DAWN DRAPER from CITIZENS ADVICE tells us of her sixteen years with the service and of the company’s lgbT network...
I have always outed myself at interviews,”says Dawn Draper, a National Network Manager for Citizens Advice. “It is very important to know that I can be myself at work,” she explains. With more than 16 years’ experience behind her, first as a volunteer, then as a paid professional, Dawn’s inclination for social justice has motivated her, both personally and professionally.
“When I first started, I was lucky to work in an environment that was very diverse, with people from a huge range of different backgrounds,” she says, “but the second bureau I volunteered at was staffed by a more conventional mix, and I didn’t feel quite as comfortable.” Dawn was co-chair of the national lesbian gay and bisexual group for Citizens Advice (NLGBG), a group which she says has its roots in the company over 20 years ago. Still an active member, Dawn is now co-opted on to the executive committee. “When I first joined the group, I worked on the newsletter and was their publicity representative, but my motivation for joining was originally because I wanted to change the places where they stayed and broaden it out from just gay venues,” she explains. Dawn has seen the group develop as her own career has changed and developed:
“There is a better gender balance now than before, both in the group itself and on the executive committee, and there is a better age balance. The group is working hard to keep diversity at the forefront of all their work and aims to encourage membership from a wide variety of backgrounds. We have a variety of network groups, for disabled staff, for BAME staff and we also have a women’s group. Collectively, these are known as SONGS: self-organised network groups, and we make sure that everyone in the Citizens Advice service is welcome to participate in any of the groups.”
Citizens Advice has helped thousands of ordinary people, free of charge, with their cares and concerns, and usually has a bureau represented in every town. “We promote the national Citizens Advice organisation at Pride every year with the aim of promoting Citizens Advice to the LGBT community,” Dawn says, “and we network with other LGBT groups from other companies to share best practice.”
Once again, the support offered to LGBT staff has seen Citizens Advice make it on to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. Dawn is delighted: “We are very proud to be in it, especially as we are a charity, not a business,” she says. “It’s nice to feel that we are part of this valued network. Having the Index at all is a very positive step.”