Ofcom has joined the exodus from the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme. The explanation came in a carefully worded statement yesterday in which the communications regulator explained that their, ‘commitment to supporting the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people is as strong as ever.’
So it should be, but we are living in strange times. Sex has been conflated with gender, transsexual with transvestite (we are all transgender now), and support for anything LGBTQWERTY has been conflated with complying with what Stonewall think. Ofcom seem to agree; their statement concludes:
‘We will continue to participate in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which is widely recognised as a strong benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace.’Ofcom
From a teacher’s perspective this looks like Ofcom have decided not to pay for any more lessons but will still sit the end of year test. I wish them luck with that. But really, I wonder why they are so concerned. Supporting LGBTQ+ people – to use their terminology – is not rocket science. We are human beings the same as everyone else. What we need is to be treated no less favourably, and our right to do so is enshrined in the Equality Act itself.
But often membership of the Diversity Champions scheme is not about doing the right thing – many employers do that without going anywhere near Stonewall – it is about being seen to be doing the right thing. Image matters, though the organisations that plaster the Stonewall Diversity Champions logo on their website are perhaps more interested in listening to Stonewall than following the law. Earlier this year, a report into the mistreatment of two female professors by Essex University found that the university’s policy, ‘states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is. To that extent the policy is misleading.’
So perhaps Ofcom’s decision was inevitable? It was certainly a very strange arrangement for an independent regulator to be advised by any organisation that an independent report said misrepresented the law. Ofcom now seem to recognise that Stonewall may not be as impartial as many had naively imagined:
‘As the communications regulator, an important part of our responsibility is to ensure we remain impartial and independent at all times.’Ofcom
Better now than later, perhaps. But hundreds of organisations continue to hand over large sums of money to Stonewall every year. Whether it is out of fear, habit or ignorance, they need to reassess their relationship with Stonewall and at the bare minimum, conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
As more organisations jump ship – and earlier this year, Liz Truss pushed for government departments to withdraw from the scheme – those left behind risk being associated directly with the ideology that Stonewall is pushing. Although they say they are campaigning for transgender rights, they are committed to removing safeguards for those who are transitioning – such as the medical reports currently needed to change our legal gender – and enshrining gender identity in UK Law.
Ofcom is better off without them. In future it should also eschew Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index and focus on what really matters: treating all staff, clients and customers with dignity and respect.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 26 August 2021: Ofcom is right to leave Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme.