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Improving LGBTI+ inclusivity in the workplace
June is International Pride Month.
Every year, the world comes together to celebrate the influence that the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Ally or Asexual) community have had, and raise awareness for the current and ongoing issues they face.
While significant strides have been made in the past years for diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, many organisations still have a lot of work to do. At the same time, it’s also important to acknowledge that there are many countries that criminalise LGBTI+ people, offer little rights, or are not as progressive as others.
In this article, we explore how Australia is tracking with workplace inclusivity for the LGBTQIA+ community — and how workplaces can step up their game with 4 practical ideas to implement.
Workplace inclusivity and the LGBTQIA+ community
Earlier this year, the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) surveyed more than 33,572 employees from 170 employers on the topic of LGBTQIA+ workplace inclusion. Of those who responded, 15.72% identified themselves as someone of diverse sexuality — demonstrating that the rainbow community represents a significant portion of Australia’s workforce.
However, despite the significant number of LGBTQIA+ employees in workplaces, there was also a significant increase in the number of people that would remain completely in the closet at work. It found 12.47% of those surveyed are not out at all at work, compared to 10.65% the year before. There was also an overwhelming drop in those employees who are openly out to everyone in their workplace, from 62.4% in 2019 to 45% in 2020.
These numbers show there’s still a long way to go for LGBTI-inclusive workplace environments. Employers need to proactively tackle these challenges with strong initiatives to ensure people of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel supported at work.
How to improve LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in the workplace
Attend roundtables and events
Every year, a number of events spring up across Australia that aim to address key challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community. As Australia’s only not-for-profit workplace program designed to assist employers with inclusivity in the workplace, Pride in Diversity hosts a number of events throughout the year from awards to meetings, workshops, seminars and industry-specific training programs. These are a great way to learn how to improve inclusivity at work, while gaining inspiration and practical advice from other employers.
Create a Pride committee
The most effective way to champion inclusivity in the workplace? Have a group of dedicated employees advocating for the cause. Michael Page has been running its [email protected] stream for over 5 years — comprising a group of employees working together in initiatives to effect positive change internally and be a voice for the LGBTI+ community.
Some aspects that a Pride committee can work on include support and mentoring programs, anonymous and/or private discussions, ongoing awareness campaigns, and training workshops for managers.
Advocate inclusivity from the top
A study by PwC found that leaders who support and advocate inclusion at work have a significant impact on the confidence of LGBTQIA+ employees. When people feel supported by their superiors, they’re more likely to be openly out — and there’s less likelihood of pay bias or promotion decisions.
Designate at least one senior leader to be an advocate for diversity and inclusivity at work. This simple act will show workers of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they are supported and accepted in the workplace.
“Businesses simply have to remember the vital role that senior leadership plays in driving inclusive cultures. Employees can benefit from directly hearing senior executives talk about their career journeys and vision for an inclusive workplace,” Sarah Kirk, Global Diversity and Inclusion Director at PageGroup says.
Be rated in the AWEI
The AWEI is Australia’s definitive national benchmark on LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace. Every year, this index allows employers to understand the impact of inclusion initiatives on organisational culture, benchmark themselves against others in their sector, and explore best practices for workplace inclusivity.
The AWEI publication also provides a framework to help employers effect change at all levels of the organisation.