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New benchmarking tool to assess LGBTI inclusion amongst health and wellbeing providers launches

A new benchmarking tool launched by leading LGBTI inclusion initiative, Pride Inclusion Programs, now provides health and wellbeing organisations the opportunity to assess, measure and improve their practices to better include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in their services.

The Health + Wellbeing Equality Index is Australia’s first instrument to annually benchmark LGBTI inclusive service provision amongst organisations in the health, human services and wellbeing sectors. The index is administered by Pride in Health + Wellbeing, a national program that provides support, training and guidance in LGBTI inclusive service delivery. Pride in Health + Wellbeing is part of Pride Inclusion Programs, a suite of social inclusion initiatives delivered by Australia’s leading LGBTI health organisation, ACON.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the Health + Wellbeing Equality Index will be an important resource for health and wellbeing service providers across Australia.

“With significant health disparities between LGBTI and non-LGBTI people and issues many LGBTI people experience in accessing important and critical health services such as perceived or previously experienced stigma, discrimination, harassment or refusal of service, this index is an instrumental tool for service providers as they seek to be more inclusive of all Australians,” Mr Parkhill said.

“We are proud to announce the launch of this index, which builds on ACON’s decades-long experience in LGBTI health and wellbeing. This instrument, in addition to our Pride in Health + Wellbeing support program, will provide a much-needed resource for those seeking to ensure full inclusivity of LGBTI people within the services and programs that they offer and will assist providers in working towards the Rainbow Tick accreditation if that is their ultimate goal,” Mr Parkhill said.

Participation will give service providers clear guidelines on getting started or on progressing their work in LGBTI inclusive service provision, as well as an opportunity to survey both staff and service users regardless of how they identify going forward.

The Health + Wellbeing Equality Index builds on from Pride Inclusion Programs’ benchmarking instruments, the Pride in Sport Index and the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI).

Dawn Hough, Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, said just as the AWEI has been instrumental in shifting practices in LGBTI inclusion in workplaces across Australia, the Health + Wellbeing Equality Index will be critical in improving health and wellbeing service provision.

“The feedback provided as a result of participation will allow health and wellbeing providers to not only focus their inclusion work in areas of good practice, but also determine annually what they need to do to improve,” Ms Hough said.

“As index participation grows, the benchmarking data will provide a valuable reference in terms of current best practice as well as both qualitative and quantitative data to show improvements in their service provision.”

Participants to the index do not need to be a member of the Pride in Health + Wellbeing support program to take part. Submissions can be made online and close Friday 8 March 5pm.

More than one in ten LGB workers in Regional Australia bullied in the workplace: Study

The survey also found that 13 per cent of gender diverse employees experienced ‘very high’ or ‘high’ levels of anxiety when applying for jobs.

Almost ten per cent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers in regional Australia have reported experiencing casual homophobia in the workplace, and almost 12 per cent have been bullied, according to a new study.

The 2018 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Employee Survey was conducted by Pride in Diversity, ACON’s not-for-profit support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion.

This year, more than 23,000 surveys were completed by employees working at 89 different organisations. Of the respondents, 3,709 identified as LGBTI.

“LGBTI employees want diverse workplaces where they feel included and supported – it isn’t only a moral imperative, it’s also just good business,” Chief Executive of ACON, Nicolas Parkhill, said.

“Fear of abuse or discrimination forces many LGBTI people to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity when they access health and well being services, in many cases leading to an increase in anxiety or depression.

“The work Pride in Diversity does in helping businesses as well as employees create more diverse and productive workplaces, is making real and substantial cultural change within Australian workplaces.”

The survey found that one in ten non-LGBTI employees believed LGBTI inclusion at work was no longer necessary following marriage equality, with only 73 per cent agreeing that it was.

Comparatively, a major 91 per cent of LGBTI respondents indicated that there was still much to be done in supporting inclusion and diversity at work.

More than 13 per cent of gender diverse employees said they experienced ‘very high’ or ‘high’ levels of anxiety during the recruitment process.

And while 60 per cent of gay men felt that inclusion initiatives had a positive impact on how they felt about their sexual identity, only 52 per cent of lesbians felt the same way.

