LAST month at Pride in Diversity, we celebrated 100 members and in the short time since, our membership continues to grow.
While we recognise that there is still much more to do, we celebrate the fact that employers are now seeing LGBTI inclusion as an integral part of their diversity and inclusion strategies. How different things were when Pride in Diversity started not quite six years ago.
This is an exciting time for job seekers who put high on their employer wish list an inclusive culture, one that recognises the incredible contribution that diversity brings to the business, to the lives of individuals and to the richness of its workplace.
I have been in the workforce for 35 years, I have been with my same-sex partner for 32 of those years. However, I have only been “out” for eight.
I spent far too many years of my working life editing conversations, changing personal pronouns, living in fear of being “found out”, avoiding social or networking situations and literally being on guard 24/7. I have listened to family, friends and colleagues talk about gay people with distaste, have fun at their expense and make disparaging remarks — all while smiling, trying to keep an emotionless face and (shamefully) sometimes joining in on some of those conversations in an effort to put people off track.
When you spend that much time hiding who you are for fear of what people will think, your self esteem and sense of self worth plummets. You are overly aware of what you cannot say, what you cannot do, what you must pretend to be, just to do your job. That’s not good for you and it’s certainly not good for an employer.
Many would argue that in this day and age programs like Pride in Diversity are no longer necessary. That people no longer need to be in the closet at work. It is very difficult to understand the complexity of coming out if you have never experienced societal, family and workplace stigma based on “what you are” and/or “who you are”. Some LGBTI people have been incredibly fortunate in that they too, have little experience of this. But for those who do, being out at work is a difficult decision to make and one that requires an assessment of just how safe it is to be who you really are, not in one context, but in multiple. Not with just one team, but with all teams. Not with just one person, but with all people.
And let’s face it, unless you personally know people who work for an organisation that they would highly recommend as being inclusive, you’re taking a bit of a gamble when it comes to choosing your next employer. This is why we publish the Australian National LGBTI Recruitment Guide (ANRG) and why we publish our members on our website.
This ANRG showcases employers that Pride in Diversity are currently working with in regard to their LGBTI inclusion initiatives and it highlights some of their work in this area. While the majority of our members would openly admit there is still more work to be done, at least you know that organisations profiled here are endeavouring to create a safe and inclusive workplace for all of their employees and that there are targeted initiatives in place to ensure LGBTI employees can be themselves at work.
The overwhelming majority of these employers have established LGBTI employee and ally networks providing you with an immediate point of contact should you so choose. The majority of these networks are highly visible and active within the organisation speaking directly to organisational values and the strength that diversity brings.
When you are being interviewed for your next role, ask if the employer is a member, or if they have an LGBTI employee network. If you want to be a little more discreet, enquire as to the areas of diversity that they focus on or what employee networks they have in place.
Don’t waste your years pretending to be someone you’re not. There are some great organisations out there where you can be yourself. We are actively working with many of them.
Dawn Hough is the Director of Pride in Diversity.
ABOUT PRIDE IN DIVERSITY:
Pride in Diversity is Australia’s national not-for-profit employer support program established by ACON in 2009 to assist employers with all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion.
Pride in Diversity is also the developer of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) resulting in the annual top 20 employers for LGBTI employees and workplace inclusion awards, and the producers of the Australian National LGBTI Recruitment Guide (ANRG).