BP AND NATWEST VANISH FROM TOP 100 LGBTQ FIRMS LIST – AND WON’T SAY WHY
* GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE *
Mystery surrounds the disappearance of several big companies from Stonewall’s annual list of the UK’s top 100 LGBTQ+ employers, following an exclusive investigation by Graduate Fog published on the eve of Pride month, which starts on 1 June.
While many top employers that ranked highly in 2022 are also prominent in the 2023 list, BP, NatWest, law firm Slaughter and May and the Bank of England are all missing from the list (also known as the Workplace Equality Index, or WEI) – as is Macquarie, the professional services firm that topped the list in 2022.
None of these firms has provided an explanation for their absence. Additionally, they have declined to confirm that they are still members of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme, the benchmarking system designed to guide employers through how to be LGBTQ+ inclusive.
Meanwhile, the law firm Allen & Overy gave no comment about their absence from the Workplace Equality Index, but confirmed they are still part of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme.
This reaction to questions about Stonewall may or may not be significant.
Is these firms’ disappearance a sign that their confidence in Stonewall is wavering – perhaps due to negative media coverage about the organisation, concerns about the legal validity of its recommendations, and/or discomfort with the organisation’s ‘no debate’ approach to discussions about how best to include trans and non-binary people in the workplace, as well as in wider society?
Are these companies seeking alternative ways to show their support for their LGBTQ+ staff –without working with Stonewall? Is completing the forms to apply for the Workplace Equality Index simply too time-consuming for busy teams facing budget cuts and redundancies?
Or did these companies just not bother to reply to our enquiries, because they’re too busy?
Given all these companies’ publicly-stated support for LGBTQ+ people, their enthusiasm for supporting their staff, and their desire to present themselves as an inclusive place to work (especially to young people), it seems unlikely they have abandoned this group.
However, big brands are notoriously risk-averse, and if they have identified potential legal exposure and danger of facing litigation from following unsound advice, then it is likely that they would be considering steps to distance themselves from Stonewall – ideally, without drawing public attention to any such move, for fear of appearing to abandon the LGBTQ+ community. Industry insiders have suggested to Graduate Fog that quietly slipping off Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index could be an appealing way to do this.
In all honesty, it is a mixed picture – and it’s possible that multiple factors are at play. We just don’t know. See what you think…
WHY ARE WE ASKING?
When the 2023 list was announced in February, Graduate Fog noted that several big employers named in the 2022 list are absent this year and we wondered why that might be.
Understanding that some members of the LGBTQ+ community feel particularly vulnerable at present – including those who identify as trans or non-binary – it seemed odd for these employers to show less support for those groups than they did last year.
Is it possible that these firms wish to continue to support these groups – they’d just prefer to do it without Stonewall? Since the list was published, Graduate Fog has asked (and chased) their press offices to clarify their position.
WHAT DID WE ASK?
We sent the following email to the press offices at the organisations in question:
I note that [organisation name] does not appear on the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list for 2023, having been ranked at number [X] in 2022.
I would be grateful if a spokesperson for [organisation name] could respond to the following questions within 24 hours:
1. What has [organisation name]’s relationship been with Stonewall, in recent years?
2. Did [organisation name] submit an entry for the Stonewall employers rankings list, this year?
3. If not, why was that decision taken?
4. If [organisation name] did make a submission and a decision was made to pull out before the list’s publication, why was that decision made?
5. Going forward, will [organisation name] continue to work with Stonewall, and in what capacity?
Where their response to Question 1 did not address whether they were still a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme, we sent a follow-up email asking them to clarify that.
WHAT DID THEY SAY?
Here is a list of the biggest organisations that are missing from Stonewall’s 2023 Top 100 LGBTQ+ employers list, having appeared on the 2022 list. For each, we have stated their position in the 2022 list. To provide a snapshot of their response, we have distilled it ‘In summary’ – but please note these are not direct quotes so should not be attributed to these firms. Where a statement was provided by the employer, we have pasted it below.
We have also noted each firm’s response to being asked whether they are still members of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme. Only Stonewall Diversity Champions can apply to the Workplace Equality Index, but there is no obligation for them to do so.
