Talking with the Outstanding 50: The Importance of Relationships with Allies - Diversity & Inclusion | Deloitte Australia has been saved
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Each year in August, Deloitte acknowledges GLOBE Month – “GLOBE” is Deloitte Australia’s LGBTI Network and Leadership Forum. Earlier this year in May, Deloitte and Google collaborated to release a list of LGBTI Leaders who have made an Outstanding impact in business, the public sphere and within the community. Called the Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders, 2018 was the second time the initiative was run. We caught up with some of these LGBTI business leaders to talk about the importance of LGBTI Inclusion, Wear it Purple Day and the importance of relationships with allies.
Please tell us your name and for fun, tell us something about you that we could not know just by looking at you.
Denise: I’m Denise Lucero and I suppose one thing you couldn’t tell about me just by looking is that I’m a gay woman!
I say it light heartedly of course, but more seriously, being gay is just one of the themes that I carry with me. It’s a dimension, it’s not something that defines me. If I was standing in front of you, would you know?
Matt: That was my answer! Except I am a gay man; not a gay woman! But I’ll make up another one: I am lucky to have a three-year-old son, Elliott. What that means is that my life has transformed over the last three-years. I sleep a lot less, ironically. I absolutely love being a dad, but as a gay man, people are often surprised that I do have a family.
Ross: Family is really important to me; I grew up in Canowindra NSW and my Dad still lives on the farm there – I’m definitely a country boy at heart. I’m a proud bogan [Editor’s Note: Australian slang with meaning similar to redneck] and NRL tragic – in fact my first car was an EK Holden Ute from 1961. I bought it off a butcher in Orange just before I got my license and I still have it! My kids and my partner Rob are the other huge part of my life. Rob and I always fostered kids, and we say that our kids (now 15 and 11) never left!
Can you believe it has been three months since we published our second Outstanding 50 list of LGBTI role models? What did you think of the campaign?
Matt: I think it’s a fabulous initiative by Deloitte and Google. The diversity of the list this year was very pleasing, having a real cross section across industries and backgrounds was so positive. Some of the stories were fascinating – the anecdotes and vignettes that were published were very inspiring. What I found surprising, was the number of people independently reaching out to me via LinkedIn or through my organisation afterwards.
Denise: To be invited as Deloitte’s representative in the Outstanding 50 has been a real privilege for me. It has also been a personal journey, it was a courage step for me. What this list does is it provides people an opportunity to actually step up and the opportunity to recognise that many of us have walked a long road, and we should be proud of that. The campaign was diverse, with almost 50/50 gender balance which is important to me because when it comes to gender, I think there is still that challenge across the board and I’m really proud to be helping lead the charge in Deloitte in supporting our LGBTI women.
Ross: Reflecting on what Denise said, I’m also excited that there were more women participants this year. The inaugural list in 2016 did a great job shining a spotlight on the LGBTI community in Australia, and the movement has built over time to include more women leaders as well – it’s great to see a real balance in role models this year and I feel really privileged to be part of the alumni.
Ross, you were named on our inaugural list in 2016 – how was that experience and what were your impressions on the 2018 list and campaign that followed?
Yes, it was an honour to be included in the first list from 2016 – it’s an amazing list full of really impressive people who have worked tirelessly to influence the national conversation on LGBTI inclusion and diversity. It’s been a real privilege to observe the emerging leaders of our community receiving recognition for their work – it’s exciting to see some fresh faces and inspiring because it shows incredible diversity, and increasingly customers and the community are wanting to see diversity reflected back by the institutions they place their trust in. I want to call out the work of Deloitte and Google who have raised the bar this year; the storytelling aspect of the campaign was incredible. In a world of the 24-hour news cycle and fake news – I found the authenticity of the stories and pictures and the messages they conveyed to be exceptional.
Denise, you’re an import to Australia, hailing originally from the US. Having lived in both, what are some of the differences and similarities in terms of LGBTI inclusion?
The similarities from a workplace LGBTI inclusion context, is that the commitment is there from the leadership of the firm in both countries. It’s pretty similar here to what it is back home – and I’ve subsequently had the privilege of seeing marriage equality pass in both countries. The difference is the pace in which Australia is moving forward – I hate to say it but, Australia is a little slower. When people think of Australia they think progressive, but when you’re living in it, sometimes it can feel just a little bit behind.
Matthew – hands down – yours was one of the favourite portraits we had captured for the Outstanding 50 report this year! How did you find it being in front of the photographer and more importantly, what made you decide to step forward as a role model?
