Samantha Neath is the Diversity and Inclusion Leader at BAE Systems, and is working to make sure that everyone feels included in the workplace
Sam, what is your background, and what is your role in BAE Systems?
I have been with BAE Systems for 6 and half years now and have been fortunate enough to do a variety of different roles during my time. Most recently I joined the BAE Systems Global Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) team in our head office and am involved in a number of projects, including managing our Employee Resource Groups (ERG), our D&I celebrations – and I am the LGBTQ+ theme lead for the business. Outside of my “day job”, I am also a Trustee of Pride in Gloucestershire.
BAE Systems is a Stonewall Diversity Champion. How important is Diversity and Inclusion – not just in the work place but also in the wider community?
There is a far greater focus on D&I within the company than ever before, which is fantastic to see and be involved in. We recognise that we have a long way to go, but there is a genuine commitment from the Board and senior leadership to drive change and create a more diverse and inclusive environment. We know that having a more diverse workforce leads to greater innovation – something which is hugely helpful for the nationally important work we do – and we are working to make sure that everyone at BAE Systems feels welcome, included and rewarded for their unique contribution to our business.
We also know that by creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace, we can create a positive ripple effect in the wider community. We are committed to investing in the communities in which we live and work, whether by sponsoring Pride events, donating to charities, or encouraging young people to study STEM subjects. Additionally, our LGBTQ+ employee network (OutLinkUK) was one of the founding members of a cross-defence LGBTQ+ collaboration network called Pride in Defence. They are a fantastic group who aim to promote diversity and inclusion across the whole sector.
How important do you think it is to be out at work?
I think it is vitally important that everyone who wants to can come out at work. If people feel that they need to hide who they are, it can have a serious, detrimental effect on their mental health and wellbeing; it is exhausting spending perhaps 40+ hours of your week feeling like you have to wear a mask and watching everything you say for fear of being “found out”. It’s vital that we make our working environment safe and welcoming for everyone, so that people can be their authentic selves when they come to work.
It’s also worth noting that some people won’t want to be out at work, or they might not feel ready yet, which is also fine – no one should feel pressured to do so.
You’re closely involved in the BAE Systems OutLinkUK group. What are the group’s aims and how do you promote diversity in the workplace and the wider community?
I was the Co-Chair of OutLinkUK for a few years, a role which I finished in January this year, when I took on my role in the D&I team, and I now work very closely with them.
The aims of OutLinkUK are: to raise awareness and understanding of the issues that LGBTQ+ employees face; to provide a safe space to support our LGBTQ+ employees; to celebrate diversity (internally and externally) through events like Prides and to work with other LGBTQ+ networks in other organisations.
In the last few years, OutLinkUK has helped drive real change at BAE Systems, such as the introduction of a Gender Identity Policy and Transitioning at Work Guidance for our gender-diverse employees. The group has also established an LGBTQ+ Allies group (with over 2,300 members), created and delivered LGBTQ+ awareness training across our business, and developed a Parent and Carers Handbook to support people who have LGBTQ+ children or family members.
Is it fun too?
Working with OutLinkUK is great fun! As well as attending Pride events (in non-Covid times), OutLinkUK hold regular events and activities, like a Pride bake-off, rainbow photo competitions and Pride quizzes. It’s wonderful having such a friendly group in the business, who remind us to have fun and celebrate our identities!
On a personal level what would you regard as the achievement you’re proudest of?
Last year, I was responsible for embedding a new Framework, which included establishing four new ERGs in our UK business, in addition to OutLinkUK and our disability group, ENabled UK. The new ERGs support ethnic & cultural diversity, mental health, gender equality, and our military community.
The (now six) ERGs provide support for our under-represented employees, as well as spreading awareness about the issues faced by these groups. They drive our business to be better, more inclusive and more conscious. They work very closely together and collaborate on many events and projects, which helps us recognise and support those who might have intersectional identities.
Last September, the ERGs also came together to celebrate Inclusion Week in the UK; they put on a full week of virtual learning sessions, to which all employees were invited to attend. The event was a great success and we had overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees. I am so honoured to work with these networks and am so proud of everything they have achieved so far!
What would you like to say to WorldPride in Copenhagen and Malmö?
A huge thank you for what you are doing for the LGBTQ+ community! The last 18 months have been extremely difficult for us all, but particularly the LGBTQ+ community who have lost access to safe spaces, community support and medical services. Pride events are so important for our community to come together, celebrate and be ourselves – and I think we’ve all felt the loss of them throughout 2020 and 2021.
Go to: baesystems.com/outlinkuk