At the end of this list, we have included a quote from Stonewall in response to our enquiries.
2022 ranking: 46
In summary: No response
What happened? BP failed to respond to our questions about why they do not appear on the 2023 list. Nor did they confirm that they are still a Stonewall Diversity Champion.
2022 ranking: =49
In summary: No response
What happened? NatWest’s press office did not reply to questions about their absence from the 2023 Workplace Equality Index, or whether they are still a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme.
2022 ranking: 8
In summary: No response
What happened? We chased their press office several times to ask why they had not appeared on the Top 100 list for 2023, but nobody replied – even to say ‘No comment.’ No-one replied when we asked whether Slaughter and May is still part of the Stonewall Diversity Champion scheme, either.
2022 ranking: 57
In summary: No comment
What happened? A spokesperson replied:
“I don’t have a comment on the record for you.”
They also refused to confirm whether the Bank of England is still a Stonewall Diversity Champion.
2022 ranking: 1
In summary: No comment
What happened? After we said Graduate Fog only accepted on-the-record comment (ie. Information we can publish and attribute to their press office), a spokesperson said: ‘Sadly, we’ll have to decline to comment.’ However they confirmed that they are still part of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme.
2022 ranking: 40
In summary: No explanation for their WEI absence – but they are still a Stonewall Diversity Champion
What happened? Allen & Overy’s press office declined to comment about their absence from the 2023 WEI. However, the law firm confirmed that they are still a Stonewall Diversity Champion.
2022 ranking: 7
In summary: We are refreshing our structures
What happened? A spokesperson for Cardiff University said: Cardiff University did not submit to the last round of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which is why we are not featured in this year’s list.
This was an active decision taken at a time where we are refreshing our structures and processes for equality, diversity and inclusion. This has allowed us to take stock of where we are in relation to LGBTQ+ equality in the organisation, and to look at what we need to do next to take forward our priorities.
Given current timescales, we are still considering whether we can submit an application to the next round.
We recognise the valuable role Stonewall plays in supporting us to develop policies and practices that help our LGBTQ+ community know they are welcome and valued. Cardiff University remains a member of Stonewall Diversity Champions. Our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community is longstanding and non-negotiable and we are proud to have been regularly recognised over many years as being one of the leading employers in the UK for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
We’re committed to ensuring we are an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ learners, students and staff.
2022 ranking: 10
In summary: We review our partner organisations from time-to-time
What happened? A press officer for the law firm replied to our questions:
• What has Pinsent Masons’ relationship been with Stonewall, in recent years? We continue to engage with Stonewall and collaborate with the charity to help support our business in our D&I journey
• Did Pinsent Masons submit an entry for the Stonewall employers rankings list, this year? No
• If not, why was that decision taken? Over our 15-year journey with Stonewall we’ve benefited significantly from its expertise and have embedded meaningful change which supports our LGBT+ community. As you might expect of any organisation, we review our partner organisations from time-to-time and reassess our inclusion aims, ambitions and strategic priorities. In order to continue to promote a diverse, inclusive and equal workplace wherever our people are based, we’re recalibrating our LGBT+ inclusion efforts to suit our global workforce. With this in mind we’ve decided to channel our efforts into our multinational D&I programme.
• If Pinsent Masons did make a submission and a decision was made to pull out before the list’s publication, why was that decision made?
• Going forward, will Pinsent Masons continue to work with Stonewall, and in what capacity? Yes we will continue to work with Stonewall on a range of initiatives including submitting into its Global Workplace Equality Index
The press officer also confirmed that Pinsent Masons is still a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme.
2022 ranking: 18
In summary: We are undertaking other activities to help drive progress and impact on LGBTQ+
What happened? A press officer for the law firm answered all our questions – including confirming that they are still a Stonewall Diversity Champion. Here is what they said:
• 1. What has Eversheds Sutherland’s relationship been with Stonewall, in recent years? Eversheds Sutherland has been a Diversity Champion member of Stonewall for a number of years. This membership provides us with access to support and resources which are aligned with our focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion as a D&I priority. Feedback received from the Workplace Equality Index is taken into consideration when determining future focus and activity.
