Category : Sport

Australian business, sport and health leaders to champion LGBTI inclusion

Six extraordinary and influential LGBTI Australians, internationally-recognised as leaders in their respective fields, have been appointed patrons of landmark LGBTI inclusion initiatives spearheaded by ACON: Alan Joyce AC, Daniel Kowalski OAM, Alex Blackwell, Kerryn Phelps AM, Michael Ebeid AM and Jennifer Westacott

Established in 2009 by NSW’s leading LGBTI health organisation ACON, Pride Inclusion Programs comprise a suite of initiatives that assists employers, sporting organisations and healthcare service providers with all aspects of LGBTI inclusion. These include Pride in Diversity, Pride in Sport and Pride in Health+Wellbeing.

In recognition of their outstanding contributions towards progressing LGBTI inclusion within Australian sport – on and off the field – Olympic champion Daniel Kowalski and world-leading cricketer Alex Blackwell have become the inaugural patrons of Pride in Sport.

Professor Kerryn Phelps, a City of Sydney Councillor and leading LGBTI health advocate, joins SBS CEO and Managing Director Michael Ebeid as inaugural patrons of Pride in Health+Wellbeing, a program that provides support to organisations in the health sector in delivering LGBTI inclusive services.

They join recently appointed patrons to workplace inclusion program Pride in Diversity, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia Jennifer Westacott, both of whom take over from founding patron the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, who is stepping down from his role after eight years.

In welcoming the new patrons, ACON President Dr Justin Koonin said each extraordinary appointee brings a wealth of experience in leadership from the corporate, health and sporting sectors, and their appointments as patrons will combine to build energy and momentum to Pride Inclusion Programs’ ongoing efforts in advancing LGBTI inclusion.

“Even with the successful passage of marriage equality legislation in 2017, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done in ensuring our workplaces, sporting environments and health services are welcoming and inclusive of LGBTI people,” Dr Koonin said.

“The appointments of these outstanding Australians will go a great way in providing additional expertise. As corporate, sporting and health leaders and prominent champions for diversity, their involvement will galvanise support for a more inclusive environment for all Australians.

“I wish to both congratulate and thank all of our new patrons for their leadership, their wisdom and their commitment to our Pride Inclusion Programs, and wish them every success as new patrons of these vital social inclusion initiatives.”

Dawn Hough, Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, added: “It is a privilege for me to welcome each one of these incredible LGBTI leaders as patrons of our Pride Inclusion Programs. I believe all of our programs will benefit greatly from the added capabilities they will all bring.”

Media enquiries:

David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications

E: | T: +61 (02) 9206 2044 | M: +61 (0)428 477 042

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce Becomes Patron Of LGBTI Workplace Inclusion Program

Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce AC, has today been announced as a co-patron of ACON’s national not-for-profit program for LGBTI workplace inclusion, Pride in Diversity. Mr Joyce will share the position with recently appointed patron and Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott.

Mr Joyce will take over from former High Court Justice and founding Patron, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, who has announced he will be stepping down from his role after eight years.

A vocal advocate during last year’s push to legalise marriage equality in Australia, Mr Joyce is a longstanding advocate for greater social inclusion and equality. He was named a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honours List for his contributions to gender equity, inclusion and diversity, and a supporter of Indigenous education, as well as for his contribution to tourism and aviation.

In welcoming Mr Joyce, ACON President Dr Justin Koonin said that he brings a wealth of experience in leadership and advocacy from the corporate sector, and his appointment as co-patron of Pride in Diversity will bring new energy to the program’s ongoing efforts in advancing LGBTI inclusion.

“Even with the successful passage of marriage equality legislation in 2017, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do, and it is important that in all aspects of Australian life we have outstanding leaders, advocates and allies – including of course within Australia’s major business, governmental and educational institutions,” Dr Koonin said.

“Alan’s appointment will go a great way in providing additional understanding and expertise to Pride In Diversity, complementing the current strong leadership team and staff. As a business leader and prominent champion for diversity, his involvement will galvanise support for a more inclusive environment for Australian business.”

