Category : Blogs

“In my twenties I was told I shouldn’t come out or my career would go nowhere”: Michael Ebeid

“Too many young people hide their sexual orientation at work, and I think that’s quite sad.”

After more than seven years at the helm of SBS, openly gay chief executive Michael Ebeid has called it quits.

During his time at the broadcasting service he has helped transform the culture by championing LGBTI inclusion and bringing in more diverse programming — including Deep Water, which focused on Sydney’s beat murders, as well as growing coverage of Mardi Gras and queer stories.

He admits that it “feels awful” to leave a job and company he truly believes in, but is excited about his new chapter with Telstra.

“We’ve supported Australians understanding each other better because of our diversity,” he says, “and that’s what I’m really proud of.”

When it comes to being a visible role model for LGBTI people entering the workforce, Ebeid says it’s been wonderful, and something he could never have imagined growing up.

As a 20-something gay man entering the workforce, he had people tell him he shouldn’t come out or else his career would go nowhere.

“I think it’s fair to say attitudes have really changed,” he says.

“All you’ve got to do is prove to your employer that you’re capable of the job, and that has to override any personal factors.

“I certainly didn’t have that when I was 20 — it’s important to show that your sexuality is one part of you, it doesn’t have to define who you are.”

Outside of SBS, Ebeid regularly talks on panels and attends events surrounding workplace diversity and inclusion.

More recently, he was announced one of the inaugural patrons of Pride in Health+Wellbeing, a landmark LGBTI inclusion initiative by ACON that provides support to organisations in the health sector in delivering LGBTI inclusive services.

He says young LGBTI people often approach him at events and tell him what it means to them to see Ebeid as an openly gay and visible executive.

“I do mentor a couple of young people in their careers and have done so for 20 years or so, which I find incredibly rewarding,” he says.

“I learn a lot from understanding what young people are going through nowadays, because in some ways it’s very different to the issues I faced.

“Too many young people hide their sexual orientation at work, and I think that’s quite sad.”

Ebeid hopes that through his time at SBS, as well as any of his future chapters, he can help to inspire and educate employers and employees alike across Australia when it comes to the importance of workplace inclusion.

He says when he was able to bring his full self to work and not worry what others thought, his career blossomed.

“For anybody who’s in the closet, know it takes a lot of energy to constantly lie or cover up your real self, and once you can redirect that energy into more creative or innovative things, life gets much better,” he says.

“Young people starting off in their careers should have confidence in themselves and really believe in themselves, because self-confidence goes a long way.

“I would also advise people to think about the organisations they’re wanting to join and to ask what kinds of LGBTI policies they have.

“It’s important to work for an organisation you feel aligned with as opposed to going somewhere were your personal values aren’t validated… life is short and we should enjoy where we go every day.”

Michael Ebeid will be appearing at the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council’s (AGMC) upcoming ‘Living and Loving in Diversity’ Conference later this month in Melbourne, which will focus on the issues faced by queer, trans, and intersex people of colour.

[Star Observer, 3 Sept 2018]

Engineering has an LGBTQ+ representation problem – here’s how to fix it

Much attention has been paid to the gender disparity in engineering, but the subject of LGBTQ+ representation is less dominant in public discourse.

recent study of more than 4000 STEM students across 78 different US-based institutions found LGBTQ+ students were almost 10 per cent more likely to not complete their degrees than heterosexual students, even when  accounting for other external factors.

The report, conducted by researchers from the University of Montana, echoes a similar study completed in 2017 by researchers from University of Minnesota and California State University, where survey results from 1400 LGBTQ+ professionals working in STEM-based roles were less likely to have come out to their work colleagues compared to other industries.

The disparity was particularly striking in engineering, where the majority of participants were open about their LGBTQ+ identity in their personal lives but not in their professional ones.

LGBTQ in STEMSTEM professionals rate their openness about LGBTQ+ identities in different contexts, from 0 (no one knows) to 5 (everyone knows). (Image: Barres, Montague-Hellen and Yoder)

“An invisible community”

While most research in this area has come out of the US, similar problems exist in Australia. Members of Gay and Lesbian Engineers at Monash University (GLEAM) have not noted a direct correlation between dropout rates and LGBTQ+ identity at their university, but remained unsurprised by the results of these studies.

“It’s no surprise that LGBTQ+ students are less likely to complete their degrees, and there are many reasons for this, whether it be discrimination, social exclusion or mental health issues commonly attributed to the queer community,” they said.

