Creating an inclusive workplace: Softcat’s Pride network and HP collaboration

UK-based Softcat walks the talk of inclusion, through visible, vocal, and companywide support.

By Satta Sarmah Hightower — June 7, 2023

Like a lot of companies during Pride month, Softcat, a UK-based IT infrastructure and services provider, is hosting celebrations that bring employees together. But with LGBTQIA+ rights under assault around the globe, recognition and allyship take on greater weight. 

“This year, we intend to go bigger and better than ever before,” says Lucy Coates, a sales development regional manager at Softcat who’s helped organize the celebration. “We have purposefully created days whereby everyone can get involved, regardless of whether they are part of our community or not. Part of our celebrations will be educational. This is a year we want to be heard.”

In its two largest offices in Manchester and Marlow, Softcat is partnering with HP’s UK & Ireland Pride Business Impact Network to fete employees with celebrations including LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more) history and pop culture quizzes, a photo wall, panel discussions, and charity events. But Softcat doesn’t just celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in June. Over the past five years, the company has worked to embed LGBTQIA+ inclusion into every facet of its culture.


RELATED: Why you should care about pronouns at work 


Through internal policies and programs, educational initiatives, celebrations, and employee engagement, Softcat has built a reputation as a company that welcomes and celebrates LGBTQIA+ employees, which make up nearly 6% of its workforce. Launched in 2018 with 12 employees, the company’s Pride network now includes 103 members that encompass both LGBTQIA+ employees and allies. It also has built a strong culture of allyship among its non-LGBTQIA+ employees, setting an example for how companies and their employees can thrive when they prioritize inclusivity. All of which led to the company being recognized for its inclusion and employee engagement efforts in 2022 with two awards from HP.

A custom-made rainbow version of the HP Color LaserJet Enterprise MFP X57945 Series.

Craig Easton

A custom-made rainbow version of the HP Color LaserJet Enterprise MFP X57945 Series.

“We’re creating an environment where people feel like they can be their most authentic selves,” says Polly Jacob, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion executive at Softcat. 

Amplifying positive impact

Softcat’s Pride Month collaboration with HP is an extension of the partnership the two companies have forged to improve both businesses’ positive impact. Softcat is part of the HP Amplify Impact program — which empowers partners to set bold, long-term objectives that drive positive impact. HP, through its Amplify Impact Initiatives Hub, offers training, personalized sustainability assessments, sales tools, marketing assets, as well as resources to help partners reduce their carbon footprint and toolkits for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and volunteerism.

Last year, HP expanded HP Amplify Impact to over 40 countries with the  objective of supporting at least half of HP Amplify partners on their sustainability journey by 2025.

“We all have a shared stake in championing diversity, equity and inclusion by supporting the underrepresented communities we serve,” says Kobi Elbaz, general manager of HP’s Global Channel Organization. “Empowered by the HP Amplify Impact program, partners like Softcat are forging a path towards a better future for all.”

The program, launched in 2021, has already enrolled a more than a third of some 10,000 eligible partners. By participating, Softcat can share information and best practices and also learn from HP’s DEI initiatives, which help to inform its own practices and policies. Softcat, a 2022 Amplify Impact 5-star Catalyst partner, was recognized with two HP Amplify Impact awards: One for creating an impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy and another for the number of HP LIFE courses taken.

Those practices are part of Softcat’s “people-first” company culture, which includes embracing the unique lived experience of its 2,200 employees, especially those from marginalized groups. The company, which is based outside of London, has seven employee resource groups (ERGs) encompassing faith-based, veteran, ethnic and cultural diversity communities, as well as groups focused on empowering neurodiverse employees and people with disabilities, families, and women in business.

Celebration, education, allyship 

During Pride month and beyond, Softcat focuses its LGBTQIA+ inclusion strategy around education and fostering empathy, understanding, and support from allies. In February, which is LGBTQIA+ History Month in the UK, the Pride network hosts talks and panel discussions in which guest speakers discuss issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community, such as HIV and gender discrimination.  

“Being able to create a safe space for like-minded people to come together, share stories, and support each other is why I love the role,” says Coates, who has served as a lead for the Pride network for the last four years.

Three Softcat employees conversing while surrounded by Pride decorations.

Craig Easton

Employees from HP, AMD, and Softcat gather at Pride event in Manchester, UK.

Softcat’s Pride network has challenged the language in Softcat’s company policies, spurring changes that have led to the inclusion of more gender-neutral language. Coates says the Pride network also is focused on intersectionality — or interconnected identities across race, class, and gender — and partners with other ERGs to ensure it meets the company’s LGBTQIA+ community’s needs. 

Softcat’s practices and policies also reflect the importance of these issues to the community. The company has created a formal Trans Inclusion policy, offers family and adoption leave for LGBTQIA+ employees, and has promoted HIV awareness.

Allyship is especially critical for the Pride Network, as it empowers non-LGBTQIA+ employees to better support and amplify the voices of their LGBTQIA+ colleagues. Softcat has created an allyship program that includes a workshop covering topics such as unconscious bias, privilege, power, and how to handle workplace discrimination. So far, half of employees — over 1,000 people — have completed the program. Dan Scarre, a services engagement team leader, says participating in the program has been eye-opening.

“Unless you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you’ll never truly understand what it’s like,” he says. “I think what we can do as allies is be accepting, continuously educate ourselves, and support as best we can.”

An ongoing effort

This year’s “bigger and better” Pride celebration at Softcat is part of the company’s commitment to being a leader in inclusivity and setting an example for others. Recently, the company signed onto the Stonewall Diversity Champions program, which offers expert guidance and on-demand access to tools and customized training opportunities that help employers more effectively attract, retain, and nurture LGBTQIA+ employees. 

Jacob says Softcat also plans to expand its allyship work with programming that specifically targets management. Along with engaged employees, a senior leader serves as the Pride network’s sponsor, and Jacob says this kind of buy-in is crucial to create a truly inclusive culture. She adds that other companies that want to foster a true culture of belonging should use data to track their progress, dedicate internal resources or headcount toward DEI efforts if possible, and meaningfully engage employees in the process.

“You’ve got to create safety and inclusion to gain trust before you go out to your employees and ask for some really personal information about their identity,” Jacob says. “That’s why we’ve been spending many years in the process of creating that kind of culture.”


See why employee resource groups are more important than ever for hybrid workers