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Uplifting Queer Voices: Empowering LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Heat Network Industry

DHN Pride month

This June, as part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Diverse Heat Network (DHN) hosted a powerful webinar "Uplifting Queer Voices: Empowering LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Heat Network Industry." Held during Pride Month, this event brought together professionals from across the sector to discuss, deliberate, and share their experiences regarding LGBTQ+ inclusion within the rapidly evolving heat network industry.

Event Overview

The webinar featured a panel of distinguished speakers including Ethan St. Catherine, a graduate engineer at FairHeat and DHN member; Rachael Gilbert, Junior Building Services Engineer at BDP, Studio Rep for BDP Belonging, Co-Chair of Building Equality Greater Manchester, and key player in the relaunch of WiBSE: Women in Building Services Engineering (a CIBSE Network) in Manchester; Lewis McKenzie, Committee Member of Pride in Energy and Principal (Energy & Utilities) at Moorhouse Consulting; and Meike Imberg, Consultant for Organisational Transformation and Change Management at Nortal, Germany. These speakers shared their personal journeys and professional insights, making a compelling case for why LGBTQ+ inclusion is not just necessary but beneficial for the industry.

Key Discussions and Takeaways

Starting Strong

The conversation kicked off with the importance of embedding LGBTQ+ inclusion right from the start. Meike Imberg reflected on personal experiences, emphasizing, "We need explicit conversations about what it’s like to be an LGBT person in our industry because there isn't yet a lot done for diversity and inclusion."

Navigating Challenges and Barriers

Panelists shared personal stories about the challenges they faced as queer individuals in the workplace. Lewis McKenzie highlighted, "30% of LGBT+ individuals are not out at their workplace, which affects their productivity and mental health." These discussions shed light on the ongoing struggles within professional settings.

Creating Inclusive Work Environments

The panel provided actionable advice for organisations looking to create more inclusive environments. Rachael Gilbert suggested, "If you are in a position to influence policies, ensure your company invests in training and implements transitioning policies to support staff effectively."

Engagement and Allyship

The importance of engaging not just the LGBTQ+ community but also allies within the workplace was a focal point. Meike Imberg stated, "It's about creating chatter and presence around inclusion topics so they become unavoidable and a natural part of organissational culture."

Questions from the Audience

The webinar was highly interactive, with participants asking insightful questions about how to handle specific inclusion issues in the workplace and beyond. These discussions highlighted the community's eagerness to learn and support one another, underscoring the importance of continued dialogue.

How can we create a safer and more inclusive environment for transgender employees in the heat network industry?

Answer from Lewis McKenzie: "Creating a safer space for transgender colleagues starts with robust company policies that explicitly protect against discrimination and support gender identity. Education plays a key role here; conducting workshops that foster understanding and acceptance can change workplace culture significantly. Also, simple steps like ensuring access to appropriate restroom facilities and using correct pronouns can make a big difference."

What practical steps can managers take to show support for LGBTQ+ employees?

Answer from Rachael Gilbert: "Managers can demonstrate their support by being proactive in their inclusivity efforts—this includes everything from organising training sessions to openly celebrating Pride and other important dates within the LGBTQ+ calendar. A very impactful step is to establish clear channels for LGBTQ+ employees to express concerns without fear of repercussion. It’s also crucial for managers to lead by example, showing respect and support through their everyday actions and interactions."

Can you provide examples of how to effectively address unconscious bias within the workplace?

Answer from Meike Imberg: "Addressing unconscious bias begins with awareness. One effective strategy is to implement regular training sessions that help employees recognise their biases. Another approach is to encourage diverse hiring panels and decision-making bodies within the organisation. It's also beneficial to have open, facilitated discussions where employees can share experiences and learn from each other. Remember, the goal is to foster an environment where everyone is conscious of their biases and actively works to mitigate their impact."

As the webinar wrapped up, the speakers reiterated the significance of taking the conversations forward and integrating the learnings into daily corporate practices. Ethan St. Catherine concluded, "This is not just a discussion for Pride Month but a continuous effort throughout the year to ensure we are fostering an inclusive environment." Ethan went on to write an excellent blog about thoughts that inspired this webinar, check it out here.

Watch the Full Webinar

For those who missed the live session or wish to revisit the discussions, we have made the recording available below. We encourage everyone to view it, share it, and continue the conversation in their networks.

We thank all our panelists and attendees for making this event a success and look forward to hosting more enlightening sessions. Let's keep the momentum going and work together towards a more inclusive heat network industry.

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