe to be who they are at work. During the past year we have championed a number of initiatives to help Cambridge Assessment to be a more inclusive workplace, for example, the voluntary introduction of pronouns in email signatures to normalise conversations about pronouns for all staff, as well as auditing gender neutral facilities at our UK sites to check they are fit for purpose. We have spent more time checking in on our network members, providing support to managers and running joint events with other staff networks, recognising that LGBTQIA+ people do not exist in isolation, and the intersection of different identities creates different experiences that need recognising and celebrating.
LGBTQIA+ people do not exist in isolation, and the intersection of different identities creates different experiences that need recognising and celebrating.
This Pride Month we are holding a range of events for our colleagues in partnership with our equivalent staff network at Cambridge University Press. For the third year in a row, the Pride flag will be flying outside Cambridge Assessment and the Press’ international headquarters on Shaftesbury Road in Cambridge throughout June. On the social side, we are holding two ‘International Coffee’ events timed to allow our colleagues from around the world to attend and connect with each other in celebration of Pride. In the middle of the month, we are holding an internal panel event to consider the impact of lockdown on the Queer experience, and a joint event with the BAME (Black and Asian Minority Ethnicity) staff network to discuss the experiences of individuals who are both BAME and LGBTQIA+. Finally, we are tentatively hoping to hold our first ‘in person’ event for more than a year – an outdoor picnic at the end of June assuming both restrictions and weather allow!
We will be continuing to provide feedback on how best to make our assessments and qualifications more inclusive, and we will be pushing to make sure all of our workplaces are the safest and most inclusive places they can be.
As for the future, the next few months will be spent trying to find the best ways to engage with all our colleagues around the world. We will be continuing to provide feedback on how best to make our assessments and qualifications more inclusive, and we will be pushing to make sure all of our workplaces are the safest and most inclusive places they can be.
Wherever you are in the world I hope you manage to celebrate Pride, even if that has to be in your own private way. I hope you know that there are millions of people all over the globe who love and accept you exactly as you are – we’re all rooting for you!
About the author:
David Wikramaratna is a Business Analyst at Cambridge Assessment English and the Chair of Cambridge Assessment’s LGBTQIA+ Staff Network.