AuthorPIP Admin

What recruiters need to know about the companies they recruit for.

Let’s talk diversity. It’s not just a buzz word. There are many organisations out there that are active in the diversity space, that genuinely value diverse talent and that see individual diversity as a strength, a competency, a unique value add for an employee.

But while many employers talk diversity, we need to be careful how much our recruiters (both internal and external) promote it. We know it’s high on the potential employer wish list for graduates. People want to work for organisations with a sense of corporate social responsibility, ones that are inclusive, ones in which their employee base reflects the diversity of the community that they live in. And it’s high on the employee value proposition for many employers, it’s what could set their offer apart from others.

So why wouldn’t recruiters promote how much an employer values diversity?

The problem is not in promoting diversity and inclusion as an employee value proposition but rather in assuming that diversity and inclusion is a blanket coverall for all diverse people; as opposed to one or two demographics that the organisation focuses on.

For example, we can’t assume that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) inclusion is a given regardless of how much an organisation promotes themselves as a diversity leader.

As Australian’s national employer support program for LGBTI inclusion, we have spoken to many organisations over the years (and continue to do so) where LGBTI inclusion is dismissed as either not relevant, not a focus or a little too forward thinking. Some of Australia’s largest employers still won’t touch this space. So are we sending a false message when we discuss this organisations passion for diversity?

With LGBTI inclusion now being recognised as one of the fastest growing areas of diversity practice, the number of Australian employers actively promoting LGBTI inclusion both internally and externally is growing exponentially.

We are constantly in awe of some of the initiatives being undertaken by our members and the community organisations that are being supported in the process. LGBTI inclusive employers are now actively promoting their LGBTI initiatives at recruitment fares, community events and within recruitment guides encouraging people from within the LGBTI community to seek them as an employer of choice.

So does this mean that for many seeking new roles the assumption will be that if an organisation promoted diversity, this includes LGBTI inclusion?

Will your potential candidates expect there to be an LGBTI employee network?

Will they expect to be able to openly chat about their same-sex partner at work?

Will they assume that it’s a given that their partner will be invited to company events?

Will they want to answer honestly rapport-building questions about their life asked by colleagues, managers, clients?

Most likely yes and sadly, these assumptions would make a lot of employers very nervous.

We need to be mindful of sending the wrong messages. Too many employees are told to hide their sexuality as it will impact their job. Too many are told to take down a picture of their family. Too many are passed over for promotions and career opportunities because of an individual’s personal views or fear of stigma. Yes, even in this day and age.

To add another layer of complexity, let’s talk about the recruitment of transgender and intersex people. Too many openly sex and gender diverse people don’t even make it to the interview stage. We rarely see people discussing the difficulty that many transgender people face when seeking employment and what we can do about that. And how many recruiters could competently respond to related questions from an openly intersex person?

We have spoken to many transgender people over the years who have been extremely distressed by the challenges faced in recruitment as a direct result of their transgender history. While some people can “pass” easily there is still an issue of employment history, credit checks, name changes, gender marker change that will at some stage come up within any extensive checks that a potential employer may undertake. Disclosure at the interview stage is important if somebody wants to go into a role without fear of their history been discovered, facing negative repercussions as a result of their history or for not disclosing in the first instance.

One very skilled employee looking for a role change recently told us that an external recruiter advised her to remove everything currently online that may give her gender history away along with any mention of any transgender community work and advocacy undertaken. She was told that unless she did, it would be highly unlikely that she would get employment. This woman was very proud to be transgender, highly educated, extremely competent and wanted to be a positive role model for others. Fortunately for her, she did not heed that advice and did find an employer that valued her talent and was completely unphased by her gender history. Having come from a very LGBTI inclusive organisation, the shock of the “real world” was overwhelming.

This is where recruiters can play a life-changing and value-add role not only for diversity candidates but for the organisations that they recruit for. There is no doubt that the majority of recruiters fully understand the value of diversity for both the candidates and organisations seeking new talent. But to what degree?

Would you as a recruiter feel absolutely confident putting a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex person forward for a role, knowing that they would find a rewarding career in an inclusive culture in which they could truly thrive?