Take some makeup and add a photographer and it turns out I am a happy man – who would’ve thought? My decision to step forward and talk openly about my life is a consequence of my experience during the early stages of my career. When I entered the workplace as a 17-year old who had grown up in the outer western suburbs of Sydney, I knew that I didn’t quite fit the mould. As a result, I felt I couldn’t bring my whole self to work and it was exhausting! Having visible “out” role models – people that were gay AND successful – would have made such a difference during those first years.
The theme for Wear it Purple (31 August) this year is “Empower Together” so we are looking at this in the context of relationships with Allies. Why do you think allies are so crucial to this conversation?
Denise: First of all, better together. No matter who you are. There have got to be people who can carry the message differently to how we do. Because we live it. These are people who know who we are. They can carry this message, but with a different delivery. They will attract maybe more, or other people who may not hear our message the way we convey. That’s why I think their input and participation is critical.
Matt: Notwithstanding the importance of making changes to systems, policies and processes, we are now moving into a hearts and minds space. In trying to influence people’s beliefs – it’s essential that we broaden the conversation and bring in people who can advocate and spread the message to help drive the change that we’re seeking. Allies are absolutely essential to achieving that change.
Ross: Allies are fundamental to the conversation and in our group – for the past five years as a Group, allies have championed Wear It Purple Day and I think it was Brad Cooper (Chief Executive BT Financial Group) who was the first ally to make it a big thing for our organisation. One thing we’re really proud of at St.George is being a family bank because ultimately when anyone walks into one of our branches, or speaks to us on the phone knows that we stand for inclusiveness and respect, regardless of a person’s background – we have a saying at St.George “we’re open if you are” which has really resonated with our people.
Sticking with the Allies theme for a moment – we know that often there is a lot of support out there but when it comes to demonstrating action – people can get a little lost. What’s your advice for any potential allies out there?
Matt: If I think about the allies that I’ve worked with over the years, one of the best ways that they’ve been able to demonstrate support is just by coming along to an event; and in doing so being physically seen as a supporter. Prior to my current role, I spent 18-years with KPMG. Some of the most powerful events that we held – in terms of a demonstration of support for our LGBTI people – were when senior leaders just showed up. For a gay or lesbian graduate or cadet, having the CEO, Chairman, a Partner from their business unit, or even a straight colleague in attendance at a LGBTI event is a pretty powerful demonstration of support. It also provides them with permission to bring their whole selves to work.
Ross: For us, I think it is about setting up your allies for success. We have specific actions and training on how we support our employees with inclusive language. On a really personal level, one of the most impactful moments for me and one that I think was embraced by allies happened was last year during the postal survey [Editor’s Note: for those overseas, the Australian vote on marriage equality]. Brian Hartzer, the Westpac Group CEO emailed the entire company and wrote about his friendship with me – he reflected on what that meant to him and he also wrote about my partner and our children whom he knows well. He felt really strongly that things like friendships were good enough reasons that everyone should vote yes – and it created a groundswell of allies at Westpac Group like we’d never seen before.
Many individuals, business leaders and organisations are realising that LGBTI inclusion efforts aren’t over, despite a great marriage equality result last year. In your opinion, where do we need to focus our attention and why?
Matt: Part of it is moving beyond the CBD postcode bubbles that a lot of these campaigns and related activity tend to be focussed. It is very easy to look around the bubble in which most of us live and work and think “things are pretty good” – but you don’t have to get too far out of this to realise there’s still a long way to go.
Denise: Women. Women. Women. I think many are still struggling. We struggled with the same challenge back in the US. We know from creating the Out50 list, that two out of three women approached declined to be involved – I think that speaks to a broader issue. We need to figure out how we include everybody in our sphere. It’s never going to be easy, it’s never going to stop. So that everyone has a chance to hear and see that we’re just everyday people.
Ross: For me it’s ensuring the financial wellbeing of LGBTI Australians is at a par with everybody else. It’s about making sure that community members feel that as they age, as Australia changes, as their financial circumstances change, that their wellbeing is considered and supported. Big considerations for the future are questions about how we make sure healthcare and elder care is set up to support our community, and I have no doubt it will become one of the fundamental community issues that need to be addressed.
For more information about the Outstanding 50 or Deloitte’s GLOBE Network, contact Adrian Letilovic, Diversity & Inclusion Communication Manager.