Members of GLEAM emphasised that although there is no competition between LGBTQ+ representation in STEM and women’s participation in STEM (“we are all in the same boat”), members of GLEAM noted many organisations have gender diversity goals but do not have similar mechanisms to increase LGBTQ+ representation.

Mark Latchford, associate director of Australian not-for-profit Pride in Diversity, said the success of one minority is often beneficial for all minority groups.

“Engineering firms and universities have done a remarkable job in trying to balance out gender within the engineering profession – this is a parallel journey. Often an organisation that is seen to be proactive in LGBTQ+ inclusion, for example at campus recruiting fairs, are seen by straight women as being inclusive for women as well,” he said.

However, he too noted that there are some elements of increasing representation of LGBTQ+ employees and students that require specific frameworks.

“There are some nuances about the LGBTQ+ community that are a little different from others, in the sense that is often an invisible community,” Latchford said.

“Someone walks into a room and usually – not 100 per cent, but usually – you know it’s one gender or the other. Someone has an Indigenous background, sometimes that is obvious. Someone is disabled, sometimes that is obvious. LGBTQ+ is often, if you like, an invisible community of diversity.”

Mentorship is key

Researchers from the University of Montana found mentorship, where possible, was a key factor in retaining LGBTQ+ students in STEM subjects at the university level.

“One factor that has shown to make a difference in retention for both LGBTQ+ and STEM students is mentoring and support from faculty. For sexual minority students, LGBTQ+ faculty and staff serve as confidants and sources of support, especially for students who feel incredibly uncomfortable disclosing information about their sexual orientation to others,” researchers said.

However, mentorship opportunities can be hard to come by.

“LGBTQ+ faculty in STEM also report encountering a hostile climate similar to their students,” the researchers said, “and thus many feel a need to keep information about their sexual orientations private.”

Latchford has observed this trend in Australian workplaces.

“It’s important to understand what not being ‘out’ at work really means,” he said.

“Sometimes people say, ‘What’s their private life got anything to do with the workplace?’. But there’s been a lot of research that shows people who are not out in the workforce spend a lot of time distracted in the workforce. They build up a persona that they think suits their work environment, which is very different to their real life.

“If we can develop an inclusive workplace, which is free of poor behaviour, is supported by good practices and good policy, it will allow us to attract LGBTQ+ talent, keep LGBTQ+ talent, and make sure that talent is really doing their best for the task at hand.”

GLEAM is working to combat this at a university level by creating environments for LGBTQ+ students to create support networks among themselves, as well as professional connections with LGBTQ+ professionals within the industry through a series of meet and greets.

“The premise of the industry nights involves organising representatives from various firms in Melbourne to come and speak about their work and experiences they have regarding being a queer person in a business environment,” they said.

“Much like a panel discussion, club members are given the opportunity to build communication with people employed in various positions. These are done to gain perspective on the working environment for a queer person and also to network with people for future employment opportunities.”

Students also cited the need for training policies within the workplace.

“There are trainings available in nearly every university to become an LGBTQ+ ‘Ally’. They involve teaching the recipient about appropriate social behaviour, homophobia, heterosexism and the issues faced daily by an LGBTQ+ person,” members of GLEAM said.

“[We want] to see these trainings extended to the engineering profession to avoid any discriminatory behaviour and to promote a safe work environment.”

Pride in Diversity is already working to accomplish this, offering training specifically for organisations.

“We do provide professional support, which could be training for frontline managers, training for recruiting, training for executives and so forth. We do policy and practice reviews, making sure that leave policies, partner benefits, all these sorts of things are appropriate,” Latchford said.

“We also provide very specific support, for example if someone transitions, we provide help for the individual, for peers, as well as management during that process.”

The future

Researchers noted that fostering an environment for greater inclusion in STEM is in the best interests of the industry as a whole, citing the need for a larger pool of talent.

But it’s hard to be what you can’t see. Recent projects like 500 Queer Scientists are working to tackle the issue of visibility by creating forums for LGBTQ+ STEM professionals to share their stories and encourage others within these fields.

A snapshot of some of the stories on 500 Queer Scientists. The website wants to create a community of support for LGBTQ+ professionals in STEM fields.

Representation at the top also matters. Deloitte and Google recently announced Australia’s Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders, which included many inspiring people working in medicine and tech. However, engineering was noticeably absent, suggesting the cultural shift that is starting to take place in other industries is yet to fully take hold in engineering.

“It will be a great asset if everyone is ultimately accepted and included within the STEM community. Talent and an internal passion for the STEM studies does not discriminate against sex, gender or sexuality,” members of GLEAM said.

