Transgender question takes diversity drive to new level

Suppliers working on contracts to regenerate London have been asked to provide extensive details about their workforces, right down to the number of transgender staff they employ.

The London Development Agency (LDA)– the mayor of London’s agency for business and jobs – has written to its existing suppliers, including small- and medium-sized businesses, asking them to fill in a questionnaire designed to “assist in developing… enterprises”.

Questions include the percentage of staff and company owners who are from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BME) groups and the percentage of disabled employees, as well as the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff.

The survey also asks when existing contracts will come to an end and how much they are worth.

An LDA spokeswoman said this was only an “information gathering project”, and would not yet affect companies’ chances of getting contracts in the future.

She said: “The questionnaire is just one of the many steps the LDA is taking to understand the nature and diversity of its supplier base, and to ensure both smaller and more diverse suppliers have the chance to become part of the supplier base.”

A spokesman from the London Chamber of Commerce said that having to fill in too many forms was exactly the reason many small businesses did not get involved in bidding for public sector contracts.

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has said that he believes “London’s diversity is its greatest strength”. In March, when he announced the first firms to sign up to a £10m programme to improve workplace diversity, he said: “I want to ensure London businesses really harness and make the most of the opportunities that diversity in the workplace can deliver.”

Last year, the LDA re-cruited a business diversity manager who needed to demonstrate “a track record of demonstrable success in BME, women and disabled business development”.

The LDA move is part of a wider government drive to increase gender and ethnic diversity among its suppliers.

In March, Personnel Today revealed that companies hoping to benefit from a £300m procurement bonanza, when the government offers contracts to run its flagship New Deal programme, will have to prove their commitment to workplace diversity.

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