• 2. Did Eversheds Sutherland submit an entry for the Stonewall employers rankings list, this year? No, we did not submit an entry in 2022.
• 3. If not, why was that decision taken? The decision was taken to undertake other activities to help drive progress and impact in our business.
• 4. Going forward, will Eversheds Sutherland continue to work with Stonewall, and in what capacity? We continue to be a Diversity Champion member and to access Stonewall resources in support of our LGBTQ+ inclusion goals. A recent example is their support in facilitating a workshop on gender identity and trans inclusion for members of our LGBTQ+ and Allies network during LGBT+ History Month, this month.
2023 ranking: 33
In summary: We’re working on last year’s feedback
What happened? A press officer replied with a short statement:
Teach First continues to be a Stonewall Diversity Champion and has taken part in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index on several occasions.
In 2022 we received Gold status and featured in the top 40 employers. The reason we decided not to submit this year was because after receiving last years feedback, we and our LGBTQ+ affinity group decided to prioritise our time by considering how best to implement improvements for our staff.
2022 ranking: 37
In summary: We didn’t apply this year, but we’re still a Stonewall Diversity Champion
What happened? Their press office provided this statement:
“Following our success in the 2022 Workplace Equality Index (WEI), Surrey Police did not submit an application to this year’s WEI.
Chief Superintendent Clive Davies, LGBTQ+ lead for the force says; “We were so proud to achieve our highest ever ranking of 37 in 2022’s WEI and alongside that the gold award for LGBTQ+ inclusion. We are committed to further enhancing the support we provide to all LGBTQ+ communities and colleagues, and to being members of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme.
Our aspiration is to create a genuinely inclusive workplace where everyone can be themselves and thrive.”
2022 ranking: 47
In summary: We apply every other year
What happened? A Camden Council spokesperson said:
“Camden are proud of our status as a leading LGBTQ inclusive employer. We use the Stonewall index as a benchmarking exercise every two years to ensure that we are undertaking the actions recommended, and as we applied last year we didn’t make an application this year in line with this approach.
“We continue to promote our Stonewall listing on our recruitment materials and work with all our partners, including Stonewall, to ensure we provide an inclusive workplace and accessible and relevant services to the LGBTQ+ community.”
GSK #=49 last year
In summary: We’ve had a busy year so we didn’t apply
What happened? The pharmaceutical firm’s press office replied with the following statement, attributed to a GSK spokesperson:
“2022 was a landmark year for GSK as the company went through the most significant corporate change in 20 years with the demerger and separation of the Consumer Healthcare business. For this reason, last year we did not submit an entry for the UK Stonewall Top Employers Rankings 2023. We remain fully committed to diversity and inclusion and are in the process of submitting an entry for the Stonewall Global Workplace Equality Index 2023. We also intend to submit an entry for the UK 2024 rankings.”
They later confirmed that GSK is still a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme.
“As part of the wider Action on Inclusion strategy the House of Lords decided not to renew its membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme in February 2022. This was when our renewal lapsed, and was announced in the media at the time.
“This follows an assessment of the benefits we received against the costs of the programme. The decision was taken following consultation with ParliOUT, Parliament’s LGBT+ Workplace Equality Network, and ParliGender, Parliament’s Gender Workplace Equality Network. The House of Lords administration remains passionately committed to delivering a more inclusive workplace for our LGBT+ colleagues.”
2022 ranking: 64
In summary: We apply periodically, not annually
What happened? A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “Since we joined Stonewall we have submitted to the Workplace Equality Index periodically, but not annually. We remain committed to LGBT+ inclusion.”
When we asked them to clarify their current relationship with Stonewall, they said:
The University’s relationship with Stonewall has not changed over the last 12 months.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness is a priority for EY and we enter a number of different awards to benchmark our progress and support continuous improvements in the business. We were proud to be recognised as a Top 100 employer in last year’s Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and also received a Gold Award. While EY didn’t enter a submission for this year’s Index, we will be applying in 2024. Applying for the programme every other year gives us the time to action recommendations and embed new initiatives across the UK business to create sustainable change.
EY continues to be a long-term supporter of Stonewall and has sponsored Student Pride for over 10 years. EY also continues to be a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme.