Speaking on his appointment, Mr Joyce said: “I’m honoured to be part of ACON’s efforts to create workplaces where LGBTI Australians feel confident to be themselves. Companies have so much to gain when employees bring their whole selves to their job, but I’ve heard too many stories from people who feel they have to devote a lot of energy to hiding a big part of their identity. The marriage equality result shows us that Australia really does believe in a fair go for all, so we need to take that message to more parts of the community. I look forward to continuing Michael’s fantastic advocacy over the past eight years and working with Jennifer to help organisations wanting to create a welcoming, diverse environment.”

Reflecting on his legacy as Pride In Diversity’s founding Patron and the program’s growth over eight years, Mr Kirby said that the time was right for him to step down and that the stewardship offered by Mr Joyce and Ms Westacott will assure the program’s continued success.

“I was delighted to be appointed the inaugural patron for the Pride in Diversity program in February 2010, and have been very pleased with the progress that the program has made to date. Although I am ever-youthful, I feel it is time for me to hand over to new, even younger patrons to contribute new ideas in a time of great change,” Mr Kirby said.

“The ever growing success of the outreach to business, sporting and general community is most heartening. It is part of the explanation for the changing attitudes of Australians of all walks of life towards LGBTIQ equality and justice. In cities, regional, remote and rural Australia, things are changing. As patron, I have always urged the need to be concerned, beyond Australia, with our neighbours, our region and the world.

“As Patron for the last eight years, I feel it is now time for me to stand down. It is time for others to contribute their skills, knowledge and wisdom to the ongoing work of Pride in Diversity. I am delighted to have been involved in the appointment of two of our most accomplished captains of industry Jennifer Westacott and Alan Joyce. I will continue to take interest in Pride in Diversity, offer my views and attend their parties.

“I wish to both congratulate and thank both Jennifer and Alan for their leadership, their wisdom and their commitment to this program and wish them every success as new Patrons of Pride in Diversity.”

Dawn Hough, Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, said: “It is a privilege for me to welcome Alan Joyce as co-patron of Pride in Diversity. While Mr. Kirby has left some big shoes to fill, I believe we, and indeed all of our programs will benefit greatly from the added capabilities Mr Joyce will bring.”

For more information please contact:

David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications

E: T: +61 (02) 9206 2044 M: +61 (0)428 477 042

Jennifer Westsacott becomes LGBTI Inclusion Program Patron

Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, has today been announced as a co-patron of ACON’s national not-for-profit program for LGBTI workplace inclusion, Pride in Diversity. Ms Westacott will share the position with founding patron and former High Court Justice, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG.

Ms Westacott was recognised for her work as a long-time advocate for greater social and economic inclusion throughout her over 20 years of leadership in critical positions within New South Wales and Victorian governments.

Her involvement in government has seen Ms Westacott appointed as a Director of Housing and the Secretary of Education in Victoria, and most recently a Director-General of the New South Wales Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources.

From 2005 to 2011 Ms Westacott was senior partner at KPMG, heading up the firm’s Sustainability, Climate Change and Water practice and its NSW State Government practice. During her time at KPMG, Jennifer advised some of Australia’s major corporations on climate change and sustainability matters, and provided advice to governments around Australia on major reform priorities.
Mr Kirby said Ms Westacott brings a wealth of experience in leadership, diversity and advocacy in the corporate sector, and her appointment as co-patron of Pride in Diversity will strengthen the program’s ongoing efforts in advancing LGBTI inclusion.

“This is a time of uncertainty amongst many LGBTIQ Australians, as their claim to equal civil rights is being debated and questioned by some fellow citizens,” Mr Kirby said. “At such a time it is vital to remind ourselves of the outstanding leaders and supporters we have amongst LGBTIQ Australians and their allies – and in Australia’s major business, governmental and educational corporations gathered in Pride in Diversity.

“It is a special privilege, at such a time, for me to welcome Jennifer Westacott to be co-patron. Gay people and their allies are everywhere. As a top Australian business and community leader, Jennifer Westacott symbolises confidence and faith in the future, based on equality and diversity.”