If a potential candidate disclosed that they were transgender or intersex, do you understand some of the challenges that this person may face if put forward for a role in a non-inclusive culture; even if the organisation rated diversity as high on their EVP?

It is imperative that internal recruitment teams are trained in LGBTI awareness / inclusivity and that sufficient coverage is given to the difficulty faced by many transgender people. While this may not be the experience of every transgender person, the fear around recruitment is very real for the majority of people.

Education for external recruiters is also important. If an organisation is genuinely LGBTI inclusive, external recruiters need to know this. This should be clearly spoken about amongst your other diversity initiatives as a cultural value add during the recruitment process. This will provide people with the confidence to disclose or ask further questions in relation to the extent of the organisations inclusivity.

If you would welcome transgender, gender diverse, intersex candidates, communicate this also. Even though we include transgender and intersex people within commonly used acronyms, communicating this will ensure that the ‘T’ and ‘I’ in LGBTI is not assumed to be a tokenistic add-on.

Gender diverse individuals generally will have more obstacles to overcome in seeking employment, most of which aren’t given any consideration. If someone discloses that they are transgender, agender, bi-gender, inter-gender or gender fluid within an interview process, how would you respond? Do you know what they mean? Do you have an idea of what that the employee may value? Do you understand what some of the expectations of the employer would be?

We need to understand the extent of an organisations inclusivity. Once we understand this, we can respectfully discuss and address any concerns or questions from sex or gender diverse employees; and in the case of external recruiters, possibly point people in the direction of inclusive employers.

As more organisations promote themselves as LGBTI inclusive, the expectations of your potential candidates will increase. Questions will be asked. The question is, can you answer them?

Dawn Hough is Director of ACON’s Pride in Diversity initiative, Australia’s national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion.  For more information on Pride in Diversity or inclusivity training please call (02) 9206 2139.


LAST month at Pride in Diversity, we celebrated 100 members and in the short time since, our membership continues to grow.

While we recognise that there is still much more to do, we celebrate the fact that employers are now seeing LGBTI inclusion as an integral part of their diversity and inclusion strategies. How different things were when Pride in Diversity started not quite six years ago.

This is an exciting time for job seekers who put high on their employer wish list an inclusive culture, one that recognises the incredible contribution that diversity brings to the business, to the lives of individuals and to the richness of its workplace.
I have been in the workforce for 35 years, I have been with my same-sex partner for 32 of those years. However, I have only been “out” for eight.

I spent far too many years of my working life editing conversations, changing personal pronouns, living in fear of being “found out”, avoiding social or networking situations and literally being on guard 24/7. I have listened to family, friends and colleagues talk about gay people with distaste, have fun at their expense and make disparaging remarks — all while smiling, trying to keep an emotionless face and (shamefully) sometimes joining in on some of those conversations in an effort to put people off track.

When you spend that much time hiding who you are for fear of what people will think, your self esteem and sense of self worth plummets. You are overly aware of what you cannot say, what you cannot do, what you must pretend to be, just to do your job. That’s not good for you and it’s certainly not good for an employer.

Many would argue that in this day and age programs like Pride in Diversity are no longer necessary. That people no longer need to be in the closet at work. It is very difficult to understand the complexity of coming out if you have never experienced societal, family and workplace stigma based on “what you are” and/or “who you are”. Some LGBTI people have been incredibly fortunate in that they too, have little experience of this. But for those who do, being out at work is a difficult decision to make and one that requires an assessment of just how safe it is to be who you really are, not in one context, but in multiple. Not with just one team, but with all teams. Not with just one person, but with all people.

And let’s face it, unless you personally know people who work for an organisation that they would highly recommend as being inclusive, you’re taking a bit of a gamble when it comes to choosing your next employer. This is why we publish the Australian National LGBTI Recruitment Guide (ANRG) and why we publish our members on our website.

This ANRG showcases employers that Pride in Diversity are currently working with in regard to their LGBTI inclusion initiatives and it highlights some of their work in this area. While the majority of our members would openly admit there is still more work to be done, at least you know that organisations profiled here are endeavouring to create a safe and inclusive workplace for all of their employees and that there are targeted initiatives in place to ensure LGBTI employees can be themselves at work.