… AND WHAT DID STONEWALL SAY?
To: Stonewall Press Office
From: Graduate Fog
Subject: 2023 Top 100 Employers list
I hope you can help me – I am new to the details of the various initiatives that Stonewall runs with employers, and I have a number of questions:
1. Where can I find the Stonewall Top 100 Employers lists for 2021 and 2020? I am having difficulty finding this on your website, but perhaps I am looking in the wrong place.
2. Could you please confirm that the 2022 list on Pink News is accurate – and/or direct me to a Stonewall link showing the same list? (All the links I have found on Stonewall lead to the 2023 list)
3. Could you please clarify whether the ‘Top 100 Employers’ list is the same as the ‘Stonewall Diversity Index’ (as I have seen both terms used)?
4. Could you clarify the difference between Stonewall’s UK list of top employers, and the Global list? For example, is one less stringent than the other? Is the cost of entering the same for both lists?
5. Could you provide the latest questionnaires / list of requirements that are given to employers who expressed interest in preparing a submission for 2023 – both the UK list and the Global list?
This was Stonewall’s initial reply:
To: Graduate Fog
From: Stonewall Press Office
A Spokesperson for Stonewall said ” We are incredibly proud of our Diversity Champions programme and Workplace Equality Index, which are voluntary initiatives designed to support organisations to create more inclusive workplaces for their LGBTQ+ employees. All of us perform better when we can be ourselves, and it would be hard to make a case that anyone is adversely affected by policies that give gay, lesbian, bi and trans employees the same opportunity in the workplace to thrive as anyone else.
Our guidance does not urge employers to take specific actions but asks what steps they have put in place to support their LGBTQ+ employees as they want to meet the needs of their diverse workforces.”
Further answers and background information:
The Top 100 list is the top 100 employers who enter the Workplace Equality Index (WEI). There are Gold/Silver/Bronze awards that are given to a wider range of Workplace Equality Index entrants (based on fixed score thresholds), including but not limited to the Top 100. It’s up to employers how much they want to publicise their gold/silver/bronze award – we don’t publish this list.
The global list is the top employers who enter the Global Workplace Equality Index, which is a separate but similar index, for multinational employers only.
Please see our website here for further information.
Entering our Workplace Equality Indices (WEI) is free of charge for all entrants as part of our charitable work and it is available to both member and non-member organisations of the Diversity Champions programme.
It’s important to note not to make any assumptions about specific organisations’ efforts to join the WEI, as we provide each of them with individualised feedback. The WEI operates on a ranking system, which means that if there are more organisations that are performing better and are also new entrants, they may push out other organisations, previously highly performing, down the list, even below the top 100. We strive to provide fair and objective evaluations for all organisations participating in the WEI. Stonewall only ever published the top 100 in a year so some organisations appearing in the top 100 in one year, but not in another does not necessarily mean that they have not participated
Many organisations appear in two-year cycles, others take a year out to implement proposed changes.
The 2023 Top 100 is one of the most diverse groups of entrants we have ever seen.
We followed up with the following:
To: Stonewall Press Office
From: Graduate Fog
Thank you for your previous email – from which I note all your points.
Please could you share the 2020 and 2021 lists, for Stonewall’s Top 100 employers lists? I am still unable to find these.
Also please could you confirm whether the following organisations are still members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme:
• Slaughter and May
• Pinsent Masons
• Allen & Overy
• Camden Council
• Bank of England
• University of Bristol
…to which Stonewall replied:
To: Graduate Fog
From: Stonewall Press Office
please see here for the 2020 report, which is online. We didn’t do 2021 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and based on the feedback we received from organisations at the time.
Please note again, that the Workplace Equality Index is separate from the Diversity Champion’s programme. Any workplace can choose to put itself forward for the workplace index, but not all DCs choose to be part of WEI each year. Workplace Equality Index entries are free of charge as part of our charitable efforts.
We can’t disclose the details and confirm specific memberships of our Diversity Champions. It is up to them to disclose that information.
* WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Based on the evidence above, do you think employers are distancing themselves from Stonewall? If they are, what could that mean?