What is SEEN’s mission?

Our mission is to promote sex equality and equity between women and men so that we can all thrive at work and fulfil our potential. We focus on highlighting unlawful sex discrimination, upholding sex-based rights and tackling stereotypes about women and men. We recognise that ensuring sex equality and equity sometimes requires treating women and men differently, according to our different rights and needs.

What are SEEN’s values?

SEEN’s values are set out in our mission statement and four Guiding Principles:

  1. We are committed to ensuring that civil servants uphold the sex-based rights which support women’s and men’s rights and needs at work, including the protected characteristics of sex, pregnancy and maternity and sexual orientation set out in the Equality Act 2010; and that these rights are balanced against other rights, where lawful and necessary.
  2. We are committed to helping civil servants feel confident to exercise their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, provided they manifest their rights lawfully and respectfully and within the Civil Service Code.
  3. We are committed to the protected belief (covered by the protected characteristic of religion and belief in the Equality Act 2010) that biological sex is binary and immutable, that biological sex matters for both women and men in our everyday lives including for our rights and needs in the workplace, and that biological sex must not be conflated with the concepts of gender or gender identity. Civil servants who hold this protected belief must not be marginalised, disadvantaged or discriminated against.
  4. We are committed to helping our employers to meet their Public Sector Equality Duty, including to ‘foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not’, by encouraging a diversity of voices and open and respectful dialogue and tolerance between those with differing beliefs and experiences.

Who is SEEN for?

SEEN membership is for any UK civil servants and public sector staff - from central and devolved government departments, agencies, and their associated public bodies including arm’s length bodies - who share our values as set out in our Mission Statement and Guiding Principles.

Unfortunately Civil Service rules do not allow SEEN to extend membership to:

  • local government
  • NHS trusts, including doctors, nurses and hospital staff
  • teachers and school staff
  • police and support staff
  • armed forces
  • BBC
  • private sector

If you are not eligible to join us, please feel free to make use any SEEN ideas or materials from our website to help you set up your own staff network. Best of luck and let us know how you get on.

How can SEEN help you?

SEEN is a source of support, advice and resources for colleagues who require assistance in furthering our mission. We will also be a source of support for colleagues who experience bullying, harassment or discrimination because they share our beliefs. Please note however that SEEN is not a union, and there are limits in what we can do.

What do we mean by ‘sex equality and equity’?

Equality and equity are complementary concepts of fairness, appropriate to different circumstances. Sometimes treating everyone equally can lead to unfairness: for example, if all staff who win on sports day get a bonus, that would likely be unfair to staff with physical disabilities. Civil service leadership programmes only for minority ethnic staff aim to improve equity, by correcting under-representation. Ensuring equity at work sometimes requires treating women and men differently, according to our different rights and needs.

What is the Equality Act 2010 and what are protected characteristics?

The Equality Act 2010 covers the whole UK and provides a legal framework to prevent people acting on their prejudices or disagreements in a way that results in discriminatory treatment of others. Every one of us is covered by at least several of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act and derives rights from them. The nine protected characteristics are: Age; Disability; Gender reassignment; Marriage and civil partnership; Pregnancy and maternity; Race; Religion or belief (includes lack of religion or belief); Sex; Sexual Orientation.

You can read about your rights on the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UK’s independent watchdog on equality and human rights law. See also our blog posts on UK equality law.

What are sex-based rights?

By sex-based rights we mean the rights enshrined in the Equality Act 2010 and other applicable law that relates specifically to biological sex. Such law permits lawful discrimination in certain circumstances, provided it is a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim, such as to meet particular male and female needs, to correct disadvantage, or to encourage participation. Specific examples include pregnancy and maternity rights, men’s health workshops, and girls-only football teams. The protection against unlawful discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation also depends on sex, since sexual orientation is defined specifically in terms of sex. See also our blog post Understanding our sex-based rights and protections at work.

Why was SEEN set up?

We want to re-focus attention on improving equality and equity between women and men in the civil service, including tackling the stereotypes about the sexes that hold us all back. To do this, we all need to be able to talk openly and clearly about sex-based rights using clear language.

In recent years, confusion has arisen between sex and the concept of gender identity. Some people have a personal sense of identity as male, female or neither, which they call gender identity. We think it’s important not to confuse sex with gender identity because confusion undermines our ability to protect everyone’s rights.

Is SEEN connected to any religious or faith groups or other groups?

No. SEEN is an independent and secular network that is neither affiliated with the management of the Civil Service nor the trade unions nor with any external group. The beliefs and opinions held by SEEN members are diverse save for our commitment to fairness, tolerance and pluralism and our shared understanding that recognising the importance of biological sex underpins everyone’s rights and needs.

How does SEEN relate to other staff networks?

SEEN believes in fairness, tolerance and pluralism. We welcome engagement and collaboration with other staff networks, recognising there will be areas of agreement and difference. SEEN strongly supports the commitment in the Civil Service 2022-25 Diversity and Inclusion Strategy to increase the diversity of voices in our workplaces and to avoid and challenge groupthink.

Are you that ‘gender critical’ network?

Yes! SEEN is proud to represent gender critical staff across the Civil Service! We are committed to the belief that:

  • Sex is binary and immutable;
  • Sex matters for both women and men in our everyday lives, including for our rights and needs in the workplace; and
  • Sex must not be conflated with, or replaced by, the concepts of gender or gender identity.

This position is protected under the Equality Act 2010 and is sometimes described as ‘gender critical’. But given how widespread this view is, it can also just be described as not holding a belief in the theory that everyone has a ‘gender identity’.

Does this mean SEEN is reducing people to their biology?

No! SEEN celebrates diversity and freedom. We celebrate everything that men and women can be or do, unrestricted by sexist expectations and stereotypes about what men or women should look like, feel or do. There is no right way to act or dress as a woman or a man and we strongly resist such regressive expectations.

We don’t think people should be reduced to a drop down list of identities. Instead, we celebrate the immense diversity and difference that men and women can enjoy by just being who they are.

Why does sex even matter?

It isn’t always necessary to treat men and women differently. But sometimes our rights and needs can only be met by offering different or separate treatment, including to, correct disadvantage and encourage participation. Maternity rights, health care and sexual orientation are just some examples where sex matters.

What about the dignity and rights of others?

We respect all our colleagues and their own protected beliefs and characteristics and we support everyone’s existing legal rights in the workplace. As with other networks, SEEN seeks only to manifest our protected beliefs in a lawful manner and in accordance with the Civil Service Code.

SEEN forms part of the valuable diversity within the Civil Service, and we strongly support fairness, tolerance and pluralism. We want a workplace where colleagues can work in harmony, despite different perspectives. We believe this is best achieved through open discussion and respectful dialogue.