Category : Pride In Practice

ASSUMPTIONS, INTRUSIVE QUESTIONS, AND BI-VISIBILITY

There is growing evidence that more support is needed for bisexual people within Australian workplaces. 2018 saw the release of a number of workplace research studies which have highlighted the perceptions and impacts of being visible, or “out” for bisexual people.

The 2018 Out at Work report produced by RMIT, the Diversity Council of Australia and Star Observer, clearly demonstrated that most LGBTI people are still not entirely out within their workplace, and the importance of visible role models. The study also clearly demonstrated significant gaps in perceptions for bisexual workers, with only 25% of bisexual people feeling being out was important, compared to 57% of lesbian and 47% of gay workers. The primary reason given by bisexual people for not being out was that “Colleagues would feel uncomfortable around me”, which was cited by 41% of bisexual participants in the study.

Over the last few years, it has become accepted wisdom within HR departments that an inclusive workplace culture is necessary to allow people to achieve their best and be most productive. Unfortunately, that accepted wisdom is not yet translating into an inclusive reality for everyone.

The 2018 Australian Workplace Equality Index produced by Pride in Diversity, looked at the issue of whether an LGBTI inclusive culture is actually perceived as being important to LGBTI employees. The results of the study revealed striking differences in the perception of the workplace inclusion programs. When asked how important an LGBTI inclusive workplace culture is, the percentage of intersex people (62%) and bisexual males (65%) viewing it as important was far lower than the results for lesbians (88%) or bisexual females (81%).

A recent panel session at the 2018 Pride in Practice conference in Melbourne delved into issues facing bisexual people in their careers. Panellists included William Lewis from ANZ Bank, Ellie Watts from QBE Insurance, Alix Sampson from AGL, and Ashleigh Sternes from Pride in Diversity.

According to Ellie Watts, she didn’t have a big dramatic personal coming out story with her own family, but acknowledged it was a battle for her to initially figure out her bisexuality.  She described the relief she felt when she came out to her parents, and that her parents were quite accepting and relaxed, and a little confused about how emotionally difficult coming out was for her.

While coming out to her family was a relief, it didn’t mean that Watts felt any urgency or need to come out at work. It wasn’t until some years later when she joined QBE, and learnt about QBE’s Pride group on her first day at work, that she started to consider coming out at work. Watts reflected, “For me it was a process over time, testing the water. It was helped by the fact that I have a gay manager.”

One of the key issues raised by the panellists were the frequent intrusive and inappropriate questions they had faced from work colleagues, and they offered some examples, including:

  • What percentage Bi are you?
  • Have you ever slept with a girl/guy?
  • How many threesomes have you had?
  • When will you make up your mind?
  • Is this something you will grow out of?

Another concern expressed was the lack of bisexual people visible in wider society and pop culture. The observation was made that bisexual characters in film and TV are routinely “erased” as bisexual, and instead described as gay or lesbian, which makes it hard to find role models.

Watts also explained that she felt that being in a relationship placed additional pressures on her decision to come out at work. She outlined how being in a relationship creates more workplace questions, and the need to constantly explain her family situation. “You are always preparing yourself for the stereotypes and the comments that will follow afterwards. It is exhausting to keep educating people.”

People who are looking to be allies to bisexual colleagues should simply accept bisexual identities when they are disclosed, avoid making assumptions, and be mindful of language.

 

[Sebastian Rice – December 18, 2018 – Star Observer]

Remarks at the Australia launch of the Global LGBTI Standards for Business

Remarks at the Australia launch of the Global LGBTI Standards for Business

#Biz4LGBTI Melbourne, December 5, 2017, Pride in Practice Conference

Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

Thank you, Anthony, for joining us and thanks to Baker McKenzie, which was one the very first supporters of these standards, and is kindly sponsoring tonight’s reception. Thank you Dawn and thank you ACON and Pride in Diversity for being such gracious hosts.