“It grants a wider diversity of opinion towards any problem faced by a firm, company or team, which will in turn lead to a far more stable solution. To revolutionise the future with new technologies and innovation, talent from across the spectrum should feel welcome to offer new ideas and solutions in the STEM industries that it could greatly benefit from.”

Credit: Create Digital is powered by Engineers Australia
Author: Mikaela Dery
Mikaela Dery is a staff writer and recent philosophy graduate. Her thesis looked at the ethical implications of AI and its potential as a force for good. She is now only a little bit scared that robots will take over the world.

Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards 2018: And the winners are …

Professional Services firm EY has been named Australia’s 2018 Employer of the Year for LGBTI inclusion at the Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards, hosted today by ACON’s Pride in Diversity – the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion.

More than 700 business leaders, diversity champions, HR professionals and many more actively working on LGBTI inclusion came together at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney to celebrate the results of Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI); a rigorous, evidence-based benchmarking instrument that assesses workplaces in the work and impact of their LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

In 2018, for the first time, there was significant shift in the makeup of top employers. Traditionally dominated by financial and professional services, this year saw representation from various levels of government (Australian Taxation Office and Brisbane City Council), retail (Woolworths), higher education (RMIT University), energy & resources (AGL Energy) and religious organisations (Uniting).

Twelve organisations were awarded Gold Employer status, with an additional four being awarded Platinum for the longevity of their high performance spanning at least four of the last five years (Westpac, LendLease, Accenture, Commonwealth Bank).

This year’s awards were attended by a record number of CEOs and Australian business leaders, including Qantas CEO and Pride In Diversity co-patron, Alan Joyce, and Luke Sayers, CEO of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, who picked up this year’s CEO of the Year Award for his role in LGBTI inclusion.

Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs (which incorporates Pride in Diversity, Pride in Sport and Pride in Health+Wellbeing) Dawn Hough said: “The AWEI has seen remarkable growth over the first eight years of its life; this year we see the most significant change in the diversity of our top employers and a much higher growth in participation of our small employers which we are delighted about”.

The AWEI saw 135 employers across Australia participate this year (both small and large employer indices), a 16 per cent increase on 2017 participation. The employee survey attached to the index received 23,130 responses, an increase of 38 per cent. Participation by small employers rose by 120 per cent this year with Key Assets, The Children’s Services Provider (Australia) taking out Small Employer of the Year Award.

“ACON congratulates all award winners recognised today on their significant achievement and for showing great leadership in the area of diversity and inclusion,” Ms Hough added.

Pride Inclusion Programs will next celebrate LGBTI inclusion within Australian sport with the inaugural Australian Pride in Sport Awards in Melbourne on 19 June. Held at the Showtime Events Centre, the awards will honour national and state sporting organisations, clubs and individuals as it showcases the results of the Pride in Sport Index (PSI) – the national benchmarking instrument used to assess LGBTI inclusion within Australian sport.  The event will be hosted by renowned Australian sports journalist, Tracey Holmes, and attended by Pride in Sport co-patrons Alex Blackwell and Daniel Kowalski, along with several other high profile athletes.

2018 Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards Recipients

Employer of the Year: EY

LGBTI Employee Network of the Year: Prism, EnergyAustralia

CEO of the Year: Luke Sayers, PwC

Platinum Employers: LendLease, Accenture, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Gold Employers: ANZ, Uniting, AGL Energy, Australian Taxation Office, Mercer (Australia) Pty Ltd, Brisbane City Council, Clayton Utz, RMIT University, Deloitte Australia, Deutsche Bank Australia, Woolworths, EY

Small Employer: Key Assets, The Children’s Services Provider (Australia)

Most Improved Employer: TAL

Trans/Gender Diverse Inclusion: Uniting

External Media Campaign: Hold Tight, ANZ

Executive Leadership: James Collins, PwC

Network Leader of the Year: Mark Hodgson, Alcoa

Out Role Model: Angus Lonergan, YMCA NSW

Sapphire Inspire: Kimberly Olsen, Uniting

The Sally Webster Ally Award: Melissa Tandy, ANZ

Image: 2018 Employer of the Year EY with Pride in Diversity co-patron Alan Joyce and ACON President Justin Koonin 

Bloomberg office lights up for IDAHOBIT

Pride will again shine bright in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District when the office rooftop of technology giant Bloomberg lights up in rainbow colours to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), and as a demonstration of their commitment to LGBTI inclusivity in the workplace.

