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Inclusion is incredibly important to us at M&S. It’s great to see the progress the LGBT colleague network has made in driving diversity throughout our business and I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.
Paul Friston, International Director & Inclusion Group Chair
From starting out as a Penny Bazaar at Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884, today M&S is an international multichannel retailer – and one of Britain’s best loved shops. M&S are committed to “making every moment special” for their customers, through the food, clothing and home products sold in their 1,400+ stores worldwide and online.
As part of their diversity agenda, and with endorsement from the M&S senior management team, in 2015, M&S joined Stonewall, the charity that campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across Britain.
They were keen to understand industry best practices to lead the business focus on LGBT, bring colleagues into the conversations to advance gender discussion, and create a colleague network. Connected through Stonewall, Barclays partnered with M&S from day one of this journey. They arranged a kick off meeting where Barclays shared learnings around the strategy, purpose and brand of an LGBT network, based on Spectrum, the colleague network which focuses on supporting LGBT people within Barclays.
It was clear from the discussions that the network would best succeed if linked with the business, and so M&S’ diversity strategy and business objectives were aligned from the outset.
The companies continued to meet to explore how to promote an LGBT agenda within M&S, focusing on earning senior leadership support, creating activity for colleague engagement, and developing an ally network.
Excited about driving this forward in their own business, the M&S team set themselves an ambitious target of supporting a local pride and six weeks later, knowing they had this deadline to hit, everyone rallied. In July 2016, M&S proudly took part in Pride in London, presenting the business as an inclusive place to work with their rainbow branded stores lining the Pride route. It was more than just showing their customers and colleagues that M&S is an inclusive place to work and shop; it marked the official creation of their new network – LGBT+ @M&S.
Three years on, LGBT is now part of the BAU marketing plan and built into all activity. As a business, they have climbed 250 places in the Stonewall Equality Index, showing the great progress they have made in positioning M&S as an equality employer.
“Early on, we realised the effectiveness of social media for colleagues and customers.” David Barnes, Communications Manager at M&S. Taking learnings from Barclays, M&S established an internal Facebook group to reach colleagues across their sites, alongside their Yammer connection tool, which provides a place for colleagues to raise questions, share ideas, connect with each other and work together to make sure M&S is a great place to work for everybody.
In continued partnership with Barclays, M&S are committed to moving the agenda forward. Network activity will be built into colleague objectives, and with the support of the leadership team, they hope to see an ally programme establish and start to gather momentum. Based on guidance from Barclays, M&S have created LGBT awareness within the business with visible cues around the business, so that colleagues can show it’s an inclusive workplace, and open up opportunities to discuss what was previously an unspoken subject.
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