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Gentoo Group: Creating an Inclusive and Supportive Workplace

Gentoo Group: Creating an Inclusive and Supportive Workplace

Earlier this year, Gentoo Group was named the second most inclusive UK employer by LGBT equality charity Stonewall in its Top 100 Employers list for 2020. Lucy Malarkey from Gentoo Group tells us more about how they have created an inclusive and supportive workplace and how they support the wellbeing of their LGBT staff and tenants.

We've been placed second in the Top 100 list for the work we've specifically done to successfully engage with our LGBT tenants to improve our housing services in Sunderland. Gentoo is a housing association based in Sunderland. We manage over 28,000 homes with 1,200 staff. Our vision is about strong communities and inspired people, and we truly believe that inclusive communities are stronger and staff can be more inspired in a workplace that enables them to be themselves.

With corporate values which include ‘give us all you’ve got’, our culture has, at its heart, a respect for diversity and an understanding that to create an inclusive workplace the mental wellbeing of our colleagues is critical. So, what we have focused our work on is creating a supportive and inclusive workplace and working environment for our colleagues and the communities in which we operate.

In creating a supportive environment in the workplace and in the communities in which we operate, we have:

  1. Established an LGBT Staff Network Group and Diversity Allies Programme.

  2. Established a Mental Wellbeing Champions Group – a group of staff who volunteered and have received training to be able to provide advice and support to colleagues. Several members of this group are from the LGBT community, others are members of our Diversity Allies programme.

  3. Actively supported and promoted local and national campaigns/events and used them to engage and inform colleagues about LGBT issues and mental wellbeing.

  4. Provided staff with access to an Employee Assistance Programme – a free and confidential service offering independent support, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  5. Worked with our LGBT colleagues to ensure that we have family friendly policies – explicitly supporting all colleagues regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.

  6. Introduced visible signals of support, from Gender Neutral toilets to encouraging our allies to wear rainbow lanyards.

  7. Continuous training and awareness raising for all staff, starting from staff induction to annual Diversi’tea’ events and using all media in between from washroom media to our internal workplace.


And for us, it doesn’t just stop with staff, we have a duty of care to our tenants and communities, ensuring that our actions are not just tokenistic but meaningful for all.

We carry out surveys within all of our household gathering data about our tenants. The data collected gives us the insight needed to understand our tenants and ensure that we are able to provide the right support to those that need it. Being a visible presence at events like Pride is also important to us, it lets the wider community know that we are inclusive and supportive of the LGBT community.

And since COVID-19?

COVID-19 and the lockdown have had a huge impact on all of our lives and we recognise that some parts of the LGBT community have been particularly hard hit.

During lockdown we have continued work with the Police and Local Authority to understand the ongoing issues that are affecting the LGBT community so we can continue to provide the support needed to ensure that our communities are strong and full of inspired people.

And whilst we have been unable to celebrate events like IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) and Pride in person we have ensured that we have marked the occasions – a quiz for colleagues to celebrate IDAHOBIT and a range of activities during Pride month, from a blog by our Chief Executive to being part of the local virtual Pride event.

Author: Lucy Malarkey, Director (Customer) at Gentoo Group

Image courtesy of Gentoo Group

Thanks to Lucy Malarkey at Gentoo Group for sharing this article. Find out more about Gentoo Group here.

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