As one of the world’s leading technology companies providing global business and financial information and news, Bloomberg will be conducting a rainbow lighting of its Sydney office rooftop at One Bligh Street for over two weeks starting on IDAHOBIT on May 17.  The lighting will also celebrate NSW’s leading LGBTI health organisation ACON and its Pride Inclusion Program’s 2018 Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards on May 25.

Established in 2009 by ACON, Pride Inclusion Programs consists of Pride in Diversity, Australia’s not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion, which publishes the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), Australia’s national benchmark for LGBTI inclusion acknowledging top employers for LGBTI people since 2010.

Along with Pride in Diversity, Pride Inclusion Programs also comprises of Pride in Sport and Pride in Health+Wellbeing – a suite of initiatives that assists sporting organisations and healthcare service providers with all aspects of LGBTI inclusion.

Along the same vein, the new sector-neutral Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI) was launched in January 2018, on the principle of providing data transparency across internal company statistics, employee policies, external community support and engagement, and gender-conscious product offerings on some of the largest firms globally. Five firms from Australia feature in this index, including ANZ, Bank of Queensland, Fortescue Metals Group, National Australia Bank and Westpac. The sector-neutral Bloomberg GEI follows the release of the Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index (BFGEI), launched in 2016.

Erika Irish Brown, Bloomberg’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion said:

“More than 97% of our employees have now completed our unconscious bias training and more than 5,000 dedicated individuals globally – about one in four of us – are members of Communities at Bloomberg. These employee-run forums foster and support a more diverse and inclusive environment by enabling employees to serve as culture carriers, role models, and brand ambassadors, while also expanding their professional networks and enhancing their leadership and management skills. Bloomberg’s diverse workforce and open culture are essential to innovation and the key to our success worldwide, so we are very proud to support IDAHOBIT and the values it stands for.”

ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs Director Dawn Hough added: “LGBTI workplace inclusion has historically been little understood or acknowledged in Australian workplaces. Now it stands as one of the fastest growing areas of diversity and inclusion practice for businesses. The AWEI is acknowledged internationally as a gold standard benchmarking instrument – this year over 130 employers participated across all states and sectors and over 23,000 individuals participated in employee survey,”

“This is a testament to Australian employers, the incredible work that they have done for almost a decade. We have been honoured to be a part of that journey. I would like to acknowledge Bloomberg for their visual show of support for IDAHOBIT and the Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards. This speaks to the importance of the work we all do and something all employers can be extremely proud of.”

Image courtesy Bloomberg


About Bloomberg

Bloomberg, the global business and financial information and news leader, gives influential decision makers a critical edge by connecting them to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas. The company’s strength – delivering data, news and analytics through innovative technology, quickly and accurately – is at the core of the Bloomberg Professional service. Bloomberg’s enterprise solutions build on the company’s core strength: leveraging technology to allow customers to access, integrate, distribute and manage data and information across organizations more efficiently and effectively. For more information, visit or request a demo.

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

April 26: Do we really need a Lesbian Visibility Day?

April 26 is Lesbian Visibility Day. Christine Forster, Ambassador for Pride in Diversity’s Sapphire program, opens this discussion talking about the lack of out female role models in our workplaces. By Pride Inclusion Programs Director Dawn Hough.

“Over the past few years I’ve been asked many times to name positive, out lesbian role models. Often I’ve joked in response: Ellen DeGeneres and…Ellen DeGeneres!

“In Australia we can now proudly add our national sweetheart Magda to the list, but the reality is, in our patriarchal world, the gay men have made it to public acceptance and prominence way ahead of us girls. And it’s been the same in business. Compare the relative profiles of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott. Sadly, it was no surprise in late 2016 when The Australian Financial Review’s BOSS magazine and accountancy firm Deloitte put together a list of top 50 LGBTI business leaders, and only 14 of them were women.

“The glass ceiling exists and it appears to be an even more insurmountable barrier for women who identify as lesbian. And yet these are the women who most need to know they are not alone in their workplaces. They are telling us loud and clear that knowing there are other lesbian women in their organisations gives them the greatest sense of inclusion and engagement. It’s a simple thing, but promoting visibility helps breaks down stereotypes, builds respect and provides genuine support. That’s good for your people, and what’s good for your people is good for business.” – Christine Forster, Pride in Diversity Sapphire Ambassador

April 26 is Lesbian Visibility Day. With workplaces active in LGBTI inclusion already promoting several LGBTI days of significance throughout the year, many may be tempted to give the lesser known dates that focus on one particular identity a miss … but should we?

