Royal Trinity Hospice hosted author and former Chief Executive of BP Lord Browne of Madingley last night to talk about his experiences and his book, The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out is Good for Business. The event was hosted by Trinity’s LGBT Friends group as part of Trinity’s ongoing work to build links with the LGBT community.

Lord Browne spent 40 years working for BP including 12 years as Chief Executive. He transformed the firm into one of the world’s largest companies and gained enormous respect internationally as a business leader. However during this time he lived a double life, hiding his sexuality from colleagues. He admitted a series of bad judgements led to a British newspaper outing him as a gay man, leading to his resignation in 2007. He subsequently wrote his book the Glass Closet in which he told his story and spoke to other gay business leaders around the world.

During the talk, Lord Browne spoke convincingly about why a workforce in which staff can be their authentic selves was good for business. He stressed the single most important thing a leader could do to achieve this is to be inclusive of the gay minority, both individually and as an organisation. Acknowledging it was “easy to say, but tough to do”, he suggest three key steps leaders could take to achieve this.

Firstly, leaders should identify what barriers, obvious and inadvertent, get in the way of inclusion and seek to address them. Secondly, he highlighted the need for more LGBT role models in business. He gave the example that only 1 in 500 Fortunate 500 Chief Executives are openly gay, a “statistical improbability” in his opinion. Finally, he says leaders should make it possible for staff to feel safe and be themselves at work. Removing sexuality from the selection process is one important way this can be achieved.

As a businessman, Lord Browne was keen to underline that the benefits of inclusion extend beyond staff wellbeing. He cited a study which has found that companies who engaged their staff made on average 2% more than companies who don’t. These companies earned a further 2% when their external stakeholders also felt engaged. He argued inclusion was the gateway to engagement.

Dallas Pounds, Chief Executive of Royal Trinity Hospice, said, “It was a real honour to have Lord Browne visit Trinity and speak so openly and honestly with the audience. His inspirational talk has made us even more determined to be a truly inclusive employer and palliative care provider. As hospices we believe we embrace diversity and inclusion but we have to ensure this is not lip service and there are tangible ways we can demonstrate our commitment to all people whatever their protective characteristics.”

Hosting inspirational LGBT speakers like Lord Browne is just one of the many ways Trinity is leading the way as an LGBT-friendly hospice. Trinity will be marching alongside eight other hospices across London during the London Pride Parade this year, two years after we were the first hospice ever to march there. We are also a Stonewall Diversity Champion and take part in research on the end of life care needs of the LGBT community. For more information about Trinity’s work with the LGBT community or to get involved in LGBT Friends, email jglover@royaltrinityhospice.london.