What did we learn from Lesbian Visibility Week?

IMUK was proud to be a supporting partner of the awareness week in April. Polly Shute, Partnership Director at DIVA Media Group, reflects on a successful seven days...

For several months, big plans were being made for events to mark the first-ever Lesbian Visibility Week - and then the pandemic struck.

However, DIVA Media Group - the organisers of LVW - reacted swiftly to the effects of lockdown by ensuring all activities that didn't depend on social gatherings were available on digital instead.

Polly Shute was pivotal to the success of the Week in her role as Partnership Director at DIVA Media Group. She's also a member of the InterMediaUK steering committee.

We caught up with Polly to look back on the activations and responses, and what the future holds...

IMUK: Hi Polly, thanks for joining us to reflect on LVW. What were the key objectives of the Week, and how successful were you in meeting them?

PS: We had three key objectives - to increase understanding, to provide a platform, and to create a legacy event in the equality calendar. With the support of global insights agency Kantar, The DIVA Survey gathered insights on events, lifestyle, work, family and health from over 1,500 LGBTQI women in the UK (the full analytics are available to all InterMediaUK members).

We used this to also develop our #ThisIsMe campaign to really show the diversity of the LGBTQI community. Even though COVID-19 meant we could not hold physical events, we had hundreds of companies, charities and organisations use the platform to create virtual events and activity. Lastly, the campaign was really well received, and we are already planning how we can grow Lesbian Visibility Week for 2021.

The week began with the Visible Lesbian 100. How was that received, and was it a difficult list to compile?

It's always hard to develop lists, and we wanted to make sure we recognised those in different sectors, like sport, charity and campaigning, as well as business and celebrities/influencers. DIVA were keen to make it a public vote so nominations came from our readers and online audience, and the response was fantastic. Lastly, we steered away from 'numbering' them, making sure all of the 100 had equal importance. Next year we are keen to repeat the inclusion in The Guardian, which was really well received.

The DIVA Survey delivered some eye-opening results. Which stood out for you, and how can we all help to shift them in a positive direction?

I think there were a few stand-out figures for me. Firstly, that 79% of LGBTQI women felt that LGBTQI men had more visibility in public life - I think this is a reason why over half of LGBTQI women are not out at work. Networks need to play their part in making sure LGBTQI women role models are given visibility, and this is especially important for those in media industries. Also there were some challenging stats around LGBTQI parenting, with 37% of LGBTQI parents being on the end of homophobic abuse from other parents. Lastly, the research included some really interesting data about what women wanted from events. I think this could really help networks with the ongoing challenge of how to engage more women in their programmes and activity.

Tell us more about the #ThisIsMe initiative. Whose personal story or content made a stand-out connection, either on yourself or women more generally?

#ThisIsMe was all about showing the woman behind the label. We asked 30 LGBTQI women to take part in the campaign and tell us three words that described them as well as how they identified. Personally, I loved getting Lady Phyll involved, as there are so many challenges involved with being an LGBTQI woman of colour, and she is doing so much to promote visibility in this area.

The daily Sessions were a cornerstone of the Week. Can you give us some examples of development advice for LGBT+ women and allies which came out of these?

We were planning a physical Development Day, but as the lockdown happened, we moved to having panels, seminars and talks throughout the week. These were all recorded and are still available to watch on our website. There were a lot of different themes, but many focused on the importance of visibility and also ensuring diversity within the LGBTQI women's community. My big tip is for queer men is to simply watch them, as it will give you some great insight into some of the challenges LGBTQI women face, especially in the workplace.

A massive shout out here to the awesome Claire Harvey, a D&I consultant who worked with us pro bono to plan and deliver the sessions. She made sure the content was focused and diverse and that the panels and talks really reflected all parts of the LGBTQI community.

IMUK was proud to be a supporting partner. For those reading this who have roles within LGBT+ networks or women's networks, what should they be more mindful of going forwards - particularly in terms of amplifying diverse voices?

I'd like to really thank IMUK, who made it a priority to get involved way back in December and to Rae Langford, Sarah O'Connell, Su Brown and Maryann Wright who were part of the team that developed the comms and marketing activity.

I would really recommend going through the research and having an open discussion with LGBTQI women in your network about how this may highlight areas of focus for your organisation. For me personally, one of the first challenges is making sure women are well represented on your network and play an equal role in determining your activities. My big hope is that we can really change that research that says women are twice as unlikely to be out at work (other research also suggests they are twice as unlikely to be out as LGBTQI men at work).

Outside of the UK, where in the world did you see notable or encouraging engagement?

From the USA. DIVA was really grateful to get support from GLAAD and The Advocate magazine, and a great article in Adweek US. We also got great support from EuroPride and good pick-up from German media titles. We were also pleased to provide a platform to women in countries where LGBTQI rights are under challenge or not in place. In our Facebook Community site, which we launched in the lead-up to the Week, we have over 4.500 members, including those from Poland, Uganda, and Alaska.

What were your big takeaways, and what might we see during the next LVW in April 2021?

I think we were all surprised by how many people got involved with the campaign, especially given the COVID-19 situation. Overall, we had 220,000 mentions during the Week and #LesbianVisibilityWeek trended on Twitter on the launch day. One of the big takeaways for me, is around the importance of allies supporting the Week. I was pleased to see that 37% of social media activity came from men, who were supporting the campaign and also highlighting LGBTQI women they admired.

The disappointment was that it's still a challenge to get brands and media partners to support LGBTQI women content. We were really proud to get support from some big brands like Tesco, GlaxoSmithKline,P&G, Getty Images and Sky Sports - but there is still a real problem with companies getting behind LGBTQI women's content and media. So growing engagement will be a priority for 2021.

Thanks to Polly. Keep up to date with all things Lesbian Visibility Week on the website, and on social via @LesbianVisWeek on Twitter and @lesbianvisibilityweek on Instagram.