ACON President Dr Justin Koonin warmly welcomed Ms Westacott’s appointment, noting the considerable experience Ms Westacott brings with her to the position.

“Her appointment will go a great way in providing additional understanding and expertise to Pride In Diversity, complementing the current strong leadership team and staff,” Dr Koonin said. “The knowledge and networks our patrons provide will support new strategic initiatives and strengthen the program’s connections within the corporate sector. As ACON’s suite of Pride Inclusion Programs continues to grow, I am tremendously excited that ACON will benefit from the added capabilities Ms Westacott will bring.”

Speaking to the responsibility of corporate Australia to promote diversity and inclusion, Ms Westacott said: “Businesses want diverse workplaces where employees feel included and supported – it isn’t only a moral imperative, it’s also just good business. I’m proud to be patron of the Pride in Diversity program, helping businesses as well as employees create more diverse and productive workplaces.

“Many of Australia’s biggest companies are leading on this, but Pride in Diversity challenges them to keep improving, expanding and sharing the strategies that we know are working. I’m looking forward to working as patron to see this program rolled out in workplaces across the nation.”

Pride in Diversity is the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion specialising in workplace diversity, HR and organisational change. Pride in Diversity publishes the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), the country’s national benchmarking instrument for LGBTI workplace inclusion from which Top Employers for LGBTI people is determined.

ACON’s other Pride Inclusion Programs, including Pride In Sport and Pride In Health + Wellbeing offer a range of services to assist and support employers, sporting organisations and health service providers with all aspects of LGBTI inclusion.

More information on ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs can be found via

Homophobia is harmful to workers and businesses

This article was published on The Conversation on 21st March, 2017 and was authored by Raymond Trau, Lecturer, RMIT. Cathy Brown, Policy and Research Manager, Diversity Council Australia also contributed to the article.

Homophobia is costly to workers and the businesses that employ them, research shows. Unfortunately, it’s still prevalent in Australia and the latest lobbying from 34 business leaders for marriage equality emphasises the need for it to be addressed both within and outside the workplace.

It’s little wonder some of Australia’s leading companies called on the government to get on with the job of legislating for marriage equality. Businesses increasingly recognise that homophobia and transphobia limit their organisation’s ability to attract and retain a high calibre workforce and is hurting their bottom-line.

As CEO of Deloitte, Cindy Hook, stated

I believe in fairness and inclusion for all and my overriding aim is for every one of our people at Deloitte to reach their full potential, which includes choosing who they marry.

Smart employers know that diverse and inclusive workplaces are more profitable, innovative and have employees who are more engaged, and have a higher level of staff retention.

Homophobia is prevalent and costly

Research tells us that close to one in two LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) Australians hide their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status in the workplace for fear being “out” could damage their careers.

And despite Australia having some of the most inclusive anti-discrimination protections in the world for LGBTI people, most LGBTI employees in Australia have witnessed or heard of homophobic incidents at work.

Those experiencing homophobia and transphobia are likely to have decreased well-being and negative work attitudes, suggesting that homophobia and transphobia (including not recognising LGBTI relationships) can hurt the quality of work life and the general well-being of LGBTI individuals.

LGBTI individuals face barriers even before they start a job. The probability of gay and lesbian applicants being selected for a job interview is lower than it is for their heterosexual counterparts. This is especially true for those residing in areas lacking legal protection such as Texas in the United States and working in male or female-dominated industries.

Homophobia and transphobia can also have a detrimental impact on productivity and profitability. In Australia, lesbian and gay marketing specialist firm Out Now estimates the financial benefits associated with encouraging closeted workers to come out could be as much as A$285 million per year. This includes an 11% increase in staff retention and 30% improvement in the productivity of closeted workers.
Research from the US shows companies that adopt LGBTI-supportive policies achieve higher productivity and profitability resulting in a greater growth in their share price. This is compared to companies that are not supportive of their LGBTI employees. So LGBTI inclusion makes good business sense.

What should business do?

