What is the industry doing to support LGBTQ+ people?

A wholesaler asks ‘we hear a lot about Diversity in Wholesale but what is the industry actually doing to support LGBTQ+ people within our sector?’ James Bielby, FWD Chief Executive, responds

It’s a question we are hearing more and more from our members as awareness of the necessity to create diverse, inclusive and equitable events grows, especially with the extensive Diversity in Wholesale programme FWD is organising in 2024.

With March featuring International Women’s Day as well, it’s an even more timely question. The DIW network was set up to help the wholesale sector develop its inclusivity, and that includes the LGBTQ+ community.

When we were marketing April’s Women in Wholesale speed mentoring event as a women-only event we were asked whether the event was open to trans, non-binary, marginalised women-presenting identities as well. Our answer was a resounding yes.

All DiW activity is an LGBTQ+ safe space, but we realised that we hadn’t explicitly said so when promoting it. This was very much an oversight and has now been addressed.

We will be clear in our marketing that it is an inclusive event, which means however attendees identify or whatever their sexuality, they will be made to feel welcome and their needs will be met.

There are several ways you can follow through with this promise. Not asking for gender on registration forms, for example, and asking for pronouns at the point of registration are key.

Asking if delegates have any special requirements in order to attend will also help organisers to curate an inclusive environment on the day. While it may not be possible to meet all needs due to logistical restraints in an event space, it will form feedback which can be considered when planning a similar event in the future.

Having representation from the LGBTQ+ community at an event is a great way to promote inclusivity and ensure that our sector is striving to create and nurture a diverse and equitable workplace. Celebrating difference is a key part of corporate ESG agendas, and the wholesale sector should be no different.


A few years ago, when I announced that FWD events would be gender balanced, with no ‘manels’ and a need for mixed speakers at all our events, I received pushback. My view was always that we should use our platforms to give as wide a range of voices as possible the opportunity to be heard. The inclusion of our Future Leaders Forum members at our last two FWD conferences is a prime example of that. They have been a real success.

But there is so much more to do in terms of making adjustments to ensure our events are being inclusive, rather than exclusive. Some of these are small tweaks, but optically they can have a big impact.

Ultimately we want all people to feel safe, comfortable and recognised at our events. The LGBTQ+ community is a key part of that.


June is LGBTQ+ month and provides an opportunity for wholesalers and suppliers to embrace their inclusive values with a focused event or series of outputs. We’ve seen the sector embrace Pride month widely, which is a great advance from where we were even five years ago.

Of course, LGBTQ+ isn’t just for June, or about adding a rainbow logo and thinking that’s enough, but that is a time where businesses can demonstrate their D&I commitments and bring together their workforce with this community at its heart. Many blue-chips have adopted LGBTQ+ month as a time to hold special events promoting their values in this space, promoting their ethos and reinforcing their inclusive culture.

It’s a start, but we still have a long way to go, and FWD is here to help on that journey.

If you have a question for James, just drop us a line here: wn@thebrightmediaagency.com

diversity Diversity in Wholesale FWD James Bielby LBGTQ+