Oxford University was told to share the organisation's LGBT diversity scores
If your employer marks a ‘transgender day of remembrance’, tweets political statements about the Gender Recognition Act, or drops the word ‘mother’ from its maternity leave policies, chances are it is following secretive directions from the lobby group Stonewall.
In the name of inclusion, employers that join the Workplace Equality Index scheme are encouraged to create an office mono-culture where everyone pledges allegiance to the pride flag and to the idea that “trans women are women, trans men are men and non binary people are valid”.
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Employers must submit hundreds of pages of evidence each year to demonstrate compliance, and receive feedback from Stonewall telling them how to ‘do better’. Up until now, many employers have tried to keep the details of this secret.
Sex Matters, the campaign for clarity on sex in law and policy, has been running a campaign to unearth the information using freedom of information requests. But often we have met a brick wall of public bodies claiming that they must respect Stonewall’s commercial interest in secrecy.
Last week the Information Commissioner sent a warning shot against this practice. It told the University of Oxford to disclose the scores and feedback it received from Stonewall, setting out its reasons in a hard-hitting decision which also took aim at other regulators and government bodies that are members of the scheme. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said:
The Information Commissioner noted that there is a “potential for a scheme to be misused as a campaigning tool” and that “organs of the state must take care to ensure that they are not seen as promoting political campaigns”.
We have seen the scheme used for promoting political campaigns. The Scottish Government boasted in its report to Stonewall that it had tweeted in support of gender self-ID, while Ofcom said that it had sent a written warning to a local radio station for offence over a radio presenter who said that he would be uncomfortable with his six-year-old daughter changing in an environment where the changing rooms were not segregated based on sex.
Although the ICO’s decision is not binding on other organisations, it suggests that similar decisions would be made in future. Sex Matters’ analysis has found more than 70 public authorities have previously refused to provide information, giving reasons of contractual confidentiality, or concern for Stonewall’s commercial interests. These include the BBC and Channel 4, several Whitehall departments, the Cabinet Office, Government legal departments, universities and regulators. We will now be asking all these public authorities and universities to provide information they have previously withheld.