The overwhelming majority of these employers have established LGBTI employee and ally networks providing you with an immediate point of contact should you so choose. The majority of these networks are highly visible and active within the organisation speaking directly to organisational values and the strength that diversity brings.

When you are being interviewed for your next role, ask if the employer is a member, or if they have an LGBTI employee network. If you want to be a little more discreet, enquire as to the areas of diversity that they focus on or what employee networks they have in place.

Don’t waste your years pretending to be someone you’re not. There are some great organisations out there where you can be yourself. We are actively working with many of them.

Dawn Hough is the Director of Pride in Diversity.

If you would like a free copy of the ANRG download it directly here.



Pride in Diversity is Australia’s national not-for-profit employer support program established by ACON in 2009 to assist employers with all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion.

Pride in Diversity is also the developer of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) resulting in the annual top 20 employers for LGBTI employees and workplace inclusion awards, and the producers of the Australian National LGBTI Recruitment Guide (ANRG).

What ‘pride’ means for corporate Australia

By David Brine, Co-chair – Commonwealth Bank’s LGBTIQ ‘Unity’ network

It goes without saying in this world of corporate management speak, that most of us come to work every day looking to be blue-sky thinkers and to leverage every opportunity before we sync up, take it offline and touch base while we circle back on our ideas to grab some low-hanging fruit or quick wins.

Any of that sound familiar? When it’s written all together it can be pretty jarring, right?

What’s encouraging though is that that sort of Orwellian sleight-of-hand is becoming less and less common when organisations talk about diversity and inclusion. Our people are asking simple but right questions of our leaders – “What are we doing?”, “Why aren’t we doing more?”, “How are you going to make me feel welcome?”

Case in point – nearly 700 top-tier businesses have taken up the cause of marriage equality. They’re doing tangible things that can be seen by putting pen to paper, all in the name of offering their people evidence that they aren’t just paying lip service to the idea with hollow words. They’re bringing a touch of reality to the conversation about diversity and inclusion that has, in the past, been too full of hot air or false hope.

Just last month there was another encouraging sign from corporate Australia for supporting the LGBTIQ community with Wear it Purple Day. In my own backyard at Commonwealth Bank Place, we had more than 300 of our people travel from all over Sydney to come together to take what we think is an ASX company’s biggest selfie. Looking at that photo, there are Executive Committee members, heads of divisions, branch managers – allies, former sceptics and long-term diversity diehards all bundled into one frame. I can be seen wearing ridiculous round glasses near the front.
cba 2

For a lot of us involved in that selfie, it partially represents the culmination of more than two years of work to shift diversity and inclusion at the Commonwealth Bank from just a conversation to action. As any of you working in large organisations can appreciate, at times it can feel like you are turning the Titanic, but when you get there the results are very much worth the effort.

Across the Group all over the world, the 1800 members of our LGBTIQ Unity staff network have been involved in more than 120 diversity awareness training sessions and introduced our people to dozens of new employee policies and guides like Transitioning in the Workplace, How to be a great ally and Coming out. By building on that work within the Commonwealth Bank, it’s meant we’ve been able to support the broader community through things like our scholarship program with The Pinnacle Foundation, being a principal partner for the Bingham Cup, supporting anti-homophobia in sport and providing staffing resources and expertise to bring the event to life and of course, supporting events like the recent Wear it Purple raising funds for The Pinnacle Foundation.

To all of you working in Australia reading this, who like me, have heard colleagues offering empty words and placation in the name of diversity and inclusion, have a look at the photo at the end of this piece.

You will see that by focusing on actions that people can measure and see, we can build pride in our diversity for an inclusive Australian society.
Microsoft PowerPoint - WIP-collage [Read-Only]

Let me challenge you on your use of the words Gender Diversity

Most of us when we hear the words Gender Diversity think about the initiatives put in place by employers to create a greater gender balance throughout the organisation ensuring equity, greater career progression opportunities and pay parity for our female talent. But times are changing and the words Gender Diversity are now starting to take on a whole new meaning. How does the utilisation of terms such Gender Diversity and your interpretation of this reflect not only on your organisations understanding of Gender, but your perceived understanding of Diversity and Inclusion more generally; both internally and externally?