Over the past decade, companies have made significant progress towards creating more inclusive workplaces for LGBTI employees. And this is having a pay-off for all employees, as a recent review of LGBTI studies shows.

Research shows that inclusive leaders play a critical role in unlocking the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Having an inclusive leader who is a member of a minority group may reduce unconscious bias towards this minority group.

So it follows that having visible LGBTI senior leaders in an organisation could help to reduce homophobic and transphobic attitudes and demonstrate a more inclusive culture within the organisation.

Research in social psychology has also found that clear instructions to avoid stereotyping can be an effective way to reduce unconscious bias. Therefore, a firm and consistent message on LGBTI inclusion from supervisors, managers and executives, may minimise unconscious bias and stereotyping towards LGBTI employees.

Companies can also create an LGBTI-inclusive workplace by developing and implementing specific LGBTI-inclusive policies and practices. Examples of this include providing information and support to LGBTI employees (such as establishing a LGBTI network) and also making the support of LGBTI inclusive initiatives visible to all their employees, business partners and the community.

Businesses can also create diversity champions, employees who model inclusive behaviour and positive attitudes towards LGBTI employees. These champions can create a safe space for LGBTI individuals. This practice is increasingly common in sports.

Homophobia is costly to individuals, businesses and the community. Unfortunately, it is still prevalent and needs to be addressed both within and outside the workplace. Leaders, organisations and the community should work together to tackle homophobia and achieve equality.

Cathy Brown contributed to this article. She is the Policy and Research Manager at Diversity Council Australia and is also an Authorised Marriage Celebrant.

Where do I go? Easy access to LGBTI support in the workplace.

LGBTI employees may find themselves in sticky situations on a daily basis, some harsher than others, but the accumulative impact of micro-aggressions and discrimination can have a significant impact on one’s wellbeing and mental health. Unfortunately, in the 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Employee Survey, only 45% out of the 10 lowest ranking number confirmed that they knew where to go for more information about LGBTI inclusion. How do we make these paths for reaching out easier and more accessible?

Here is an experiment you can run: take three new employees and ask them to act on the following scenario – their closest workmate had a chat with them and told them they were gender diverse and thinking about transitioning. They seemed anxious and depressed, and this process has a major impact on their wellbeing. You want to help. Now go to the organisation’s intranet and find two people you are absolutely confident your friend can contact and get support from as an LGBTI individual, one from HR, one not.

Now sit down and have a look at how they try to get this information from the intranet. Where do they go first? What is the logic that guides them? Do they start with the HR page? Do they go to the diversity page? Is there a designated LGBTI area? Is it clear and easy to find? What comes up when you type LGBTI support in the search field?

This first part of the experiment will help you assess how accessible the information is to all staff. It is important to note that the specific scenario was not chosen without thought.

First, the reasons why the AWEI asks for LGBTI friendly contacts that are both HR and non-HR are to do with confidentiality, disclosure and safety. Some people might want to have an off-the-record conversation with a colleague or a manager who can provide some insight about the organisation’s approach, without worrying about their personal files or policies and procedures. Some will feel more comfortable talking to a HR contact that can help refer them to the organisation’s policies and track record in LGBTI inclusion and assist them with references to relevant information for their situation.

Second, LGBTI individuals are the ones who will usually seek out help and support, however everyone might find themselves in situations where other people in their lives may need support and assistance, and all employees need to be able to access this information. Many times we see great intentions translated into poor structures as HR/D&I individuals are convinced that the platform they created is accessible and easy to find without actively testing the waters. When it comes to support, it is vital that you are able to find what you are looking for quickly and easily. Reaching out is incredibly difficult and challenging for many people, which means that every additional click/phone call/question that stands between them and getting support may serve as another indicator that it is not safe for them to be their full self within your workplace. If you can reach support easily via your intranet home page while following a clear, logical, and intuitive path – you nailed it. Anything more complicated than that may be counterproductive.

