My name is Mark Jacob, and I am a natural scientist based within core Defra. As my day job, I work in the Farming Science team as livestock evidence lead. I work alongside a multidisciplinary team of fantastic specialists whose diverse skills and backgrounds collectively help to support evidence-led policy development across the department. Drawing on my team’s varied subjects of expertise, we collectively aim to help enhance productivity, sustainability and resilience of the UK agricultural industry. We are a varied bunch and on a daily basis, I am reminded of the incredible value offered through the recognition and celebration of diversity and inclusion.
In addition to my core duties, I sit on the steering committee of Defra’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Asexual and Transgender (LGBA&T) staff network. Far beyond paying mere lip service to the lofty goals of equality for all, the activities of Defra’s various staff networks make it is absolutely clear to me that supporting our colleagues to bring their whole selves to the workplace is of clear benefit to all. In our recruitment and in our activities, ensuring we have an open and welcoming working environment equips us to deliver the best possible public services.
On this annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) we are reminded that while many hard-won rights now recognise valid human identities, legal recognition and social inclusion do not necessarily go hand in hand. In 2017 the UK Government Equalities Office conducted the world’s largest national survey of LGBT+ people, with over 108,000 respondents. The 2018 report of that survey clearly stated that LGBT+ people here in the UK continue to face significant barriers to full participation in public life in terms of personal safety, health, education and employment.
Trans respondents had particularly sobering responses in recording lower life satisfaction. Within Defra, the staff LGBA&T network is leading a call to support our trans and non-binary colleagues in feeling safe and welcome to represent their identities both inside the workplace and without. I would encourage everyone to get involved with your staff networks and to consider supporting a presence where they may not exist locally. Every single person on this planet has a gender identity, a sexual orientation and a core belief in who they are. Equality, diversity and inclusion issues affect our communities and affect us all – these are not “gay” issues which affect only minorities. We each benefit when those most vulnerable amongst us are supported and on this year’s IDAHOBIT I am proud to stand with all my colleagues, recognising their right to inform us who they are. Whether he/she/them – we are all together.