Liz Truss announces UK’s first LGBT business champion. Activists say it’s nowhere near enough

Liz Truss

The government has introduced the role of LGBT business champion after cutting ties with a leading Stonewall diversity scheme and disbanding its own LGBT Advisory Panel.

On Friday (10 September) equalities minister Liz Truss announced the appointment of Iain Anderson, executive chairman of public relations firm Cicero, as the UK’s new LGBT business champion.

Anderson has been tasked with driving forward workplace equality, reducing discrimination, and ensuing businesses are doing “all they can” to showcase the UK as an inclusive place to live and work ahead of the first Global LGBT Conference in June 2022.

Many of these goals directly overlap the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme from which the Cabinet Office quietly withdrew in 2019, citing poor “value for money”.

Anderson, who is gay, said: “I am passionate about securing equality in the workplace and I’m delighted to take on this new role.

“It is important that both large and small businesses can unleash the potential of all their LGBT employees and customers. There is an opportunity for the UK to be a world leader on action by business to make this happen.”

The news was welcomed by Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, who highlighted that over a third of LGBT+ people still feel the need to hide who they are at work.

“There is still much to do to ensure all workplaces are truly inclusive,” she said. “We look forward to working closely with Iain and sharing our advice and expertise to help transform workplaces and unlock the potential of LGBTQ+ people across the UK.”

Government accused of attempting to ‘burnish its LGBT+ credentials’ after past failures

However, other LGBT+ activists remain sceptical, including veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell. He told PinkNews he saw the appointment as “progress” but feared it would be used to deflect attention from the government’s shocking LGBT+ record.

“Is this an attempt to undercut Stonewall’s Diversity Champions workplace programme and why is there no LGBT employees champion?” he asked.

“This new post looks like a government attempt to burnish its LGBT+ credentials at a time when it is under attack for disbanding the LGBT advisory board, failing to deliver its promise to ban conversion therapy, and refusing to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

“Plus the Home Office is still detaining and seeking to deport LGBT+ refugees who have fled persecution abroad. Establishing a LGBT business champion is no substitute for action to remedy these Government failings.”

The appointment also drew questions from Jayne Ozanne, who quit the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel in March accusing the Conservatives of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT+ people. The panel was later disbanded after several other members left for similar reasons.

The activist, whose Ozanne Foundation works with religious groups on LGBT+ inclusion and anti-discrimination, told PinkNews: “While I welcome the appointment of Iain Anderson as the new LGBT business champion, I am intrugued by the choice of priorities that this seems to represent.

“The Secretary of State for international trade is right in tackling workplace discrimination of LGBT people. But a greater priority must be tackling the root causes of that discrimination.

“I would hope to see champions in areas of education and hate crime, and working with religious leaders as my own foundation tries to do. That way we will create a society in which LGBT people can be safe and thrive.”