Category : Sapphire

The double-glazed ceiling: the struggle for queer women in the workplace

Three-quarters of same-sex attracted women said stereotypes like “butch”, “man-hater”, and “aggressive” negatively impacted them and were the biggest barriers to being out at work.

One third of same-sex attracted women are uncomfortable being out in the workplace, and many are fearful of being associated with harmful stereotypes, according to new research by PwC and Pride in Diversity.

The Where are all the Women? survey asked 1,270 same-sex attracted women in Australia about their experiences around workplace inclusion, one of the largest studies of its kind ever undertaken.

Of the respondents, two-thirds said they were comfortable being out to most or all of the people they work with, while 29 per cent believed being same-sex attracted would inhibit their career progression, and one in five women said they had left a job when they were younger because it wasn’t inclusive.

PwC manager and lead researcher, Kate Marks, says a sense of belonging and connection seems to be missing for same-sex attracted women in the workplace.

“It’s not due to one, overarching thing,” she says.

“It’s a slow, cumulative effect from things like day-to-day comments, a lack of role models, and a double-glazed glass ceiling to break through.”

She adds that the focus for many workplaces has been gender equality for such a long time, that sexuality has been left by the wayside.

“When we asked which was important—gender or sexuality—most of the respondents said both are important,” she says.

“People have been talking about gender being the inhibitor for so long, that the concept of sexuality as an inhibitor is relatively new.”

The study found that damaging stereotypes play an important role in how same-sex attracted woman navigate the workplace, with three-quarters of respondents saying stereotypes like “butch”, “man-hater”, and “aggressive” negatively impacted them at work and were the biggest barriers to being out.

Roughly 81 per cent of respondents said active leadership support impacted how they felt about being out at work, and 80 per cent indicated that visible support for LGBTI inclusion was important when looking for a job.

When it came to role models, 84 per cent said they had people to look up to outside of the workplace, yet only half of respondents had role models within the workplace.

Marks says small symbols like rainbow lanyards or an ally closing down a potentially harmful conversation can make a world of difference.

“I think Pride networks play a critical role in this too,” she says.

“They are so good at connecting people, but at the moment they don’t seem to be doing the same thing for same-sex attracted women in the workplace.

“It’s about looking at that next layer of division — when you’re hosting a panel of speakers, how are you going to make sure you have diversity of thought on that panel? When you’re creating partnerships with other organisations, who are the CEOs of those organisations?”

“The impact of these things really trickle through.”

She hopes that the research will go some way towards improving the experiences of same-sex attracted women in the workplace.

“We want to make sure they stay, and feel as excited about developing their careers as anyone else,” she says.

“And we can do that by making sure workplaces have diversity of thought in small day-to-day decisions all the way through to the top.”

Matthew Wade – Star Observer

1 in 3 gay women say their sexuality affects career progression

A survey of almost 1300 gay women has shed new light on the barriers still faced in Australian workplaces.

A report titled ‘Where are all the women?’, commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers and ACON Pride in Diversity, surveyed 1270 gay women about their experiences in the workplace.

While two-thirds of women (65 per cent) felt comfortable expressing their sexuality to work colleagues, nearly one in three (29 per cent) believed being gay had impacted their career progression.

And almost one in five (17 per cent) had left a workplace before turning 26 due to what they called a “lack of inclusion”.

“We were definitely surprised by the subtle impacts that people talked about in the report,” said author Kate Marks from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

SBS News

“So people I think are common with the concept that gender can be something that inhibits your career. But the idea that your sexuality might is slightly newer to people.”

Fears of being openly gay at work

The report, which took a year to compile, also found only 53 per cent of younger lesbians are likely to come out within the first year of a new job, compared to 60 per cent of women in a senior role.

Almost three-quarters of women (72 per cent) in a company of 100 people or less were openly gay.

The survey asked the women to detail some of the words used by co-workers to describe them.

SBS News

 Kate Marks said she was shocked at the derogatory terms used.

“The words that come through are ‘masculine’, ‘man-hater’, and ‘butch’,” she explained.

“You have to go pretty far down that list to find a word that is seemingly positive.”

Consequences of malicious comments

Dawn Hough, Director of health organisation ACON’s Pride in Diversity program, told SBS News that careless comments can poison the workplace for gay women.

“Productivity goes down, engagement goes down, and ultimately the workplace becomes a place that we don’t enjoy coming to,” she said.

“If we had more role models if we were not so inclined to name people and stereotype people things would be easier. But it’s easier said than done.”

SBS News

A growing number of Australian workplaces now have diversity initiatives, designed to ensure people feel included at all levels of the business.

But Dawn Hough says it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference… such as having an honest chat over a cup of coffee.

“It’s about creating an even playing field, not raising one group above another,” she said.

“And the manager plays a significant role there.”

Kate Marks agrees.

“It’s really about being able to bring your authentic self to work,” she said.

“And so when I think about the impact I want this report to have, I want it to go broader than LGBTI inclusion and actually start to question how, within workplaces, how we can celebrate any types of differences.”

Diversity and productivity

Jemma Still has never experienced discrimination in her corporate career.

But during the marriage equality vote last year, she was surprised by some insensitive comments around the office.

“Before that, I don’t know it didn’t make any difference that I was gay, but at that time people were – I guess they were talking about the vote a lot and kind of surrounded by it – and it just made me feel, for the first time probably in my life that I was different to my colleagues,” she said.

Jemma was able to discuss her concerns with her manager and hopes other companies can do the same to help embrace the broad diversity of their workforce.

“If you’re comfortable in who you are, and you’re comfortable in what you’re doing, then you’re happier when you’re at work and all of that leads to productivity which can’t be a bad thing.”

 

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Sapphire event shines light on LBT Women in the Workplace

Sapphire event shines light on LBT Women in the Workplace

A panel of inspirational and “out” female role models, spoke openly about their personal experiences and challenges in the workplace and the community as part of Pride in Diversity’s Sapphire event hosted by Clayton Utz Brisbane.

Spanning three generations, the panellists – University of Sunshine Coast Head of the Student Access, Equity and Diversity and Pinnacle Foundation Board Member, Dr Ann Stewart, CU Perth senior associate, Liz Humphry, and Barrister and President of Queensland Young Lawyers, Florence Chen – each shared their own unique “coming out” journeys and spoke candidly on a range of topics including role modelling and parenting.  Lin Surch from Pride in Diversity facilitated the fascinating discussion.

Read the full story here.