Now to the second part of the experiment. Let us say that all three of your new staff got to a list of LGBTI-friendly contacts, including HR and non-HR, and provided you with two names as requested. Keep enquiring: are you sure these people can effectively manage gender affirmation processes or advice related to them within your workplace? Are you sure your friend can trust them to use inclusive language and to refer to them appropriately? Are you sure confidentiality will be kept? How do you know this? How did you assess the emotional safety required for such sensitive processes?

Once again, we need to walk in the shoes of an LGBTI person in need, or someone who is trying to access necessary support or information. The bottom line here is that explicit language is vital in order to create a level of safety and accessibility for LGBTI people and peers. It is not enough to just provide the names and numbers, it is essential to also mention credentials, relevant training, confidentiality, processes etc. Do not assume that people know or will assume these things. The contrary works – assume they know nothing, and provide them with all the information you can in order to make it easier to make a very hard decision – reach out, come out.

The good news is that these structures do exist and operate successfully in some of our member organisations. In comparison to 45% of the employees in the 10 lowest ranking members who knew where to go in order to seek information about LGBTI inclusion, a whopping 87% knew where to access this information in our 10 top ranking organisations. This is a strong reflection and demonstration to how LGBTI inclusion permeates to different layers of the organisation over time. Taking into consideration that the 10 top ranking members have been working with Pride in Diversity for a number of years, they have had the time, and often a number of AWEI submissions to fine-tune their structures, policies and procedures for maximum impact. Constant exposure to events, executive sponsors, visual inclusion cues, information, policies, training sessions and other initiatives create an environment in which reaching out is simpler and safer for LGBTI employees.

It is important to rely on the recommendations in the AWEI, as they stem from years of experience of organisations that have been with Pride in Diversity since its inception in 2009. These high resolution items carry the same spirit of visibility, accessibility and clarity, and provide LGBTI employees with an experience that counteracts their inherent sense of exclusion and replaces it with inclusion and safety. Isn’t that what we all want from our employer?

Shai Feniger, a Relationship Manager for Pride in Diversity, comes with over 15 years of experience working and volunteering with marginalised groups, with a focus on LGBTI, Indigenous peoples and mental health. He is experienced with Team Management, Program Development, Training and Facilitation, Community Development and Service Provision, and with experience in LGBTI inclusion in the workplace.

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Transgender Day of Visibility- Is Visibility Enough?

Visibility for transgender and gender diverse people provides a vital tool for workplaces working on improving inclusion for transgender and gender diverse people, but is visibility alone enough to build an inclusive society or even an inclusive workplace?

Transgender Day of Visibility (31 March) is a day set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the lives of transgender and gender diverse people. Increasing visibility of transgender and gender diverse people is essential to acknowledging diversity and building inclusion.

It is important for us all to realise that visibility of transgender and gender diverse people has already made a significant difference in some of our workplaces, it informs those who have struggled with identity, that they have options, it assists organisations to benefit from talented individuals who would otherwise not have an opportunity to shine, but there is much left to do.

Visibility alone is not enough to build an inclusive society or even an inclusive workplace. Visibility however does provide a vital tool for workplaces working on improving inclusion for transgender and gender diverse people.  The risk of this visibility is that it may burden our people with a task many may not want to bear.  Most transgender and gender diverse people just want to go about their day like everybody else, being recognised as valuable for the work they do regardless of their gender identity. Although there are occasions when people will be comfortable to address appropriate questions and provide information related to their identity and experiences, they should not be automatically expected to bear the burden of repeatedly having to educate others. When we also consider that most transgender and gender diverse people consider that cisgender people should not speak on behalf of the community, how then can an organisation work towards greater inclusion without expecting too much of their transgender and  gender diverse employees?

This is where organisations can benefit from resources provided by ACON’s Pride in Diversity and Pride in Sport programs. Both these programs provide expertise, consulting services, training, printed resources, , informative and inspiring guest speakers, including speakers with lived experience. By accessing the expertise available within these programs, workplaces and sporting organisation can become better informed about the challenges faced by transgender and gender diverse people, without forcing employees to disclose their history or placing them in situations where they constantly have to educate others about what it means to be transgender or gender diverse.