Of course when you say Gender, most of us go immediately to male and female. The problem with binary thinking across many aspects of our individual diversity is not only unrealistic but also generating a whole new set of questions for our young graduates and diverse talent; particularly in relation to their fit within an organisation that utilises such a narrow definition of gender.

Black and white is easy for us, shades of grey are always more complex; and binaries when it comes to most aspects of our diversity are just so much easier to understand … and work with … or are they?

In our years of conducting workplace training in sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and intersex status we have had many conversations around the naivety of binaries and of course, the assumptions, conclusions and exclusions that we all make as a result of binary thinking. We have as a society been mostly unaware of the impact that this has had on individuals who do not fit into our binary model let alone the impact on our society, our workplaces, our interactions and our families.

The construct from which we start these conversations with our members is somewhat simplified but forms the foundation from which we base a series of discussions around binary assumptions and non-binary reality. Starting with a somewhat simplified portrayal of sex, gender identity, gender expression and orientation we build up to give further explanation to terms such as Queer, Asexual, Pansexual, BiGender, AGender, Gender Fluid, Gender Diverse, Gender Queer amongst others (pending time and prior knowledge of our audience).

Of course we acknowledge the confining limitation of labels, the changing nature of acceptable and non-acceptable terminology and the growing awareness and expectation that we refrain from “boxing” people into categories and labels but there is still a need to communicate a movement away from binary thinking.

What has become apparent to us over the years is that post training people generally “get” / understand what we mean by Intersex status (simplified), Gender Expression and Orientation (simplified) and Gender Identity – providing we limit Gender Identity to male, female, or a male or female who has changed their gender expression to match their true gender identity as opposed to the sex/gender that they were assigned at birth.

A basic understanding of Intersex status, an androgynous expression (for want of a better word) and bisexuality provides people with great examples of non-binary thinking, but when it comes to gender identity, we tend to still get stuck on binary explanations of male and female.

For example:

We understand that someone born male may change their expression to female to align with their true gender identity and likewise someone born female may change their expression to male to align with their true gender identity; but this is still utilising a binary of male and female. This is not helped at all by most progressive organisations active in diversity and inclusion using the term Gender Diversity to refer solely to their male and female workforce participation.

But what if someone identifies as neither male or female, both or their identity is far more fluid than our labels permit?

  • How does this impact our gender tracking?
  • Does this show the limitations of our thinking when we use terms such as gender diversity? Particularly when we promote ourselves as leaders in diversity and inclusion?
  • Do our HR systems, salutations (if still used), forms force people into boxes that are incorrect and ostracise them in the process?
  • What does this mean for our language? Our personal pronouns?
  • What of dress codes (if they apply)
  • What of those roles that are open only to those of a particular gender / sex?
  • While we understand completely that the same questions may be asked on behalf of our Intersex Employees, our focus for this blog focuses on gender identity (Please download our free publication An Employers Guide to Intersex Inclusion for a thorough coverage of this subject).

Needless to say, while many organisations are making wonderful progress in providing policy and practical support for those who do transition in the workplace, we are still largely ignorant of, or unsure as to how we respond to those who do not identify as male or female (regardless of the sex that they were assigned at birth).

So, in our conference this year we are going to be looking at smashing those binaries with several of our breakout sessions and plenaries tackling the topics of Intersex status, non-binary sexualities and gender identities. We will close the conference with a candid discussion with individuals who identify as gender diverse and will launch at the conference our 2015 publication on Smashing the Gender Binary.

There is little doubt that times are changing and as Diversity and Inclusion professionals we need to be aware of these changes, our language and how this impacts our workforce.

For more information on the 2015 Pride in Practice LGBTI Workplace Conference, November 30 – December 2 in Sydney please visit:


Dawn Hough is Director of Pride in Diversity, Australia’s national employer support program for all aspects of LGBTI Workplace Inclusion and the developers of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) and the resulting Top 20 Employers Awards.


