By David Mann, Freehold Co-founder and Ambassador
It is certainly of concern that it was reported last month that the UK’s ranking in Europe for the rights accorded to LGBTQ+ people has dropped for the third year running. From being in the top spot in the rankings in 2015, seven years later we find ourselves having moved down considerably to a Number 14 ranking.
In all likelihood the reason for this is that the current government has not retained the commitment to enhancing minority rights that previous administrations did, meaning that room has been created for more hatred and violence to be perpetrated against this demographic.
In fact, a Stonewall survey on public sentiment towards LGBTQ+ people in the UK published in June 2022 reported 9% of respondents felt feelings of disgust towards gay people, 7% towards lesbian people and 8% towards bi and trans people individually.
In addition to the risk to physical well-being because of violence against people, a myriad discriminatory practices may occur and they may result in serious negative consequences to both psychological and physical health. After all, to realise one’s full potential, a person should feel valued and secure.
While government may be letting us down, that doesn’t mean that the private sector has to follow suit. And so, we in the property sector, together with colleagues in many other industries, have to continue to fight for greater recognition of the rights of our community. Unfortunately, the property sector lags behind other industries considerably in tackling sexual orientation issues. This is why an organisation like Freehold has a very important role to play.
Launched in 2011, today the organisation represents the interests of over 1 000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender real estate professionals, and seeks to narrow the equality gap for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Members of the organisation work in a wide variety of businesses and in varying roles – from surveyors to property asset managers, architects, developers, lawyers, investors, and others.
We focus on a number of approaches to assist our members, including the ones explained below.
Encouraging all people to make their identities known
As a network we want to see an increased use of people’s pronouns on email signatures, LinkedIn and the like. Individuals and organisations need to educate themselves about why this matters, and why the concept is not something of relevance only within the LBGTQ+ community. More and more role models are willing to talk about their own experiences, and this openness can be of huge benefit if you promote it within your organisation.
Freehold is always keen to engage with existing internal networks, those organisations wanting to start one, or SMEs with fairly small staff numbers. Through our membership base and the experiences many of our members have had in the past, we can provide guidance and support to LGBTQ+ staff and to the wider community within the business.
We look for the support of people outside the community – for instance, those in senior management in firms, our colleagues, or friends or family members. Working together gives us greater strength to address the challenges we face.
Freehold is supporting Next Gen initiatives to help attract talent from less traditional routes, including improving contact with schools, non-cognate Universities, and with organisations such as Student Pride, Changing the Face of Property/Property Needs You and Pathways to Property.
As a network we continue to improve our trans-inclusion initiatives. The trans debate is a difficult one that is hard to navigate and so guidance can be very beneficial where people need to be educated and understand more.
Although our series of face-to-face events programmes was interrupted by Covid, we see these events as opportunities for like-minded people to meet and to get to know one another. These are valuable opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.
Celebrate with Pride
Use Pride Month as an opportunity to engage with your staff, get them to share their own stories and, even better, have a party!