Interview: Stonewall’s Peter Holmes on transgender equality in the workplace

Interview: Stonewall’s Peter Holmes on transgender equality in the workplace

"A lot of this comes down to being a nice person and being genuinely interested and invested in transgender equality"

Peter Holmes is the director of commercial operations at Stonewall, and we caught up with him to talk about how businesses need to get on board with transgender equality in workplaces and the best approaches to take.

1. What is your role at Stonewall?

I am a director at Stonewall, looking after our diversity champions program for workplaces. This involves looking after the infrastructure of it, making sure it is working well, doing what it should do, making sure the program is the best it can be, and having the most impact in the workplace.

2. What specifically have you seen change through your work at Stonewall?

The overall principle that our department looks after has the objective of transforming workplaces and institutions. We understand and we know that institutions have a huge role to play in society and around the world, and the way that we work is by targeting one or two people in those particular institutions and working with them to change the whole organisation.

Through working with a small number of key individuals across a huge range of businesses we have been able to enact a massive change to all their employee base. Usually we will work with D&I professionals and HR managers across around 750 organisations that we work with to help advise and support them to create the change that we want to see.

3. What needs to happen to change the traditional image of the accountancy industry to make it more diverse so people from the LGBT+ community feel like it is a good career option for them?

I think the image needs to be authentic and backed up by authenticity. There’s sometimes a temptation to proclaim from the rooftops how inclusive you are and how great you are without having the foundations in place to back that up. It’s all very well enticing job seekers into your industry but if you can’t then support them and make them feel included, they’re going to become disillusioned, which has a worse effect in the long term.

I think it’s about getting the house in order first in terms of inclusion and being authentic. Then with the recruitment side of things it’s about using inclusive recruitment practices. When attracting talent, this means going out to different LGBT recruitment fairs and talking to people in the LGBT community. If you always hire people from the same website or jobs fair you will always get the same type of people. If you always recruit from The Guardian you’ll always get the same type of people who look at the paper and who share those values and have a certain demographic, so in terms of attracting talent to a certain industry or sector it’s about how far and wide do you go to interact with people.

4. What are Stonewall’s aims specifically for trans people?

We released a really great document, ‘A Vision for Change’, which our trans advisory group helped put together. It is a manifesto for trans equality over the next five years and it details all the stuff we’re looking to change. In the workplace specifically, we are looking for organisations to properly put trans equality on the agenda. For example, specific trans equality awareness sessions for people to let trans people self-declare their gender if they are non-binary or have a gender other than male and female on workplace systems, and essentially just to properly support their trans staff.

5. What advice would you give to someone who isn’t part of the LGBT+ community but wants to help make workplaces more inclusive?

I’d say those kinds of fears are usually what stop people engaging, which is a shame. I think a lot of it is about informing yourself, taking that first step and reading. The internet is out there and it’s a wonderful thing! It has so much information on there. We do have resources on our website that are workplace specific and they give an introduction to terminology and language and how to talk to people but, at the end of the day, you don’t have to be an expert and know all the genders you can list yourself as on Facebook. It’s about listening courteously and just following the lead of someone and talking to them.

A lot of this comes down to being a nice person and being genuinely interested and invested. It’s your own responsibility to raise your own awareness of what’s going on. It’s not the responsibility of trans people to sit down and tell you exactly what’s happening. If they’re happy to share that knowledge and talk to you about that then great, but as I say there’s lots of information out there to find out yourself.

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