Pride in Diversity is excited to announce that we’ve signed the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) as our 100th member.
Commenting on this significant milestone, Mark Orr, ACON President, said:
“With workplace equality now an integral part of many businesses in Australia, more and more companies are recognising the enormous value and benefits of creating an inclusive workplace for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) employees.

“All the available data shows that people will perform better and make a more productive contribution to a workplace if they can be themselves and feel safe at work. That is precisely why so many of Australia’s leading companies have recognised that workplace inclusion is not only good for their employees but also good for their business bottom line.

“Just over five years ago, Pride in Diversity had eight foundation members including the Australian Federal Police, Department of Defence, Goldman Sachs, IBM,ING, KPMG, Lendlease, Telstra and we now we have a diverse and expanding membership base.

“In addition to the growing number of employers who believe in welcoming and supporting LGBTI people, the need for inclusive LGBTI service delivery is increasingly seen as an essential component to good welfare and health provision. In response to this, and as an extension of the National LGBTI Aged Care Training Initiative, ACON has established a training and consultancy team to support providers deliver inclusive and safe LGBTI services.

Pride in Diversity Director Dawn Hough welcomed the International Convention Centre Sydney and said, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome on board the International Convention Centre City Sydney as our 100th member. By joining Pride in Diversity companies have the opportunity to showcase their commitment to equality and diversity in the workplace, as demonstrated by one of our founding members Lendlease, who are also part of the Public Private Partnership with the NSW Government that is delivering ICC Sydney.

“We are very proud to be working with 100 incredible members. We look forward to establishing new relationships with those who have come on board recently and continuing with those who we have worked with over the years to change the landscape of every workplace so that a person’s LGBT identity is – no more or less – important than any other aspect of identity amongst all employees.

“And of course we look forward to welcoming our next 100 members.”

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy said the AEG Ogden managed venue would welcome guests from across Sydney, the nation and the world and just as its patrons represented diverse nations, industries, ages, sexual orientation and career paths, its people would represent a diverse workforce.

“At ICC Sydney, we recognise and value the different knowledge, skills, backgrounds and perspectives that people bring to work irrespective of their age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or social background. Workforce diversity builds organisational capability and will help us deliver on our goals for collaboration, productivity and innovation. An ingredient in our world class guest experience will be the diversity visible within our workforce, our partners, our supplier base, and our activity,” he said.

Pride & Diversity also operates the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), which is a free service provided annually that evaluates and benchmarks LGBTI inclusiveness in Australian workplaces. It comprises the largest and only national employee survey designed to gauge the overall impact of inclusion initiatives on organisational culture as well as identifying and non-identifying employees. The AWEI Index and its associated top 20 Inclusive Awards drive best practice in Australia and set a comparative benchmark for Australian employers across all sectors.

Download the full media release here. 

In the Media –  SX 28 August 2015.

LGBTI** Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Community

More information:
Andrew Hamadanian, ACON Media & Communications Officer
E: | T: (02) 9206 2044 | M: 0419 555 768

Australia’s Top 20 Employers For LGBTI Employees 2015 Announced

From left to right: Michael Belmore, James Collins, Tanya Matthewson and Faris Cosic – Members Of PWC’s GLEE LGBTI Employee Group

PwC has been named Australia’s Employer of the Year for 2015, the first time an employer has picked up the coveted title twice, at a special event recognising workplace support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

The Australian arm of the global professional services firm topped a list of 20 organisations which were recognised today at a special luncheon in Sydney organised by Pride in Diversity, Australia’s first and only national employer support program for the inclusion of LGBTI people in the workplace.

The awards were determined using Pride In Diversity’s Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), a free service provided annually by Pride In Diversity that evaluates and benchmarks LGBTI inclusiveness in Australian workplaces.

Other awards at the luncheon included: LGBTI Employee Network of the Year (Westpac GLOBAL); Highest Ranking University (Curtin University); Highest Ranking Public Sector Organisation (Australian Federal Police & Department of Defence); and Achievement Award for Most Improved (HSBC).

ANZ won an Innovation Award for their GayTM’s, Key Assets won Small Employer Award and Children & Young People’s Mental Health picked up the Regional Employer Award. Australian Red Cross Blood Collection was also named Highest Ranking Not-for-Profit/Charity.