What can your organisation do on Transgender Day of Visibility, to celebrate the lives of people while being respectful of transgender and gender diverse colleagues and employees?

  • Invite a transgender or gender diverse speaker to address your workplace;
  • Undertake LGBTI or transgender specific training;
  • Simply direct employees to some of the fantastic video resources that are available via ACON’s Pride in Diversity program, or;
  • Hold a celebration acknowledging the diversity of your workforce

ACON’s Pride in Diversity and Pride in Sport’s programs wish you a fantastic and insightful Transgender Day of Visibility 2017!

Kimberly Olsen is a Manager within ACON’s Pride Inclusion programs. Kimberly is able to draw from her perspective as a transgender woman in order to help organisations meaningfully engage with people of not only diverse sexualities, but also diverse gender identities. Email

Why Benchmarking is so critical in Diversity and Inclusion

While I think most Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) professionals would say that we have made some progress and that the business case for diversity is now widely acknowledged and communicated (even it is does sometimes appear a little well-rehearsed and a somewhat tired piece of diversity rhetoric), this D&I game is still a tough gig. Many would argue that support is still just lip service, that while we just roll the benefits off our tongue and get the executive nod when its needed (because it’s something we should all be paying attention to), when it comes to the crunch ie. the tough stuff (additional resources, budget or Senior Leadership KPIs) there is still some considerable pushback.

Many of us would passionately argue that we are still falling behind, not making enough progress in terms of seeing more women on boards or in C-suite positions, Indigenous employment, cultural diversity or in the areas of accessibility & disability; and yet we see some extraordinary growth and some amazing work by passionate “on the ground individuals” in areas such as LGBTI inclusion.  I’m not saying that LGBTI inclusion is there yet, by no means, but the impact of passionate individuals desperately wanting to help drive the change in their own organisations in support of their diversity and that of loved ones, is becoming a force for change that is drawing the attention and getting the buy-in of many a one-time diversity-worn sceptical leader.

For as many papers being written on the positive impact or otherwise of D&I initiatives, there as many arguments for and against what are deemed to be the best approaches.   Is it all about targets and accountabilities or about focus groups, listening circles and tailored solutions?  Do we roll all D&I initiatives into one bucket leading to a collective set of outcomes or do we created pillars of focus running the risk of perceptions that we are giving more attention to one set of diverse individuals over another?  Do we follow the latest trend or deep-dive into our own culture, understand it first and then devise the strategy?  And if we take the latter approach, do we risk being so inwardly focused that we lose track of the progress that other organisations are making outside of our inner circle?  Welcome to the life of a diversity practitioner.

I personally have no doubt that there are answers in many of these seemingly opposing views, but I still keep coming back to the need for local benchmarking, as tedious as the process can sometimes be.  If we have a regularly updated national benchmark on what currently constitutes good practice, then we have a road map, a current roadmap, a local roadmap to guide us.  Not one derived from what other countries are doing based on their different histories, different workplace cultures, different laws and different experiences of diversity but on what we are doing here in Australia.  If the benchmark has a way of identifying the areas of current and leading practice, provides quantitative and qualitative feedback on the work that we doing in the assessed area and a means by which we can track progress year on year, then we can not only drive our internal initiatives in a culturally appropriate way, but we can, move with the benchmark as it moves ensuring that we are always on top of the game, not independent of it.

Important in any benchmark is the ability to measure not only what the organisation does in order to meet the current standard, but the impact that it is having on the lived experiences of those on the ground; whether they belong to a diverse community or not. We need to balance the work of the organisation with the impact on the culture, on the people and on the very lives of those we are trying to improve through the provision of equitable and respectful workplaces.  Combined with comprehensive metrics we can then track the impact that these initiatives have on retention, engagement, promotions, team compilation and leadership representation.  Benchmarking also gives us that all powerful insight into what our peers are doing, how we compare to our competititors, our suppliers, those in the same industry or sector.

Benchmarking does take time admittedly, but the value you get during the lifespan of your work within the different aspects of D&I is invaluable. It’s well worth the commitment.

