Bi-Visibility Day 2017

 

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This 23 September marks the 18th annual Bi-Visibility Day, also known as Celebrate Bisexuality Day internationally. Every year, the occasion offers an opportunity to showcase the many challenges bisexuals face both within and outside the LGBT+ community.

Bisexuals comprise the single largest segment of the LGBT+ community, yet they are often labelled ‘the invisible majority’. In the workplace it’s no different. According to a 2013 report, bisexual women are eight times less likely to be open with colleagues than lesbians while bisexual men are ten times less likely to be open with their colleagues. With shocking statistics such as these, it’s not difficult to see why Bi-Visibility Day is so important.

At OUTstanding, we are firm believers that being comfortable at work results not only in employees having greater productivity, but greater satisfaction, retention, engagement and - most importantly - happiness! Within our network, we’ve seen some exemplary examples of engagement with Bisexual issues addressing precisely these disparities in experience. This year, panel discussions, speakers and networking events from OUTstanding member firms marked Bi-visibility Day 2017. 

Don’t forget the ‘B’ in LGBT+: Credit Suisse and Barclays launch The Bisexual Guide

A 2009 report from Stonewall found that “bisexual men and women often feel excluded from LGBT employee networks, as these are perceived to primarily cater for lesbians and gay men, with little participation by bisexual employees or focus on bisexual issues.” Needless to say, if employees feel excluded from the very networks meant to support them, there’s an issue.

By shedding more light on bisexual issues and making bisexual employees and their partners, whether they be same or opposite sex, feel welcome at events, great strides towards more inclusive employee networks can be made. The first step in this journey is education. 

On 21st September, Credit Suisse and Barclays launched ‘What’s the B in LGBT’, their Bisexual Guide outlining key statistics, facts and best practice for ensuring bisexual employees feel comfortable within LGBT+ networks and at work. 

The guide is made up of personal anecdotes from bisexual colleagues as well as research addressing the pertinence of bisexual inclusion. Recognising the need for wider reaching messaging from LGBT+ networks and employers at large was a recurring theme. With 49% of young people aged 18-24 self-identifying as something other than 100% heterosexual, the necessity to develop more accepting environments and inclusive policies across the spectrum of sexual and gender identities will be essential to the long term sustainability of businesses as this generation moves into the workforce.

“To Bi, or not to Bi?”: JP Morgan Chase & Co. address the challenges of coming out at work

Not only are bisexuals the least likely group in LGBT+ to disclose their sexuality at work, but they are also the least likely to do so with their GPs or healthcare providers. This often means that bisexual individuals don’t receive adequate sexual health advice or services. Ensuring people feel comfortable being transparent and open about their identities is a challenge that transgresses the workplace, and touches every part of a person’s life. 

With 66% of bisexuals in the UK feeling the need to pass as straight, and 42% feeling the need to pass as gay or lesbian, disclosure and openness is a pervasive challenge for those in the bisexual community (Equality Network, 2015). Normalising bisexuality at work is often overlooked but is essential to absolving the myriad challenges that arise when someone feels uncomfortable disclosing and expressing their sexuality and identity .

“To Bi, or not to Bi?”, a panel discussion hosted by JP Morgan Chase & Co. on 21st September sought to confront this issue. 

Vignesh Ashok, EMEA Diversity & Inclusion Officer, JP Morgan Chase, kicked off the evening highlighting the vital role of an inclusive workplace: “we get to a point where we can’t distinguish between our 9 to 5 and our 5 to 9” and that there reaches a time where you have to be the same person in those two periods of time. This set the tone for a frank discussion of the unique challenges of coming out as bisexual in the workplace.

It was also revealed found that coming out at work can sometimes be a trial by fire for bisexuals. With few bisexuals in leadership roles within internal LGBT employee networks, coming out as bi at work can mean being thrust into the spotlight upon doing so.

While this can be frightening and challenging, it’s vital to progressing inclusion for bisexuals in the workplace. Once bisexual role models and leaders within an organisation make themselves visible, it becomes easier for others to come to them for advice and support and, inevitably, feel more comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. 

The panel offered some overarching advice for building a better environment for bisexual inclusion:

  • Be Visible: Coming out at work isn’t just for you, doing so can help others come forward as well.
  • Run profiles of bisexuals: Use internal communications and LGBT+ networks to highlight stories of prominent bisexuals in history and at work
  • Educate and equip: Being bisexual often means being asked for more evidence and explanation. Make sure employees are comfortable and equipped to educate themselves and others on bisexual issues. Equip bisexual employees in particular with the tools and skills to become leaders within employee networks and the organisation at large.