This year individuals from Lend Lease (Jason Burubu), Deakin University (Roxanne/Bobby J Thomson), Westpac Group (Brad Cooper and Kristina Bennett) and Curtin University (Maz Rahman) were acknowledged for their significant contribution to LGBTI workplace inclusion initiatives.

Presenting the Awards at the Ceremony, the Hon Michael Kirby AC, said, “I applaud all the organisations here today, and indeed individuals who have played critical roles in their ongoing commitment and support of their LGBTI employees and colleagues.

“While many employees feel comfortable to be themselves at work, let’s not lose sight of the fact that many more do not. Where we stand today is still not good enough. The more inclusive your workplace culture, the more likely people will be to engage, respect and contribute to the organisation they are working for.”

Pride in Diversity Director Dawn Hough says more organisations are engaging with the AWEI. “This is the fifth year of the AWEI. The number of employers participating has increased by 152% from Year 1 and we now have over 9000 employees participating in the employee survey. The focus on LGBTI inclusion initiatives has increased substantially. We are really looking at our Top 20 Employers now as examples of good practice. There is very little difference point-wise between some of these employers, in some cases, as little as 1 point between leaderboard positions.”

Approximately 450 people attended the sold-out event at the Westin in Sydney on May 15, MC’d by Bob Downe. Guests included Pride In Diversity patron the Hon. Michael Kirby, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson and CEO’s and Leaders from some of Australia’s largest commercial and public sector organisations. On the back of the announcement that Pride in Diversity will also be developing an index to address homophobia in sports, representatives from Bingham Cup, Football Federation Australia, Cricket Australia, Australian Sports Commission, Australian Rugby Union, National Rugby League and AFL were also present.

“Pride in Diversity congratulates all the organisations recognised today on their significant achievement and for showing great leadership in the area of diversity and inclusion,” Ms Hough says.

The 2015 Top 20 Australian employers for LGBTI people are:

  • 1. PwC
  • 2. Westpac Group
  • 3. Curtin University
  • 4. Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • 5. Goldman Sachs
  • 6. ANZ
  • 7. Macquarie Bank
  • 8. Lend Lease
  • 9. National Australia Bank
  • 10. The University of WA
  • 11. IBM
  • 12. EY
  • 13. Australian Red Cross Blood Service
  • =14. Accenture
  • = 14. Allens
  • 16. UnitingCare Ageing NSW.ACT
  • =17. Australian Federal Police
  • =17. Department of Defence
  • 19. Herbert Smith Freehills
  • 20. Telstra

Pride In Diversity is a program of ACON, NSW’s leading HIV and LGBTI health organisation.
*LGBTI – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex


For more info please contact:
Dawn Hough, Pride In Diversity Director
T: (02) 9206 2136 M: 0409 887 212 E:

Media Enquiries:
Andrew Hamadanian, ACON Media & Communication Officer
E: T: (02) 9206 2044 M: 0419 555 768

Australian Financial Review: Pricewaterhousecoopers-wins-top-employer-for-lgbti-support

At a slightly more than black-and-grey corporate event on Friday, professional services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, was awarded Australia’s 2015 employer of the year for workplace support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Westpac Group and Curtin University took out second and third place respectively in the Australian Workplace Equality Index conducted by employer support program, Pride In Diversity.

Read the full article. 

Here’s Australia’s 20 most LGBTI-friendly employers

An awards luncheon today has announced Australia’s top 20 proudest local companies for their efforts with workplace support for LGBTI people.

The event was hosted by Pride in Diversity, Australia’s first and only national employer support program for the inclusion of LGBTI people in the workplace.

PwC Australia was given the top honour – named Australia’s Employer of the Year 2015.

Read the full article here. 


PricewaterhouseCoopers has been named Australia’s top employer for LGBTI people for 2015.

The Australian arm of the global professional services firm topped a list of 20 organisations which were recognised today at a special luncheon in Sydney organised by Pride in Diversity, Australia’s first and only national employer support program for the inclusion of LGBTI people in the workplace.

Read the full article here.