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BBC survey shows 2% of staff are trans, need more in leadership positions

Hazel Southwell July 1, 2018
SALFORD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: A giant outdoor television screen broadcasts the BBC News at Media City in Salford Quays which is home to the BBC, ITV television studios and also houses many media production companies on January 5, 2015 in Salford, England. The BBC and neighbour ITV Granada with its cobbled street studios of ITV soap opera 'Coronation Street', line the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal.

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The BBC’s director of diversity, Tunde Ogungbesan, has spoken about how the corporation has 417 trans staff members – which is 2 percent of its workforce.

Speaking at a conference in June, Ogungbesan also announced plans to bring more trans people and lesbians into leadership positions.

The BBC routinely surveys staff to assess gaps in the diversity of its workforce, from LGBT demographics to ethnicity and religion.

Ogungbesan pointed to a 2017 report which showed that 417 staffers at the BBC are trans.

Data was anonymised and only used for statistical purposes, looking at both the numbers and proportion of groups within the BBC and the positions occupied, in particular how diverse the people in leadership positions are.

Speaking about the survey results, Ogungbesan said (via Mail on Sunday): “The BBC understands the benefit of a diverse and inclusive organisation. We have moved away from the normal areas of diversity, gender and ethnicity and expanded it to include sexual orientation and trans, class, religion, thought processes and social economic diversity.

“We want to ensure 8 percent of our people are from the LGBT community by 2020.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: The people stand outside the Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC on July 25, 2015 in London, England. The main Art Deco-style building of the British Broadcasting Corporation was officially opened on 15 May 1932 and has since seen extensive refurbishment with an extension to the main building completed in 2005.
(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Ogungbesan reported that results for trans people within the organisation were “very, very high” – almost one in 50 of over 21,000 people. Around 1 percent of the general UK population are trans, according to GIRES.

“We’ve got 417 people within the BBC who have said they are transgender, almost 2 percent of the organisation, which is very, very high. If you have a figure like that you have to think how you make the BBC inclusive – because people have trusted you.

“We have looked at how we work with people who are trans, or thinking of transitioning, within the organisation.

“We do not operate an official dress code… and recognise the importance of using an individual’s preferred pronoun and using a pronoun incorrectly could amount to bullying and harassment.

“We are committed to supporting employees who choose to transition, including providing for paid time off for medical appointments, treatments and surgical procedures in line with the managing health and attendance policy.”

Despite this positive internal policy, PinkNews editor Benjamin Cohen spoke out to debunk transphobic myths about the Gender Recognition Act on the Sunday Politics on BBC One on Sunday.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: The logo for the Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC is displayed outside on July 25, 2015 in London, England. The main Art Deco-style building of the British Broadcasting Corporation was officially opened on 15 May 1932 and has since seen extensive refurbishment with an extension to the main building completed in 2005.
(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

The census prompted the BBC to launch four new work streams to look at how to increase numbers of and promote to higher positions under-represented groups.

Ogungbesan said initially, it seemed as though there was not one needed for LGBT groups as generally numbers seemed quite high.

“We felt that we didn’t need one around LGBT because our figures were quite high in terms of our percentages – 11 percent of BBC employees say that they are LGBT and, of that 11 percent, 12 percent are in leadership positions.

“Then some people said… they are mainly the ‘G’s and the ‘B’s, so the lesbians and the transgender folk, the figures are not as high as you would want them to be, especially with the lesbians.

“We needed a fifth work stream around LGBT, which will be starting in the next couple of weeks, with an apology to the organisation for not starting with them in the first place.”

Ogungbesan said that the work stream went beyond recruitment and HR and management practices, into changing “the thought process and ways people behave and broadcast their programmes.”

The BBC has been accused of misrepresenting transgender rights issues and repeatedly hosting transphobic “debate.”

However, Ogungbesan said that the BBC would be more mindful of addressing trans employees in the workforce, saying: “Our goal is to create a culture where everyone feels they can bring their best work and begin to change the thought processes and ways people behave and broadcast their programmes.

“We are looking at the style guide… we are on a journey.”

More: BBC, Employment, survey, trans advocacy

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