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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 13th Jan 2023 - Friday Opinion

Subjects: From mistakes must come a commitment to change; hospitality’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion is stronger than ever; the need for change
Authors: Ann Elliott, Kate Nicholls, Paul Charity

From mistakes must come a commitment to change by Ann Elliott

As some readers may know, I am an ardent feminist and a supporter of all women regardless of gender, race or religion. I have always been a feminist, but I haven’t always felt that I could say that for fear of being rejected as difficult, tricky and bossy and putting my career at risk. I have been on boards in hospitality from the age of 31, and things have changed considerably since then. Now, if someone doesn’t want to work with me because I’m a feminist, then I have to believe it’s their loss, not mine.



I have faced prejudice because I’m a woman, or northern, or from a working-class background. Sometimes all three. But clearly, my own learned experience does not begin to compare to the challenges faced by many others. I loathe all forms of prejudice, be that antisemitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, sexism, religious bigotry or transphobia. That people should suffer, be persecuted, rejected, assaulted or murdered for who they are is horrendous. 


So, the Paul Chase article in last week’s Propel felt totally abhorrent to me. Having discussed it with Dr Christopher Owen, Manchester Pride's inclusivity development manager, it is also misinformed, with scientific evidence to dispute all of his claims. You can read more on that here: https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2016/gender-lines-science-transgender-identity.



It was not free speech, it was hatred. How can someone write with so much anger about one community? It has no place in our wonderful, supportive, joyful sector, albeit one where education is still needed on diversity and inclusivity.



Paul Charity of Propel too must accept full responsibility (and I think he has) for allowing this article to be published under the name of “free speech” and must put a plan in place for significant change. My strong impression is that this episode has sparked a real commitment to change and learning. It has also clearly triggered a massive industry conversation, and that is positive. 


Often, when it comes to complex and sensitive societal subjects, it is beholden on all of us to work to stay in our lanes. I cannot argue against the article from a trans perspective, because I am not trans myself. That is the prerogative of the trans community. We all need to be aware of the facts 
though, many of which are heart-breaking, and include the following:



• Over the last 12 months, according to ILGA-Europe, there have been 327 reported murders of trans and gender diverse people as a result of anti-trans violence globally.

• There were 4,399 anti-trans hate crimes in 2022, an increase of 59% compared to 2020-21, the largest increase ever recorded. https://www.vice.com/en/article/93akz3/lgbtq-hate-crimes

• The Transphobic Hate Crime Report 2020 from Galop said that in the last 12 months, 80% of survey respondents had experienced transphobic hate crime. 50% had received transphobic abuse from a transphobic “activist”. 55% of trans employees have experienced anti-trans treatment at work, with 23% experiencing direct discrimination: https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/inclusion-work-perspectives-exec-summ_tcm18-90360.pdf

• 65% of trans young people struggle with mental illness and many feel under-supported by school staff: https://www.justlikeus.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Just-Like-Us-2021-report-Growing-Up-LGBT.pdf

• Anti-trans rhetoric has increased in the UK media from roughly 34 stories per month to 34 stories per day. https://blog.bham.ac.uk/socialsciencesbirmingham/2022/10/28/hunting-mermaids-exploring-media-representation-of-the-trans-community/



I believe the majority of the hospitality community would define themselves as supportive, empathetic and an ally to minority groups, especially the trans community. Evidently, it’s a divisive issue, and not everyone is on that page. However, the bottom line is the law. The Equality Act (2010) protects trans people under the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” from the start of social transition. It also gives trans individuals the right to be treated the same as any cisgendered person, and the right to access cisgendered only spaces and services. Businesses in our sector must ensure that this is possible for their teams and customers in all their sites. This is serious. It’s about being fair, empathetic and legal. And kind.



And that’s the rub. Some people in our sector find it difficult to understand and appreciate that others are different to them, and that this difference might be a positive rather than a negative for both parties. It doesn’t matter what sex, gender, colour, religion or race someone is. It doesn’t affect how well they do their job. What is there to be afraid of?