“Even with some recent successes in achieving LGBTI rights, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do,” Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, Dawn Hough, said.

“It is important that in all aspects of Australian working life we have businesses comprising of leaders, advocates, and allies who know the importance of LGBTI inclusion.”

The full results of the 2018 AWEI Employee Survey can be found here.

Related story: ‘Only 32 per cent of LGBTI people are out to everyone at work: study’

Star Observer, 24 August 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.

A Mental Health Check

Dawn Hough

Source: This article was featured in the Australian Institute of Company Director’s magazine, December 2016- January 2017 edition, authored by Domini Stuart.

Untreated mental health disorders costs Australian employers $10.9 billion each year. Domini Stuart explains why now is the time for boards to address mental health issues in the workplace.

In the Australian Institute of Company Director’s magazine, (December 2016- January 2017 edition), Pride Inclusion Programs Director Dawn Hough explains the need for creating a workplace culture where “whoever you are – you can come into work and get on with your job.” Dawn’s excerpt from the article is below and to download the full article, please click here.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) demographic is vulnerable to heightened stress and anxiety at work as a result of what academics refer to as an “invisible stigmatised identity” – an identity an individual may choose to conceal for fear of stigmatisation. This requires specific attention from the board.

“The stereotypes some people hold about the way in which LGBTI people act, speak and look are only true for a very small percentage of the community. The majority of LGBTI people have the ability to hide their identity at work,” says Dawn Hough, director of Pride in Diversity, a workplace inclusion initiative of ACON, which was set up specifically to improve the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI employees through the reduction of discrimination, bullying, harassment and homophobia within Australian workplaces.

“We’re talking about workplace behaviour creating a culture where whoever you are – you can come into work and get on with your job.”  “Unless there are very clear visual cues of LGBTI inclusion, there is a risk that they will stay closeted for fear of negative repercussions on their workplace relationships and their career. This is not good for their mental health or well being, nor is it good for business in terms of productivity, engagement, authenticity and morale.”

The fear of being “found out” is a relentless pressure. “At work, you’re surrounded by people who can talk freely about their weekends, their weddings and the birth of their children – but when LGBTI people are asked about these things they face a constant dilemma,” Hough continues. “Do you lie? Avoid the subject? Or tell the truth and risk potentially damaging consequences? When this dilemma is at the forefront of your mind every single moment of your working life, it’s no surprise if it has a negative effect on your mental health.”

The LGBTI community suffers particularly high levels of suicide ideation, depression and other manifestations of poor mental health. Constantly feeling stigmatised can also lead to the use of drugs and alcohol as mechanisms for coping.

“There are consequences of exclusion,” says Hough. “LGBTI people will only feel safe enough to be themselves if inclusivity is genuine and clearly visible. People at a high level in an organisation often tell us that their company is LGBTI inclusive and that they don’t see any evidence of harassment or bullying, but it can be a very different story down on the ground. And chances are they also don’t see anyone who openly identifies as LGBTI either. Given that this demographic constitutes between seven and 10 per cent of the workforce, we would assume that, in this case, a lot of people in the organisation are in hiding. The question is why?”

Boards need to understand what inclusion means and the positive impact it has on the business as well as the health of LGBTI employees. “We’re not talking about taking a political stance or trying to change people’s values or beliefs,” says Hough. “We’re talking about workplace behaviour – creating a culture where whoever you are, you can come into work and get on with your job and be respected for who you are. Personal authenticity is a valued leadership trait; it’s something we should all be encouraging.”

As part of her job, Hough talks to boards about the challenges that LGBTI people face and what needs to be on the agenda. “We start by looking at where you are
now and what you can change,” she says.

“For example, your policies need to make it crystal clear that when you talk about families, you’re including same sex families; when you talk about partners you include same sex partners; and that parental leave applies to same sex parents. If inclusivity is not spelled out, LGBTI people will, by default, read themselves out of it.”

When LGBTI people join an organisation they scan for signs of inclusivity. “They’re looking for people who are out and comfortable, and also a network of peers,” Hough says. “Having a group of people you can talk openly to and feel safe with is important for all diversity groups, not just LGBTI.”