Crown Estate strengthening links to Stonewall’s diversity programmes

·3-min read
Stonewall National Monument - Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
Stonewall National Monument - Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The Queen's own estate is to strengthen links to Stonewall’s diversity programmes despite internal fears over a backlash against the charity's controversial transgender position.

The LGBT charity’s “Diversity Champions” scheme monitoring issues including toilet access and the use of pronouns at participating organisations, in return for a fee, has faced a members' exodus over its perceived partisan stance on gender issues.

However, correspondence from the Crown Estate, the body which manages £14 billion of the monarch’s lands and holdings, reveals it is set to stick with the scheme despite staff fears about the backlash against the Stonewall.

While Government departments and universities have cut ties, the Queen’s estate will not only continue to participate, but is also looking to strengthen its connections to the charity accused of holding an “extremist stance” on gender.

According to internal messages, the Crown Estate is currently looking at “upping our commitment (and challenge to ourselves)” by signing up to the Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, which ranks employers based on LGBT inclusivity.

This comes despite a member of staff at the Estate raising concerns about the body’s links with Stonewall, stating in internal emails: “There is a bubbling issue with Stonewall and whether it has extended its agenda too far.”

Another said that: “Stonewall is coming in for criticism on its position [with regard to] the transgender rights.”

Further emails warned: “This is a hot topic and has created a polarised position between some women’s groups and Stonewall”.

Sidelining women and girls

News of the Crown Estate’s position regarding Stonewall comes after scrutiny of the charity set up to promote LGBT rights, which founding member and former Tory MP Matthew Parish said had now “lost its way” and been “cornered into an extremist stance”.

The “Diversity Champions” scheme, signed up to by 250 Government departments and public bodies, has been accused by campaigners of sidelining women and girls by promoting the opening up of spaces like bathrooms to those who self-identify as female.

Public bodies including the Cabinet Office, Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Ofcom have ditched the scheme amid controversy over Stonewall’s positions, including its head Nancy Kelley comparing gender critical beliefs to anti-Semtism.

The Workplace Equality Index being considered by the Crown Estate has also seen a mass exodus of partner organisations following a backlash against its advice to boost rankings, including curbing the use of gendered language like “girl”, “boy”, and “mother”.

The Cabinet Office and the Government Equalities Office have ended membership of the scheme, and the Crown Prosecution Service has also cut ties with the “Champions” programme.

Crown Estate's defence

However, the Crown Estate (which manages the Windsor Estate, Ascot Racecourse among its 7,000 properties, along with swathes Britain’s coastline for the Crown) has defended its support of Stonewall.
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A spokeswoman for the Crown Estate said: “Working to create a more diverse, inclusive and equal business is something that is really important to us.

“To help shape our approach and ensure we are in line with best practice, we work with a number of external partners and advisers, including Stonewall.

“We are continually learning and working hard to understand what more we can do to make progress in this area and help drive meaningful change.”

The Crown Estate is not managed by the Queen, and it is not private property of the monarch nor do revenues from it belong to the monarch. Money is at the disposal of the Treasury.

A Stonewall spokesperson said: "It is a simple human right that everyone, including LGBTQ+ staff, is free from discrimination and prejudice at work, and we’re proud of the work we’ve done with more than 900 organisations through our Diversity Champions programme to make work a better place for all LGBTQ+ people.

"Supporting LGBTQ+ people in the workplace should not be a controversial act, and it is deeply disappointing that in 2021, it can still be seen as such."

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