As for Propel, the team there has achieved a lot, and one mis-step (albeit a terrible one) does not a cancellation make. But it now has to be instrumental in really bringing about change – for itself, and in driving a progressive conversation for the sector. Like lots of people in hospitality, I would like to see a more diverse line-up at Propel Multi-Club events, otherwise they risk being out of touch with what is really happening with our colleagues and customers in hospitality. Can change begin here? It would be a positive start.



What makes hospitality so special and unique is, that for many of us, it’s where everyone comes to socialise and meet others – to be themselves. It’s a melting pot of uniqueness, nationalities, religions, beliefs and genders. It has to be celebrated. 


We collectively need to drive a change in approach. A more dynamic way of employing those who may look, dress, sound and behave differently to those who might be recruiting them. An approach that brings colleagues on board who reflect the diversity of our society rather than the diversity evident in some senior leadership teams and boards. I would argue for empathy, kindness and understanding. For an appreciation that an individual has the right to determine who they are and the control they want over their own bodies. To not judge.



As someone said to me this week: “We need to educate ourselves. To have education programmes in our companies and to take responsibility for making this sector the safe space it needs to be.” Personally, I am still learning too.



I would love to know of businesses in our sector that have embraced diversity and inclusivity and can talk about the positive difference it has made to their culture, retention and performance. Please let me know so we can recognise and celebrate them. “Balance the Board” is a fantastic initiative in this area, and I know they would love to know too. Let’s celebrate these change makers.



My working life has been spent trying to inspire, motivate, mentor, connect and network with women (and men) in hospitality, and I welcome trans women into this community. I am a feminist and a trans ally. The two are not mutually exclusive. Let’s work together with kindness and allyship for the sake of everyone who works in hospitality. Enough is enough. You can read more on this here: https://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender



I would just like to say that in writing this, I have leant on the fantastic support and education from Dr Christopher Owen, Manchester Pride's inclusivity development manager, who I mentioned above. If anyone would like support with LGBTQ+ inclusion, they can reach him on engagement@manchesterpride.com.

Ann Elliott (she/her) is a portfolio non-executive director and board advisor

Hospitality’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion is stronger than ever by Kate Nicholls

In the past week, hospitality has, quite rightly, afforded a close focus on the diversity, equality and inclusivity of our sector. The views of a lone voice shocked us all. It clearly does not represent the sector’s thoughts on this matter and has, in fact, solidified and united hospitality’s commitment to ensuring we are open to all. 

Our ethos of being free at the point of entry, truly inclusive for all and reflective and representative of the communities we serve really does go back decades. 

It is worth knowing and understanding the heritage hospitality has – if you’ll indulge me in a brief history lesson. The earliest coaching inns provided opportunities for female entrepreneurs to develop a career, when those breaks were few and far between for women. 

At times, we have literally been providing a safe space. LGBTQ+ venues like the Admiral Duncan were liberating for many but they also gave the impetus over time to the industry to make a broader change to ensure all venues were open and tolerant. Fifty years on from the first Pride in London, it’s now a choice, rather than a necessity, to visit a small number of Soho pubs. 

On social mobility in the 1970s too, hospitality broke down barriers. Bernie Inns welcomed everyone in to eat when this may not have been the case elsewhere. This reshaped attitudes, challenged intolerances, and broadened and widened our customer bases, which is the norm today. 

What we witnessed over the past week is an entire industry challenging views that we feel are wrong, repulsive and discriminatory. I’m proud we’re keeping this tradition of hospitality alive. 

Our businesses all have an ethos of equality and meritocracy. We foster an environment that invests in its people and creates opportunity, without any barriers. We want people to succeed and fulfil their potential, whatever their background, race, gender or sexuality. Everyone should have the freedom to rise, develop and succeed without trepidation. 

Work on diversity, equality and inclusion will never be “complete”, and nor should it. We should always strive to be better and, more importantly, adapt with our changing communities and cultures. 