Undoubtedly many workplaces will question the need to communicate Lesbian Visibility Day out to their employees and perhaps even question the need for it. But before you dismiss the idea altogether, it may be useful to understand the message of this day within the context of the workplace.

Lesbian Visibility Day is an opportunity to knock down some of the stereotypes, help reduce some of the stigma and give a voice to our Lesbian workmates and colleagues. Something that is critical, as you will see, to an inclusive culture.

 Why is this important?

According to the latest AWEI Survey (2018) [1] a significant number of lesbian women within organisations active in LGBTI inclusion still choose to consciously hide their sexuality and a core part of who they are because at this point in time, they are just not comfortable enough to be themselves at work (40%), they don’t want to be labelled or the target of innuendo and jokes (28%) or they are just unsure of the repercussions (21.43%).

The impact of this is a significant lack of out lesbian role models.

The survey found that of all the sexualities, it was lesbian women that most strongly aligned OUT role models to their sense of inclusion within the organisation (90%); 87.7% of the respondents also stating that an LGBTI inclusive culture was important to their level of engagement.

Backtrack on that for a moment.

·      There are very few out lesbian role models

·      OUT role models are aligned to a sense of inclusion

·      An inclusive culture is important to engagement

It’s not difficult to see the benefit of what we are talking about here.

Surprisingly, according to these respondents, the most sought after attributes of out role models were not along the lines of technical expertise or an outstanding career trajectory, rather their willingness to be open about their sexuality (67%) and willingness to support others (76%).

So if there are not many out role models for lesbian women and this is what makes them feel that their organisation is inclusive, what is the key driver for those women who choose to come out at work, regardless?

In this respect, there’s not a lot of difference between lesbian women and other sexualities.  The key drivers it appears for all sexualities are personal authenticity at work (lesbians: 66.1%; bisexual women 55.4%; gay men 76.4%; bisexual men 59.6%); the freedom to talk about their life/partner/community (lesbians 64.1%; gay men 60.9%) and expending less energy censoring what they say (bisexual women 54.6%; bisexual men 52.1%).

While 21.8% of lesbian women claimed that being out had had a positive impact on their career (22% lower than gay men) and 53.9% said they were extremely comfortable being out at work (2% less than gay men) there are still challenges.

Of all sexualities, lesbians reported the highest rates of unwanted negative commentary, innuendo and jokes (34; 4% higher than gay men and 19% higher on average than bisexual men and women) in addition to the highest rates of more serious bullying/harassment (7%; 15% higher than gay men and 33% more on average than bisexual men and women).

Lesbian women who were the target of bullying/harassment within the workplace identified other people on their floor (41.5%), colleagues (39.6%) and their immediate manager (32.08%) as the top three culprits. 20.75% of lesbian women who were bullied/harassed were currently looking for other roles as a direct result of this bullying.

While It is clear that we still have a long way to go in terms LGBTI workplace inclusion, it appears that when it comes to sexuality, the road is even longer for those who identify as lesbian.

We need to break down the barriers. We need more training and zero tolerance in terms of homophobic (and transphobic) behaviours and we need to create an environment where more lesbian women feel safe enough to come out at work, to be a role model, to help support other young women entering the workforce through their openness in terms of their sexuality and their willingness to support.

Let the voices of your Lesbian women be heard this Lesbian Visibility Day. It could make a world of difference.

[1] The Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Survey is an optional component of the LGBTI benchmarking instrument used to assess, benchmark and shift practice in LGBTI Inclusion within Australia. This year the survey returned 23,120 responses comprising 1,539 same sex-attracted women; 781 identifying exclusively as lesbian. Survey results will be released mid-2018 buy ACON’s Pride in Diversity Program.

About Pride in Diversity’s Sapphire Initiative

Sapphire is an initiative of Pride in Diversity that was developed to generate greater awareness of the unique challenges faced by lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBTIQ) women in the workplace. While Sapphire provides members who choose to participate with an opportunity to network, role model and mentor; the core focus of the program is to engage with LBTIQ women across all sectors to fully understand the organisational factors that impact disclosure and inclusivity within organisations active in LGBTI workplace inclusion. This will not only allow Pride in Diversity to contribute to the growing body of research on the invisibility of LBTI women but will also allow us to utilise the collective understanding to promote a more inclusive workplace culture.

If your employer is a member of Pride in Diversity and you would like to sign up to the Sapphire newsletter: click here

Dawn Hough is Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, employer support for all aspects of LGBTI inclusion across the workplace (Pride in Diversity), sport (Pride in Sport) and Health & Wellbeing Service Provision (Pride in Health + Wellbeing). 

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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