Dawn Hough is the Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs specialising in LGBTI inclusion within Australian workplaces (Pride in Diversity), sporting contexts (Pride in Sport).

Pride in Diversity are also the publishers of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) – a national benchmarking tool for LGBTI workplace Inclusion.  The AWEI is a free service offered to all Australian Employers regardless of where they are on the LGBTI Inclusion journey.  For more information on the AWEI (submissions close in mid March every year), visit:

Maximising the Effect of LGBTI Inclusion Initiatives

In the 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index employee survey we asked employees of participating organisations whether they believed their organisation genuinely supported LGBTI inclusion. While 90% of the employees in our 10 top ranked organisations strongly agreed with the statement, only 66% of the employees in our 10 lowest ranking organisations felt the same. How do we make sure our LGBTI inclusion initiatives are reflected in the DNA of the company, and that the change permeates to all layers of the workplace?

Since 2013 and the significant change in anti-discriminatory laws, the Australian work environment is experiencing a fast-tracked process of change around the meaning and the importance of inclusion initiatives in the workplace. On top of an array of impacts that self-editing employees may suffer, as LGBTI identities are now considered protected attributes, businesses are liable for LGBTI discrimination, bullying and harassment, and any type of emotional distress that an individual might suffer as consequence.

In the past three years Pride in Diversity experienced a 365% growth in membership, and witnessed a significant shift in the way businesses endorse LGBTI inclusion, embrace its benefits and use it for branding and marketing. Despite these rapid changes, the end experience of LGBTI employees is not all positive, and in this front changes can be far slower, as they permeate gradually into the different layers of the business.

Quite often we encounter professionals who assess inclusion based on vague ideas and concepts and not based on facts and numbers. We hear about an inclusive vibe, about not having an issue with LGBTI people, about a few employees who are ‘out’ and fine with it. While all of these observations might be true, they neglect to thoroughly address all layers of the business, and address possible roadblocks that LGBTI individuals might encounter in different departments, locations, environments or under different management. As LGBTI individuals more often than not come with an inherit experience of exclusion, it is essential to remember that unless their  identities are explicitly and proactively invited to be celebrated as part of the business’s DNA, they will not necessarily feel included no matter what the vibe is. The art of LGBTI inclusion is about incorporating LGBTI inclusive initiatives, while communicating them clearly, visibly and explicitly.

Further to the belief in businesses’ genuine support in LGBTI inclusion, in the 2016 AWEI survey, we looked into employees’ belief that their organisation communicates LGBTI inclusion initiatives internally. Within the top 10 ranking organisations, 82% of the employees strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, in comparison with 43% of employees of the lowest ranking organisations. This is consistent with other markers, such as employees’ knowledge of where to get more information about LGBTI inclusion in the workplace (87% vs. 45%). In short, members who reach out more, communicate more, and promote accessibility – maximise the impact of their LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

Let us take policy review as an example. For many organisations, amending the existing policies into including LGBTI identities, relationship and specific benefits is one of the first stages taken in their LGBTI inclusion process. It is also the first question in the AWEI, aiming to build a strong structural framework which serves as a foundation for eliminating major roadblocks LGBTI people might encounter. But what happens when the job is done? How do businesses harness the wonderful job that HR people put into the policy review as an explicit cue for inclusion? There are a few ways to do this, including informing all staff via an email from an executive, or by launching the new gender affirmation process policy in a special event. If there is no communication whatsoever, uninformed LGBTI employees will most probably not bother checking for any updates to the policies unless something specific happens, and as a result will miss out on possible benefits, as well as the sense of inclusion that comes with such a significant change to the DNA of the business.

Here are the four elements that need to be addressed in order to maximise the impact of LGBTI inclusion initiatives in the workplace:

Visibility: show and tell as much as you can, while ensuring that what you are selling is top notch. Make sure you can stand behind the inclusion initiatives you create, make sure that the suppliers that you work with are on board, and make sure you use the right language and the right methods. Once you have something great in your hands – let people know. Send the message out there. Celebrate successes. This is not just about branding – this is about creating a new awareness for LGBTI and non-LGBTI employees. Do not assume they know, make sure that they do.

