As part of LGBT History Month, we’re highlighting the stories of LGB* civil servants and Civil Service diversity networks. Julie Pope works at HM Revenue and Customs. She writes about the important of networks and visible LGBT people in the workplace.

I’m a writer in my spare time, so stories are important to me. My characters have voices that want to be heard, a tale to tell and a message to convey. My LGBT activism is much the same.

I work to make sure that those with perhaps not the loudest voices, or those who are reluctant to come forward, are still counted and valued, and have their stories told.

I joined the Inland Revenue in September 2000. Back then there wasn’t much in the way of LGBT support. When, the department merged with Customs and Excise and became HM Revenue and Customs in 2006, there was a new energy to support LGBT staff and things have been getting better ever since.

Now, our network is active and pushing for an evermore inclusive workplace. We regularly consult with LGBT staff and network members across HMRC, and we make positive changes to the way the department works led by their needs. We wouldn’t be the inclusive employer we are today without the work of LGBT staff as part of this network over the past decade.

I’m mightily proud of the progress we’ve made. I’m particularly proud that we’ve been recognised for that progress. Over the last 10 years, HMRC has featured prominently in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index Top 100; and in 2010 we were recognised as the 8th most inclusive employer in the country. Of course, even with this progress, there is still much to be done, both in my own department and the wider Civil Service.

The Civil Service has supported great progress on the legal rights of LGBT people, but attitude and cultural changes take far longer. LGBT History Month for me is not about the well-known pioneers of change; it’s about the ordinary folk who turn up for work each morning and talk openly about their same sex partner, and who are unapologetically themselves in the workplace. Their stories inspire others by osmosis. You can’t legislate to fix culture, but you can be a role model in your workplace.

The essence of staff networks will always be the people. Our unique stories of self-discovery and coming out, of falling in and out of love and of how we pull together in the face of adversity inspire others. I’ve made so many friends and contacts across the UK from my work with the HM Revenue & Customs LGBT Network. I’ve been exposed to a plethora of people and their stories and have become a richer person because of it. I still have much to learn, more people to meet and more stories to hear.


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