The Rise of Rainbow at Ulster Bank

LGBTQIA+, let’s face it, it’s quite a mouthful. But each letter represents a particular type of person, and thanks to inclusive organisations like RBS Rainbow Network, we’re now closer than ever to achieving true equality in the workplace.

Barry Hogan is the Co-Chairman of the Republic of Ireland branch of the Rainbow Network at Ulster Bank. I spoke to him to find out how Rainbow has gone from strength to strength, providing support and events management for the LGBT community.

‘So the previous companies I worked for didn’t have anything, at all, like what the Rainbow Network is. There was nothing like this in terms of support for LGBT people within the workplace. When I joined RBS, I came across the Rainbow Network, which supports inclusion of all non-straight and non-cisgender individuals.’

The Rainbow Network was established at RBS in 2005, but for a time remained a UK centric organisation.

‘Rainbow had a big presence in the UK, but there was very little here in Ireland, so I saw an opportunity then to see if I could grow and develop it. I started getting involved in the calls and the audios that were on, and I became a regional rep for Ireland. I focused on Dublin, where I’m based, and following our success we’ve been able to support our colleagues in Belfast to get their arm of the Network going as well. ’

Before long, Barry and his committee managed to establish a solid presence at Ulster Bank.

‘We’re very lucky to have a strong committee, with about ten of us pitching in. And thanks to the fantastic support from the bank, we’ve been able to put on training events with external groups for our colleagues, talking about what it is to be LGBT, terminology, use of pronouns etcetera. But also the support to be able to bring all of our allies together to plan our brilliant Pride parade in Dublin.’

Such was the momentum of the rise of Rainbow at Ulster, it caught the attention of Leo Varadkar, the now Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland who attended the 2016 relaunch.

‘Having such a high profile politician attend our launch was huge for us and gave us a real boost.’

So what does the Rainbow Network do for the bank?

‘Obviously, it provides support for LGBT individuals, in whatever capacity, but one of the huge things me for is the support we provide for our allies.’

The plus (+) in LGBTQIA+ represents any and all identities not included in the letters, ensuring that everyone is welcome in our community, however they define themselves. But it also represents our straight allies, who Barry says previously had no one to turn to for information and guidance about all things LGBT.

‘The plus is the allies, and the families of LGBT people, and it’s important to show them support as well. I’ll give you an example, an ex colleague of mine found out her daughter was transgender. Now, she hadn’t experienced anything like that before and didn’t have any knowledge about it. But fortunately, she knew one of the guys on our committee, so she was able to come and talk to us about it. There weren’t actually any trans members in our immediate network at the time, but we were able to refer her to BeLonG To, which is a youth charity here in Dublin that helps trans teenagers. She was able to get a point of contact and was shown where to go rather than just having to read stuff on the internet and cope with it that way.’

What else does the Rainbow Network do?

‘If you go back ten, twenty, thirty years, you’ll find that LGBT people weren’t out at the office, it was much safer, in terms of their career progression, to stay in the closet. But now that’s all changed, and I’m an ambassador for people to see that. So that’s another positive change that inclusive organisations have. But also, actually being a part of the Rainbow Network has opened a lot of doors for me.’

Becoming involved in the organisation of events with the Rainbow Network can provide really valuable networking and development opportunities.

‘I’ve seen a lot of people develop themselves through Rainbow. People will come to meetings with us, who may have never spoken at a meeting before, or felt confident enough to speak at meetings, but because they’re in a supportive environment and talking about something they feel strongly about, they’re able to develop those skills.

‘It’s also great for networking. I’ve made many new friends and contacts through Rainbow, and been able to meet colleagues who ordinarily I wouldn’t cross paths with. It’s also great for increasing your personal brand. I’ve spoken at events attended by senior managers and executives who know me on a first name basis now, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for the Rainbow Network.’

Why should people join the Rainbow Network?

‘Whether you’re gay, straight, trans, ally, or whatever, then you should join to show support to your colleagues. But not only that, join for the benefits we offer and having a peer group that you can talk to. We’re able to support each other as mentors, and to talk to if you’re having issues. The Rainbow Network is helping to make our bank a leader in the industry for inclusivity, making it a great place to work for anyone and everyone.’

Find out more about inclusion at Ulster Bank

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