We have benefit of a wonderful backdrop to our meeting together, of course – the people of Australia just stood up decisively for universal human rights for all when to marriage equality they gave resounding endorsement.  The rights and wrongs of such postal surveys aside, the “Yes” campaign secured a decisive win for compassion, decency and human rights.

The 844 corporate campaign-YES supporters – many of whom are with us this afternoon – exemplified how the Australian private sector can and should play a positive and engaging role for universal rights.  The potential of such public leadership?  That’s what brings us here: not only how unacceptable it is to be silent in the face of discrimination, cruel and inexcusable, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, but just how straightforward it is to stand up – influentially – against it.  Just a spoonful of universal values, a pinch of personal responsibility and a shed load of willingness to act – to respect, protect, empower and support.

Eradicating discrimination might appear to be a complicated business – but, it ain’t, while standing up for equality – that’s just good business – simply the business of doing good.

Friends,

The Australian Human Rights Commission tells us more than half of all transgender people and LGBTI youth have directly experienced abuse, including overt violence simply because of who they are; while almost half of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are so concerned about the likely negative consequences of their identities on their employment, they feel compelled to hide who they are.

For this, and for them, marriage equality is no answer.  It’s just key.  One key – helping unlock that heavy and distorting door that stands in the way of our path to the fuller realisation of human rights for all.

On that journey, marriage equality is a major step.  But so many more steps are equally well overdue. Marriage equality doesn’t undo the myriad other forms that inequalities take. It doesn’t end the bullying.  It doesn’t silence the name calling, or bottle down the behind-your-back sniggering.  It doesn’t lower the fist, or end the exclusion, dismantle the bias, tear away toxicity, shore up acceptance or secure fair access to fair advance.

We invented this situation ourselves, of course – socially and culturally constructed and reconstructed a stratification of human beings into a perverse ranking according to synthetic typologies that are the fathers too of fear and fiction:   gender, age, disability, the color of my skin, the sound of your language, how I worship, whom you love.   Multiple forms of discrimination intertwine to bind the feet, gag the mouths and waste the talent of millions the world over.

Bitter is the fruit of these intersecting and diverse forms of discrimination. In conflict settings, and in peace time; in the context of migration and when at home, working for decent pay or labouring without just remuneration – in all settings, bigotry, xenophobia and discrimination are just repugnant.

Yet no child anywhere at any time ever emerged into this world with bigotries preordained, ready to go – pret a manger.  Frankly, the human rights violations that drive vicious cycles of marginalization and exclusion have no place on a planet of peace and prosperity.

And in our interconnected, interdependent world, it is a fallacy that are walls, borders or fences that erode our obligations to each others’ rights.  There is no wall so high, nor border so patrolled; no special identity nor personal privilege so rarefied; no surveillance system nor unmanned drone; no enmity so heartfelt nor friendship so rare, that, on this dormitory planet, can put between you and me such a distance that your rights do not count with me; that my rights do not matter to you; that their rights do not register with us.  No such distance exists, except, that is, as is fabricated in fantasist, sinister, popularist ideologies whose nihilism feeds off and manufactures desperation, despair and disillusion.

Walls within the human family, on a small, distressed planet in a globalized world, home to the largest population of youngest people in all of human history?  Walls are untruths. The world’s future will not become sustainable when its fruits are reserved for some and never enjoyed by all; when its social and economic systems reproduce societies stratified not by effort, contribution or creativity but by the dumb luck of where you are born, how you look, whom you identify as and whom you love.

And, how can it be that consenting sexual intimacy, personal regard and mutual affection should attract widespread contempt while bigotry, prejudice and cynical self-interest it seems can be elected even to the highest office in many lands?  How come we are so reluctant to call out hate – in all its forms – and yet so ready to outlaw love?

Laws in twenty countries across Asia-Pacific (12 in Asia, eight in the Pacific) still criminalize same sex couples: an attack on the fundamental rights of LGBTI people, those legal frameworks dehumanize, erode equality, foster fear and, incidentally, are just bad for business.  That may be rule by law but it is not the rule of law – not when the foundational principle of equality before the law is violated.  Identity cannot be rightly criminalized.  Wrongful laws should be.  And until then, they should be opposed.

