Our network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) employees has been leading staff in Pride Month celebrations across Britain.
This month, Archway’s members have attended events in York and Edinburgh, having kicked off Pride’s summer season in Birmingham in May. The big Pride event in London on 6 July is expected to draw the largest number of Network Rail employees.
Subsequent events will include the huge Sparkle Weekend in Manchester from 12 July to 14 July, which each year celebrates gender diversity.
In August, Archway members – and their allies, who help promote a diverse workplace – will join in at Pride events from Glasgow to Cornwall.
It gives people the chance to influence policy making across Network Rail and the opportunity to meet colleagues in a more social atmosphere through events and talks around Britain.
Archway’s membership now stands at about 500, with 125 new members joining last year – the highest rate of growth in its five-year history.
It’s not just for Network Rail employees, however. People from train operating companies, our supply chain and industry body Rail Delivery Group can also join.
LGBT History Month
Archway took part in LGBT History Month, which promotes equality and diversity throughout February. It’s an important time of the year for the employee network.
Babak Erfani, chair of Archway, said: “There’s often a perception in society that LGBT people have all the rights they need and there are no issues out there. It’s only when we’re talking about our past that we think about issues that still exist in the present.”
Archway’s members have been marking LGBT History Month with a visit to Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, to learn more about the enormous influence of mathematician Alan Turing and reflect on his treatment as a gay man by the state after WW2.
Babak said: “It should be in our collective memory but it quickly fades. There’s an importance in making people realise laws have changed but society fundamentally can be problematic for LGBT people. We do need to talk about these things because they do have an impact on people at work.”
Also for LGBT History Month, Archway is hosting a talk on Network Rail’s South East route about the employee network’s activities and why Archway is important to the company.
Best LGBT network
Archway was founded in 2013. In 2017 it was named the top LGBT+ employee network in Britain for improving the lives of LGBT people at the British LGBT awards.
Babak and Jane Owen, Archway member and former chair of the national transgender charity Sparkle, have received honours for services to the LGBT community. Babak was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2017 and Jane was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List.
Influencing positive change
In 2017, Archway launched its first conference, Building LGBT Inclusive Workplaces. The event was part of an Archway campaign to drive LGBT inclusion in all our workplaces, from depots to engineering yards and track-side to corporate offices. It featured seminars, workshops, a Q&A and presentations hosted by external leaders in LGBT inclusion as well as from Network Rail and the wider rail industry.
Archway recognises that forming allies – colleagues outside the LGBT community – is an effective way to influence positive change. Its new allies training programme is an industry first that aims to help more colleagues understand how they can support LGBT people in the workplace.
Babak hopes that in Control Period 6 – Network Rail’s next five-year budget and planning period, which started in April – the training will become standard.
He said: “Our role is to create the atmosphere, create the conditions, get the right stuff in place for training so our allies can be empowered and the people who will make a difference are cisgender and straight. Having it recognised as a proper course is recognition of that inclusion.”
Archway has been helping to raise awareness of LGBT inclusion in the company for the past four years. Across the country we’ve met thousands of colleagues – giving briefings at conferences, holding drop-in events, lunch-and-learns and working with individuals and teams – and these have helped raise awareness of some of the challenges the LGBT community faces at work and beyond.Babak Erfani, commercial scheme sponsor and chair of Archway