Baroness Ruth Hunt – Ex CEO Stonewall, LGBT+ Ambassador

Inspirational Keynote Speaker -

Baroness Ruth Hunt was the Chief Executive of Stonewall; the UK’s largest charity campaigning to improve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In her fourteen years with the organisation, she worked with more than 700 organisations in the UK and globally, as well as with schools, grassroots campaigners, and senior government Ministers, and led high profile, impactful campaigns.

Prior to joining Stonewall, Ruth worked for Universities UK on equalities in higher education and was the President of the Oxford University Student Union.

She holds an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University, and honorary degrees from Keele and Exeter.

She was the Vice Chair of national homelessness charity Shelter and is currently a trustee of Engage Britain. Ruth has been appointed as a cross bench peer in the House of Lords and took up her seat in October 2019.

She is the Co-Founder of Deeds x Words who work with individuals, organisations, businesses, social movements and communities to help create a shared sense of purpose.

Baroness Ruth Hunt is a respected and influential communicator who, with charm and humour, helps audiences of all sizes and experiences understand how they can build cultures that work, and bring minority voices into the room.

With over 20 years’ experience of leading campaigns for the LGBTQ+ communities, in 2019 Ruth became the youngest cross-bench peer in the House of Lords.

Alongside her Parliamentary work, Ruth and her partner Caroline Ellis are Directors of Deeds and Words, working with c-suite teams to understand how collective and inclusive leadership can drive organisational effectiveness.

Ruth is also well-known and regarded for her previous work as CEO and Director of Campaigns at Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ charity.

During her time at Stonewall, Ruth played an integral part in leading numerous landmark campaigns including tackling homophobia in schools and developing the Rainbow Laces campaign in partnership with the Premier League.

A Visiting Fellow at Jesus College Cambridge, Oxford graduate and former President of the Oxford University Students Union, Ruth brings an academic rigour to her work whilst being wholly accessible to audiences regardless of their background and knowledge.

Ruth’s keynote topics include

  • Traditional leadership models and ideas surrounding workplace culture continue to be questioned by employers and employees worldwide. Ruth looks at why and how embracing collective leadership, building inclusive cultures and understanding the need for trust can result in staid models and ideas being put to one side, and drive organisational effectiveness and performance.
  • In recent years issues surrounding psychological safety has become increasingly prevalent in all walks of life. In this keynote, Ruth considers why we need to cultivate safer environments, both in our personal and professional lives, and how this can drive organisational effectiveness. Ruth outlines the steps individuals and organisations need to put in place to help facilitate this.
  • As the power of allyship becomes more prevalent and complexities surrounding authenticity soften, the space for progressive attitudes and behaviour has widened. In this keynote, Ruth delves into what has been achieved, and what can still be done, to challenge the status quo and breakdown inequalities that continue to threaten a more tolerant and equitable society.

Excerpt from a recent interview with Thought Ecomomics Online Magazine:-

Q: Why does culture discriminate on the basis of sexuality?
[Ruth Hunt]: Homophobia and transphobia are relatively modern phenomena. As they relate to British history, it was absolutely a colonial intervention to object to same-sex sexual activity- and that was as much to do with Victorian norms and moral values, rather than it being about people.

If you look at subculture in India, in Native America… if you look at the animal kingdom… homosexuality is just a part of life.

In the times of Henry VIII, they were closing down monasteries, and the mere suggestion that monks were having sex with each other was used as an excuse to take away their wealth in the restoration period.

Ultimately, it comes down to a fear about people being different… being the other. It’s about keeping communities alive… it’s about who’s having the babies in society!

Q: What is the reality of discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities in the UK?
[Ruth Hunt]: Hate crime is as prolific as it used to be, and both prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people is rife.

Some institutions have got immeasurably better over the last decade, but that is based on what has become an assimilationist approach to LGBT inclusion.

If you are white, you are probably getting married, paying your taxes, being presentable, and are accepted but different…. Your otherness still pervades… It’s a bit #MiddleClassProblems, but we’re looking for a new cleaner and I’ve had to drop people an email saying we’re a same-sex couple because I don’t want someone coming into the house who has a problem with that.

It wasn’t an overtly political act on my part, but it’s what we must do in order to make sure people are ‘ok.’ I used to think that progress on LGBT inclusion was quite linear, but it goes in fits and starts.

You take a step-back and then you shuffle forward. Just look at the extraordinary backlash against trans-people in the UK at the moment- it exposes how loosely-held the signals of acceptance are…. I certainly know people will double-check and think whether they can hold their partner’s hand on a night bus… whether they’re safe to walk down the road… whether they can come out to their parents…