Behind the scenes

Celebrating Parcelforce Worldwide’s LGBT network, where everybody is welcome!

The Parcelforce Worldwide LGBT Network was set up to raise the profile of all things lesbian, gay, bi and trans in the business – whether that’s help and support at a local level or organising floats for annual Pride events around the country.

As part of Royal Mail Group, our company values are to “Be Positive, Be Brilliant, Be Part Of It” and that message includes everybody who works for us.

We strongly believe that when people are allowed to be themselves, they can reach their full potential.

Being an inclusive employer means accepting people for who they are and supporting them in the workplace. LGBT networks are a great way for LGBT employees to let their employers know what’s working for them and what might require a new approach.

Meet our members

Four members who have had rewarding experiences in their involvement with Parcelforce Worldwide’s LGBT Network are Leon Evans – Executive Assistant and co-founder of LGBT networks at Parcelforce Worldwide and Royal Mail, Natalie Walker – Campaign Manager at Parcelforce Worldwide, Dan Meacher – Operational Concurrence and Conformance Manager plus Parcelforce Worldwide Lead, and Samantha Plummer – Email and Social Media Team Leader.

As a non-LGBT person, Natalie joined as a ‘straight ally’ but has felt included from the outset. “The Network are such a lovely bunch of people” she says, “I was immediately welcomed. Anyone can join the Network and there are lots of ways to get involved and show your support. The group is not only there for people who identify as L, G, B or T, but also for friends and allies (like me) who may support an LGBT friend or family member in their home lives.”

It’s fair to say that all of our members’ passion for diversity and inclusion come from their attitude to people. When they’re asked what they enjoy most about their jobs, Natalie is straight in: “Without a doubt the people I come to work with every day” she says, beating Leon to the punch. “The best bit is being a part of and supporting a brilliant team” he agrees. Dan agrees that having “a strong and focused team behind me is amazing!”

Sam is equally passionate about the people she works with. “We have worked together for such a long time,” she says, “I couldn’t imagine not being with them nearly every day. We all have a mutual respect for each other and we support each other through the good and bad times of our lives – work and personal.”

Identifying obstacles for LGBT employees

As recently as 2014, the Guardian reported that 34% of LGBT people chose not to share their sexuality at work because of fear of discrimination. Living in a society where heterosexuality is considered the norm, some LGBT people hide their private lives at work for fear of homophobia, exclusion or because it might affect their career prospects.

Leon feels that his experience has been more positive than others, but cautions against complacency: “I have been very lucky. In my workplace experiences, I haven’t really faced homophobia other than a few ‘gay’ remarks, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”

Sam underlines how important it is to share personal experiences. “Some people are just scared of the unknown of LGBT. I like to talk to people about my own experiences and a lot of times I get the reply ‘I can’t believe that has happened to you’ or ‘why would people do that or be like that’.”

As part of Royal Mail Group, Parcelforce Worldwide is one of the largest employers in the UK, which is why Natalie sees the LGBT Network as so important. “We should lead the way and show others what great employers look like,” she says. “No one should come to work worried about being themselves.”

Leon adds: “We need to look at the whole journey of an employee from recruitment to retirement and support our LGBT colleagues throughout.”

Dan underlines why every company should have an LGBT Network. “Diversity schemes always make a business more attractive to work for. It shows that companies put the people first.”

What the LGBT Network has been doing

A commitment to supporting LGBT people is evident at a local, personal level and through larger initiatives right across Parcelforce Worldwide.

Strong local networks provide support, can be present at local events and offer a friendly face or receptive ear. Larger initiatives are extremely important too. Natalie has found Parcelforce’s LGBT Newsletter a great source of inspiration: “There are so many stories of people who have found the courage to come out or identify themselves as transgender at work, and who have been met with encouragement and support by their colleagues.” Sam also mentions BEAR the transgender soft toy bear, that travels around Parcelforce Worldwide and Royal Mail offices and acts as a talking point for our staff.

Another great success has been the Rainbow Postbox. First designed as a living logo for Royal Mail when they took part in Pride 2016 in London, it now tours Parcelforce Worldwide offices too. Natalie Walker believes that it “creates the opportunity to talk about and raise awareness of the LGBT & Friends Network.”

The Rainbow Postbox represents both the local and business-wide commitment to LGBT issues, as it tours around both regional offices and is displayed at Parcelforce Worldwide HQ. Leon explains why it’s such an important symbol. “It’s about connecting with people who don’t always read the internal magazine or see the TV screens, and also reaching out to the offices in more remote locations or are in less diverse areas.”

Why you should get involved at Pride

“It’s great fun!” says Natalie when we ask her what being involved in Pride was like, “it brought me closer to other like-minded people.” Leon is just as enthusiastic. “Pride is AMAZING! There are great events to share with people close to you as well make new friends.  Looking back, a lot of my work-based friendships started at one of these functions!”

Sam also has fond memories: “Walking behind the float and handing out the postcards, I actually felt so proud not only to work for a company that supports LGBT, but also to be out there talking and engaging with the crowds.”

It’s clear that PRIDE was a huge positive for those who attended. They would all recommend anyone to get involved, with Leon offering an open invitation: “Come along and help us celebrate at one of our BIGGER events in 2018, like Pride in London.”

Parcelforce’s LGBT Network will also be present at Birmingham Pride 2018 with charity partner, Action for Children.

LGBT champions

Just as it’s important to have a great support network around you, it’s also natural to find inspiration in people.

Natalie identifies Ruth Hunt, CEO of LGBT campaigning group Stonewall, as “a fantastic LGBT champion and leader.” Hunt has done much for transgender equality and parental rights for same-sex couples.

Dan Meacher singles out the work of LGBT Foundation, with its excellent support services and useful resources.

Moving the conversation on to more personal connections, Leon looks to his colleague Julia Casson for inspiration. “She is a strong, creative, vibrant person who inspires and challenges me to fight for what we want to change” he says.

Sam admits that she once had a crush on singer K.D. Lang when she was younger, but is afraid that this might show her age! “Her music was great and she just looked like a really strong and independent woman that I wanted to aspire to” Sam beams.

Though they wouldn’t suggest it themselves, we’d nominate Natalie, Sam, Dan and Leon as LGBT champions. Dan Meacher seeks to reassure LGBT people who are starting out at a new workplace.

“It’s 2018 and there’s so much acceptance and equality within many workplaces, especially within Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide,” he adds. “We are definitely seeing the benefits from the efforts we have put into the LGBT Group.”

Leon has a message for LGBT employees and straight allies alike: “Don’t be afraid to be who you are at home and at work.  Join our network and help be part of the change.” Sam adds: “Be yourself and never be ashamed of who you are.”

How’s that for inspirational?