Diversity and inclusion remain big topics in the business world. More and more organisations are looking to put strategies in place that embrace and affirm people from all different backgrounds and communities.
Still, SEEK’s 2021 P.R.I.D.E Report found that LGBTIQA+ employees are twice as likely to experience discrimination in the workplace compared to non-LGBTIQA+ employees. This statistic is a stark reminder that the conversation around diversity and inclusion isn’t finished.
The onus is on every Australian organisation to create and actively implement a diversity and inclusion strategy, to ensure each of their employees has a safe space to work in.
The impact of not having a diversity and inclusion strategy
Actively hiring and developing diverse talent benefits companies considerably. This is because it allows for varied viewpoints and experiences, which have been shown to promote creativity and innovation.
Tackling discrimination and creating a safe space for all employees can also reduce absenteeism and high turnover rates. This is backed by the findings in the report, where 11% of LGBTIQA+ employees said they left a job due to workplace discrimination.
Further, 15% said they’d skipped work or called in sick due to feeling unsafe at work, compared to just 7% of non-LGBTIQA+ employees, highlighting that the cost of absenteeism is Australia hits businesses on their bottom line, actively impacting revenue and turnover.
With 34% of LGBTIQA+ respondents saying they value an inclusive workplace culture, the impact of not implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy is incredibly high.
Protecting and empowering employees and customers
Although headway has been made by Australian businesses to address discrimination against LGBTIQA+ communities and other minority groups, both in the workplace and among their customers, there is still work to be done. Over a third (32%) of respondents in the report said they thought their employer has a lot more to do to support its LGBTIQA+ employees.
CEO of The Equality Project, Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, echoes this sentiment.
“We are nowhere near where we need to be,” he says. “It’s great that it is illegal to discriminate, but it’s actually more important to proactively foster an inclusive, culturally safe environment for every employee and customer.”
That’s where the importance of having a clearly defined diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy comes in.
“[A diversity and inclusion strategy] sets direction, creates and defines the workplace culture, and provides a point of reference,” Tuazon-McCheyne says. “Without clear guidelines and internal champions inside the business to encourage their implementation and adoption, no systemic change will occur.”
How to progress your D&I strategy to support LGBTIQA+ team members
Whether your company has an existing strategy or you’re just beginning on your journey, it’s essential that your leaders and managers are on board from the get-go. Leaders help define the culture of a workplace and need to live the inclusive values put in place every day.
Director of Leaders For Good, Kerry Boys, believes that a practical and successful D&I strategy should speak to the needs of each organisation.
“How do we actually make change? For me, a D&I policy should be a living document which is the result of a rigorous and robust strategy process that understands the challenges and opportunities within an organisation,” she says.
Tuazon-McCheyne put together the following ideas for workplaces to create inclusive and culturally safe spaces for LGBTIQA+ employees and customers.
- Display LGBTIQA+ friendly signage. For example, “You are welcome here” signs, or a small rainbow flag at the front desk to show LGBTIQA+ clients, customers, and staff that your business is an inclusive space for the community.
- Update your staff and client forms to include gender-neutral language.
- Engage a relevant organisation to run an LGBTIQA+ Awareness training session for employees.
- Install gender-neutral bathrooms or signage. An office that has gender-neutral bathrooms fosters an inclusive environment and demonstrates that a business doesn’t simply tolerate employees’ differences but affirms them.
- Celebrate Wear It Purple Day or International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). There are plenty of resources on these events on how to participate in the workplace.
- Support staff to add pronouns to email signatures. This acknowledges that transgender, gender diverse and non-binary people exist, and affirms diverse gender identities in a respectful way.
- Take a clear stance on LGBTIQA+ discrimination. Employers need to make sure they establish strong anti-discriminatory policies in every aspect of the company and communicate these with employees. Employees must recognise there is zero-tolerance for any instances of homophobic or transphobic related bullying.
- Celebrate other national and international LGBTIQA+ events in the workplace. For example, organise events around Transgender Awareness Week and Pride Month. Participate in the major LGBTIQA+ festival or event in your state or territory.
- Find out what LGBTIQA+ staff and customers need to support them in the workplace. Treat all staff equally when it comes to parental or adoption leave, and put policies and procedures in place to reflect this.
Creating a safe and inclusive workplace for all, not just some
Everyone deserves to feel included, safe, and even celebrated at work. Companies become stronger by embracing the diversity of their workers, drawing on the incredible and varied experiences of each community represented in their workforce.
Not only does a D&I strategy fight against discrimination, it also helps to create a unified, cohesive workplace culture that every employee can be proud to be a part of.
Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, surveyed a nationally representative 1,200 Australians featuring both LGBTIQA+ and non-LGBTIQA+ respondents. Published July 2021.