Accessibility: make it easy for LGBTI individuals to access information and support. Nominate specific HR people as LGBTI go-to people and compile a list on the intranet. Make sure that allies are branded in their email signatures, on the intranet, in their workspaces. Identify LGBTI inclusion leaders and provide them with public platforms to express their thoughts and ideas. Make sure that explicit language is out there in a user friendly, accessible way. If you are not sure about it – ask employees to look for the information and assess accessibility.

Sustainability: think long term; do not trust enthusiastic individuals to carry the vast majority of LGBTI inclusion initiatives, as they will move on at some point and will leave a void behind them. Incorporate LGBTI inclusion responsibilities into HR, D&I and executive management job descriptions. Delegate tasks to different people, departments and locations. Make LGBTI inclusion strategies part of the organisation’s wider strategy. Shift from innovation into maintenance, as LGBTI inclusion becomes an integral part of the DNA rather than a mixed and inconsistent array of events and messages.

By taking all three components into consideration, you will be able to make sure that your LGBTI initiatives tap into the core of the business and the essence of LGBTI lived experiences in the workplace. This is a win-win situation, as LGBTI individuals enjoy the privilege of bringing their authentic selves to work, and the business experiences higher productivity, enhanced creativity, longer retention, brand loyalty and satisfied workers.

Authored by Shai Feniger, Relationship Manager, Pride in Diversity. To read Shai’s bio, please click here.

One in two LGBTI Australians hide their identity in the workplace

This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, WA Today and The Age on Tuesday 4th October.

Close to one in two gay, lesbian and transgender Australians hide their sexual identity in the workplace for fear being “out” could damage their careers.

Dawn Hough, director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, which collected the data says the new figures are a big improvement on those reported as recently as six years ago when the vast majority of people surveyed would hide their sexual identity.

However, Ms Hough said she was surprised people were much less comfortable to come out in the public sector compared to the private sector.

“It is the first time we have done any significant analysis between the public and the private sectors and we are really quite surprised at that,” she said.

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“People in the public sector feel there is less support, they feel their senior management are less likely to genuinely support inclusion initiatives.”

The new 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index found 45 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex Australians hide their sexuality or gender identity at work because they fear it may damage their career. The other 55 per cent were out in the workplace.

The survey of 65 different organisations from the private and public sectors analysed 13,258 responses.

The most common reasons given for not being out at work included people not wanting to be “labelled” according to their sexual identity and a fear this could limit their career prospects.

Others were concerned their identity might make others in the workplace uncomfortable and some feared they may become the target of jokes and innuendo.

The people surveyed work in organisations that have LGBTI workplace inclusion programs.

“We expect that the results would be significantly worse if we surveyed employees from organisations that were not active in this space,” Ms Hough said.

“What you’ve actually got is quite high levels of people who are comfortable being out.

“Five or six years ago you would not have got anywhere near that.

“There is still a level of uncertainty around what the risk will be to a career and that is one of the top reasons for not coming out, in addition to not wanting to be labelled.”

The Australian Workplace Equality Index found 55 per cent of employees surveyed were completely out about their sexual identity in the workplace.

One third of people who were not out said they spent a lot of energy hiding their sexual orientation. Younger people aged between 18 to 24 were even less likely to be out at work compared to those aged 25 to 34.

Suzi Russell-Gilford, a partner at PwC and founder of its GLEE (gays, lesbians and everyone else) network said many Generation Y LGBTI graduates at university who are out at university go back in the closet when they start their first job.

“They come into an environment with people quite formally dressed and feel they don’t want to show that side of themselves to their colleagues,” Ms Russell-Gilford said.

“I come across that a lot. I am continuously surprised people I come across think it would damage their careers to come out.

“A lot of leadership team embraces difference, but a lot of the graduates aren’t exposed to the leadership team when they first come into a corporate environment. It’s not until later in their career that they realise people are quite flexible about their sexuality.”