The GWN were thrilled to partner with the Institute of Directors on the launch of Pride in Business, their LGBTQ+ network, on the evening before the Pride in London March in their headquarters on Pall Mall.

The Institute of Directors has supported businesses and business leaders for over 100 years. They have 30,000 members and 48 regional branches across the UK.

As the committee members walked towards the IoD building, architected by John Nash in 1828, their home since the 1970s, we were greeted by the welcoming sight of a rainbow flag flying on the location’s flagpole.

Walking up the grand staircase to the launch party, we couldn’t help feeling a great sense of pride in the Gay Women’s Network, and especially committee member Zoe Chowney, for being instrumental in the IoD network becoming a reality. Other community partners that were involved included Intertech, TLA and Series Q.

The first speaker was director general Stephen Martin who spoke about the history of the building, the IoD and how they had evolved to adapt to the ever changing business world. Steve also spoke about how pleased the IoD was to support the LGBTQ+ community and be a more inclusive organisation for business leaders.

Liz Bingham OBE, who has recently retired but was a managing partner at EY, then relayed a personal story about one of her young colleagues Joe. Joe was a young accountant from Belfast in his mid 20s and was scared to come out. He heard Liz speak and tentatively wrote an email to come out, firstly to her, himself and to a couple of his close friends. He then connected with the LGBT network group in the company. Some time after that Joe sent Liz an email entitled Justin Bieber. In the email he explained that he had come out to his aunt, uncle and cousin. His cousin was fan of Justin Bieber and was under the impression that he was gay so thought the news was cool. Some time after that he came out to his grandma and his confidence was slowly growing. He went on to be promoted, joined the employee council and qualified as one of the top 5 accountants in the UK. Liz told Joe’s story as an example of being able to be yourself in the workplace being good for business and for realising the potential of employees.

The last speaker was Iain Anderson, Executive Chairman of Cicero Group. Iain commented on how change has happened very quickly in this space but until all FTSE 100 companies can be seen taking part in the Pride march every year our job is not done. He spoke about the importance of the LGBT corporate diversity attitude shift contributing to permanent international change – he feels strongly that businesses should use their power to lobby in countries where there are no or few LGBT rights to fight for equality. He highlighted the fact that 62 to 70 percent of millennials go back into the closet when they leave education and that this needs to change.

Iain also spoke about the IoD’s 99 Membership, for entrepreneurs and start-ups and its diverse membership.

It was great to see the networking in action – not only was this a very enjoyable event, it was a great milestone for the IoD. The GWN are very proud to be a partner of the Pride in Business network launch.

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