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In 2018, Diversity Council Australia - an independent not-for-profit workforce diversity advisor for businesses across the nation - published in partnership with RMIT, Deloitte, QBE and the Star Observer the Out at Work: From Prejudice to Pride report. The purpose of this report was to identify why it is difficult for LGBTIQ+ Australians to come out in their workplace. “LGBTIQ+” refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/gender diverse, intersex, and queer – the “+” recognises that LGBTIQ doesn’t include a range of other terms that people identify with, or use to describe themselves.
The report found that on average 32% of LGBTIQ+ employees were out to their colleagues, with lesbians and gay males being more likely to be out at work compared to their trans or gender diverse colleagues. Of the LGBTIQ+ employees who felt comfortable being out at work with their peers, many still choose not to talk openly about their LGBTIQ+ identity or status with clients and customers.
In addition to putting a number on how many LGBTIQ+ employees are out at work, the report provides insights on why LGBTIQ+ employees feel the need to conceal their true selves at work, and what can organisations do to make their workplace a more inclusive space for LGBTIQ+ employees.
This report summary finishes with a personal note from the Deloitte author about their experiences coming out at work.
The research aimed to:
The report draws from multiple data sources in an attempt to identify why LGBTIQ+ employees feel reluctant to come out at work and the strategies organisations may take to support this process. Specifically, the researchers aimed to answer:
The report’s findings suggest that hiding one’s true self in the workplace can be costly to an employee’s own wellbeing and can contribute to a loss of productivity and innovation.
Concealing identity compromises well-being:
“Many of my customers are deeply homophobic which makes being out very hard”
Being out at work helps to drive performance for the individual, and the organisation:
“’Are you married?’ is always a difficult question. I say, ‘Well I have a partner’, and they’ll say,
‘What’s her name?’ Then I say ‘It’s a he actually’. And then there’s an award silence.”
LGBTIQ+ inclusive culture also drives individual and organisational performance:
“By being in a safe environment, you can be the best possible version of yourself”
There is still work to do to support LGBTIQ+ employees at work.
Despite many Australian organisations publicly supporting and developing inclusive policies to include LGBTIQ+ employees, the report suggests a sizable proportion of LGBTIQ+ employees are still yet to feel comfortable being out in the workplace.
Of the 1600 surveyed:
“I’m trans and lesbian. Transphobia is a lot more complex and embedded
than homophobia. People hide it, but you can tell”.
The report identifies the role organisations (and their workforce) can play to create and sustain an environment that is inclusive for LGBTIQ+ professionals to bring their authentic selves to work each day. It identifies six common barriers to an inclusive organisation: Invisibility, Diluted diversity, Harassment, Language that excludes, Assumptions, and a Lack of unity. In calling out the barriers, the researchers provide clear and practical solutions for how individuals and organisations and make a difference to enable a culture of inclusion.
“It’s more than just putting your brand in rainbow colours”
Download a copy of the full report at here.
A personal case study of LGBTIQ+ inclusion at work
In today’s socio-political climate where people are feeling more marginalised than ever, it’s becoming increasingly important to encourage a workplace of openness and inclusion. LGBTIQ+ inclusion is still a relatively new element in the Diversity and Inclusion conversation, and coming out will always be a personal decision made by the individual. For many LGBTIQ+ Australians like myself, coming out (the action of revealing ones preferred gender or sexual preference to others) in the workplace can be a challenge.
The marriage equality debate in Australia 2017 was a tumultuous time for the community, with many of us for the first time in our careers finding our personal lives the subject of conversation amongst our colleagues. I recall during this time overhearing a particular conversation pertaining to the debate whilst at work, with the overwhelming opinion of those contributing leaning towards a no vote. My leader was quick to act against such divisive rhetoric by shutting down the situation and removing everyone from the unsettling situation.
Thankfully during this time in my career, I was already out to my leadership team and colleagues. Working in an environment where being inclusive and respectful of others is championed by the business (e.g. Deloitte’s Out 50 list, Deloitte Wear it Purple Day, Deloitte Asia Pacific CEO Cindy Hook sponsoring the firms LGBTI+ support network, etc.) means that individuals like me feel comfortable to call out divisive behaviour when it shows itself. In my opinion, it is only when LGBTIQ+ employees feel supported by the organisation and their colleagues that they are able to get on with their work and be productive best possible versions of themselves.
I often think to myself how that experience may have played out if not for the support of my team. What would the outcome have been if I was not out to my peers, or if we operated in an environment without clear direction and guidelines against inappropriate behaviours? What the Out at Work report highlights, amongst many things, is the role we can all play in empowering our colleagues to feel safe enough to bring their authentic selves to work.
The above case study is authored by Louis Colella.
Louis is a consultant within Deloitte’s Human Capital Workforce Transformation practice. Since joining the firm, he has gained experience on large-scale projects within financial services, telecommunications, public and private health, and the energy and resource sector. Louis is an active member of the Melbourne GLOBE (Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Business and Enterprise) SteerCo and has participated in multiple D&I inspired engagements since joining Deloitte. Louis has a passion for shaping the workforce and preparing them for the future to deliver meaningful business results. His key interests lie in talent strategy, learning and development, large-scale transformation, instructional design, the future of learning, and mergers and acquisitions.