Discussion and education should be continuous. Just this week, by sheer coincidence, an already scheduled meeting of UKHospitality’s relaunched Diversity, Equality and Inclusion member forum took place. It was an opportune time to meet, given the events of the past week, and it was incredibly uplifting to hear the passion and drive among the operators and industry stakeholders on that call. 

It’s a real melting pot of enthusiasm and expertise from across the industry; whether that’s on race, sexuality, gender, disability or accessibility, to name just a few, and really complements the work we’re doing across the industry and government. Watch this space for more updates from that group. 

I’ve found this week quite sobering, fielding calls and emails about people’s reaction and thoughts, not just to the opinion piece, but what we need to do as an industry. 

The consensus is that it was right to call out these ignorant views. There was recognition there is already a huge amount of fantastic work taking place and there is good practice that can be seen in so many businesses already, but there’s always more we can do. We are strongest when we work together and, as an industry, we are already enormously collaborative, more so than any other sector. 

My commitment to the hospitality sector is UKHospitality will continue to do all it can to protect, nurture and enhance our long history of diversity, equality and inclusion, in the face of whatever challenges may be thrown our way. 
Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality

The need for change by Paul Charity

I end every year not only reflecting on what went before, but also looking ahead to what the next 12 months will bring – not only for the sector, but also for Propel. I am always mindful we need to keep moving forward as a publication and a producer of events.

We always strive to provide the best, most-up-to date and broadest news content, which is the foundation of how Propel has been built and grown over the past 11 years. That is a non-negotiable part of what we do and what our now 22,000-strong readership expects. Alongside that, over the past few years, we have built up a raft of sector databases that have become key information tools, with a further one set to launch later this month. In this respect we have always sought to nudge the dial, to continue to progress, to do better. 

The past seven days have been very humbling from a personal point of view. On Wednesday, myself and group editor Mark Wingett visited The London Transgender Clinic in central London. We were hosted by an amazing group of individuals who gave us the benefits of their insights and understanding. One particular member of the transgender community reached out to me last Friday with kindness and understanding, keen to give me her time, talk to me and provide reading materials so I can broaden my understanding of diversity issues. She hosted our meeting on Wednesday and assembled an astonishing group of people to talk to me. The overriding theme was education ousts ignorance. My amazing host at the London Transgender Clinic, who is steeped in sector experience, will formally become our diversity, equality and inclusion adviser on Monday, writing a regular column for Friday Opinion not just about diversity issues but all the areas within the sector where she has deep expertise. This is the first step in having a more diverse range of opinions in Friday Opinion.

I take full responsibility for publishing an article last Friday that failed to show a jot of human feeling or empathy to the transgender community.

We want to champion diversity and inclusivity issues. We also would like to do this in collaboration with you, our readers. I have welcomed every piece of feedback and correspondence I have received over the past week. It has highlighted again the passion in the sector, the broad church that is the hospitality industry. Quite rightly there has been anger, but also – and for this I am sincerely grateful – an understanding that we made a mistake. There have been many offers of advice and help on where we need to go from here. It is clear there needs to be change for us. Earlier this week, we laid out the initial steps we have put in place to begin this journey. That is all they are, initial steps. The proof of my words, our steps, will be in the pudding, what we do not only next week, but next month, next year and beyond.

This most certainly applies to our opinion pieces and the conferences we put together. When introducing delegates to Propel Multi-Club events, we always say “we think it's our job at our conferences to provide inspiration and stimulation, mindful of the general trading climate”. We have always strived to find the best, most interesting and relevant speakers.

But now we must do better, we must cast our net wider. We hosted 132 speakers across six major conference events last year, with female speakers representing 48% of the total. This isn’t terrible, but the truth is outside of the fantastic female leaders and entrepreneurs conference, I know our events can sometimes feel male and pale. Clearly now our challenge is to do better – to cast our net wider, and to host a more diverse and inclusive set of speakers.
Paul Charity is co-founder and managing director of Propel 

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