26 March 2014
CSRA Volunteer and Ministry of Justice civil servant, Charlotte Jackson, writes about lesbian and bi women’s visibility on International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day should always be a day of reflection, whether it be celebrating the achievements of our female colleagues or highlighting challenge or adversity and how we as women can overcome that. However this year, and perhaps more than ever because of my recent appointment as Women’s Officer as CSRA, I have been reflecting on the progress of lesbian and bisexual women in the civil service.
A quick Google search on the issue yielded scant results in terms of stories to tell, so the only perspective I have to share is my own. In doing that I must start by asking a controversial question – where are all lesbian and bisexual women in the civil service? Where are our proud champions or our senior role models? Where are the women who will stand up and say that even though they and their job is not defined by their sexuality, they recognise that visibility matters and that by being visible they may just make another woman’s personal journey a little easier because they now know that they are not the only one?
For me personally it’s about breaking down those myths and stereotypes that may exist about lesbian or bisexual women. It’s about challenging those instances of unconscious bias where we may be judged differently because what others believe or perceive us to be or how we may compare to our heterosexual counterparts. By having more visible numbers our message is stronger because we have a louder voice; stereotypes are challenged because greater numbers equal greater diversity; and we have more role models to draw upon from a broader range of grades, role and departments in order to showcase and celebrate the achievements of our lesbian and bisexual colleagues. And with all of that comes solidarity – that other women who may not be as confident or open about their sexuality now have someone to learn from or something to aspire to in the future.
Our recent women only drinks event showed promising numbers, but it was probably only a fraction of our true reach or even the reach of female members in CSRA. So my second question to our female membership is what are the important issues for you as a lesbian or bisexual woman in the civil service? And what do we need to do to encourage you to be more visible within CSRA and ultimately the civil service? Do get in touch with me to share your thoughts and views.