Friends,

Power comes in many varieties – the capacity to force people to do want they don’t want to; the ability to stop them doing what they want and the power to shape what they want and don’t want to do.[1] The state has unique responsibilities for limited and legitimate exercise of the powers of enforcement and prevention but in regard to the third?  The power to shape what we think we want, what we imagine we need?  In the exercise of that particular power, the commercial sector has become omnipresent.  Here lies the power of the market and there lies market shaping.  Desire, longing and wish fulfilment – these are the engine rooms of the consumption choices on which so much of commerce depends.

Like all powers, the privileges of profit seeking come with responsibilities.  Business can help make us hate each other, but must not.  Business can leave contempt unchallenged but should not.  Businesses should help make love matter more, but too many do not.  The world suffers not merely by the actions of the bad but thanks also to the silence of the better. From these duties to resist hate, to reject intolerance and to promote mutual respect there is nowhere to hide.

As businesses and corporations, if ever – with respect to equality on sexual orientation and gender identity – we are silent, then let it be only because we are listening to LGBTI people themselves and preparing then, on that basis, to … stand up to speak out.

That’s the core and more messages of the UN Human Rights Office global standards of conduct for business we are presenting today.  Designed to help companies the world claim, celebrate and contribute what they can, what they must offer to the tackling of discrimination against LGBTI people in the workplace and beyond.  Building on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, founded on the fundamental truth that we all are born equal in dignity and rights –  these standards are the product of more than a year of consultation with hundreds of businesses all over the world – big, small, local, multi-national.

Five small-to-take steps that mean – as individual employers, suppliers, retailers and corporate citizens – any company can take a giant step to help end discrimination and promote equality in the workplace, in the marketplace and in the broader community:

  1. RESPECT the rights of LGBTI people in the way you run your business – set up effective policies, deploy due diligence and put effective grievance mechanisms in place;
  2. ELIMINATE discrimination against LGBTI employees in the workplace – sensitize staff and managers, equalize benefits, and eliminate discrimination from hiring and workplace practices;
  3. SUPPORT your LGBTI employees at work – by create an affirming, inclusive environment for LGBTI employees, and supporte LGBTI staff groups;
  4. PREVENT discrimination and related violations against LGBTI suppliers, distributors or customers – and use leverage to insist that business partners uphold equality;
  5. ACT in the public domain – stand up for LGBTI people in all the countries everywhere you do business.

How this operates will vary, of course, depending on the context.  But irrespective of local laws that may violate human rights or of local political dynamics that seek to spread bigotry further, in partnership with LGBTI people and civil society advocates – in every context, companies can and should stand up: take bold steps to shield LGBTI people from unfair treatment within the workplace and take courageous steps to promote their rights beyond the workplace.

Most recently Mastercard, Twitter, Ben & Jerry, Intel, Aviva, Adidas, Fidelity International, McKinsey, Ralph Lauren Corp., RELX Group, Westpac and Williams-Sonoma Inc., among others, have joined the early supporters of the Standards. That makes a total of 36 companies that expressed support since we first unveiled the Standards in New York at the end of September. Between them, these companies represent more than 3 million employees and a trillion U.S. dollars in revenues.  There is as yet only one Australian company on the list – WESTPAC. Let’s swell those number now.

Friends,

The rights of LGBTI people matter and not merely in the bedroom. Their rights like your rights are my rights – and our rights also pertain and persist from the courtroom to the boardroom to the workroom to the schoolroom to the bathroom and into the bedroom.

In an age of scarcity, at a time of austerity, if we are to want not, then we must waste not.  We must not continue to waste precious human talent or erode essential human dignity – neither through bigotry nor exclusion; nor by neglect or design.  Rights?  Rights are for the best and worst of us, to the exclusion of none of us, for the sake of each of us and in the interests of all us.


[1] With credit to political philosopher, Stephen Lukes, who identified these three varieties but framed the third a little differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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