18 Aug 2021

LGBTIQA+ in the workplace: how to build inclusive workplaces

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Words by Kaylene of Startup Creative

All of us spend, on average, one-third of our lives at work. But not everyone feels comfortable in the workplace.

After LaunchVic released a survey showing 28% of the LGBTIQA+ community have experienced homophobia and felt they had to hide their true identity at work, it became clear we needed to spark a larger conversation around inclusive workplaces.

Since 78% of the community felt that having access to mentors and leaders in the space would be beneficial to their mental health, we co-hosted an event with General Assembly to showcase an expert panel of incredible leaders in the LGBTIQA+ space.

Our panel discussion was truly inspiring. The room was full of LGBTIQA+ community members, champions in the workplace, allies, and supporters who were all eager to learn and contribute to the conversation.

We discussed how best to support our community and make all workplaces safe, inclusive and effortlessly diverse.

Here are a few of the take-home notes and outcomes that we discussed.

If you’re an LGBTIQA+ community member, ally, or run a business/workplace that you would like to make more inclusive and diverse, try implementing some of these notes so that we can make it safe for our community to bring their whole self to work, every day.

Visibility helps
Displaying posters, rainbow lanyards, and stickers are an effective way to show people you’re an inclusive workplace without them having to ask. It shows that you’re demonstrating your commitment to creating a safe environment where people can bring their whole selves to work.

If you have any of your own personal stories as an LGBTIQA+ community member, don’t be afraid to speak up and share your experience. Stories spark emotion and empathy, and when people see role models who are living proud lives in the workplace, they may feel more comfortable about coming out to their colleagues and peers.

Use inclusive language
Creating a safe workplace starts with the language you use. Educate yourself and your team members on gender-inclusive language, the different gender identities, and pronouns that people identify with – Google is a great place to start. Understand that people may wish to use different pronouns such as ‘they’, which has been added to the dictionary for singular use. Using inclusive language when talking to the company as a whole will also show support to those who aren’t out yet and will show them it’s a safe place e.g. all are welcome here.

Remove all mention of gender in the workplace
To create a space where people can choose how they wish to identify, remove gender checkboxes from work documents and leave forms. If possible, replace gendered toilets with gender-neutral bathrooms to give more people a safer, comfortable experience. Organisations should also offer parental leave – not maternity or paternity.

Change begins at the top
To ensure a workplace does become more inclusive, it’s important to get leadership support of any and all-inclusive and diversity initiatives in the workplace. This will help the initiatives roll out with ease across all teams.

Recognise it’s a collective effort
It shouldn’t always fall on the LGBTIQA+ person to push efforts to make the workplace more inclusive. Stats show that there are 11% of LGBTIQA+ people in each workplace even if they’re not out. So allies need help to carry the load, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure the workplace is a safe space for everyone. To make it a collective effort, you can create networks in the workplace to create safe communities so people know they have support. You can also create FB pages, Slack channels, or committees that are open to allies in case they want to check if it’s safe.

Set up proper systems & processes
To truly create a safe and inclusive work environment, be sure to have processes set up to support the minority in the workplace who might still experience discrimination when they go to work. This creates accountability and will ensure people have a safe space to turn to when they want to challenge discriminatory behaviour within the workplace.

If you’d like more information or support around this topic, be sure to contact Ashleigh Sternes who was on our panel as a diversity consultant.

Be sure to also check out Grace and Archie who run Queer Town and are leading awareness in this space. They are both very knowledgeable, supportive & approachable when it comes to creating inclusive workplaces.

Big thanks to the GA Team for hosting this event and to Will, our fourth panellist, who shared so much wisdom.

Further Reading & Resources:

Gender Equality
Gender at Work: Great resources on building gender equality, including free books, articles, videos, etc.

Lean In: Lean In offers women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals.

He For She: Solidarity movement for the advancement of gender equality, initiated by the United Nations.

OUTLeadership: Research on LGBTQI+ allyship in the workplace. A wealth of resources.

Pride in Diversity: Australia’s national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTQ workplace inclusion specialising in HR, organisational change, and workplace diversity.

Out & Equal: The premier organization working exclusively on LGBTQ workplace equality. Check out their toolkits

Our event takehomes and resources contributed towards the NUS MBA Inclusive Leadership Manual 2021. 250 hard copies of this manual will be distributed to the incoming MBA cohort and will be incorprated into the program ongoing.

You can read more about the teams process adn request your copy here if you’d like to incorpoate this into your work place.


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