On 7 September 2018, the Employment and Equal Opportunity Committee will host its annual Employment Law Conference.  This year, the Committee is pleased and proud to welcome representatives from Pride in Diversity, who will deliver a series of sessions aimed at providing training and raising awareness in relation to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. The Law Society became a member of Pride in Diversity in early 2018 and is the first Law Society in Australia to take up membership. Pride in Diversity boasts a huge range of members from across various fields, including national sports teams, large corporate entities, NGOs, and not-for-profits.

While diversity and inclusion in the workplace initiatives encourage organisations to embrace all minorities and marginalised groups, Pride in Diversity focuses particularly on inclusion of the LGBTI community.

What does LGBTI Mean?

LGBTI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex. Other acronyms you might see used are LGBT, GLBTIQ or GLBT.

Pride in Diversity explains: “The acronyms that you use, we would imagine, would be determined in consultation with your LGBTI employees. It is important though that you do have a common language and that while your network is inclusive of everyone, it does give a voice and a visibility to those who share a diversity of sex, gender identity and/or orientation. The most commonly used acronym within current diversity practice is LGBTI.”

What are LGBTI Allies?

LGBTI Allies are usually those who identify as heterosexual (straight) and/or cisgender (that is, a person whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex) but can really mean any person who is supportive of the LGBTI community.

Why do we need LGBTI inclusion and diversity?

Studies clearly show that organisations with a diverse and inclusive workforce are generally more productive, more profitable, and have happier staff. It is important to be aware of the discrimination faced by the LGBTI community, both historically and on a continuing basis, and to ensure that your organisation is actively taking steps to ensure that the LGBTI members of staff (and, indeed, LGBTI clients) feel safe, supported, included, and equal within the organisation.

Why do we need Allies?

The following extract is taken from Pride in Diversity’s 2016 publication Engaging Allies For Change: How To Engage LGBTI Allies For Cultural Change.

“Organisations every day are discovering the benefits of an engaged ally workforce while the ongoing role that allies play may be quite fluid dependent upon the maturity of your organisation and the speed with which it adapts and grows. Here’s what we know:

  • Allies help to extend and grow an employee network, allowing for a greater, collaborative and more diverse voice for LGBTI inclusion. This is particularly important in the early days when numbers may be low and LGBTI identifying people may be wary of participating.
  • Allies clearly promote the network as an all-inclusive network, one that is not just for the “gays and lesbians”. This makes it far easier for those who are not “out at work” to participate without identifying themselves as someone within the LGBTI community. It allows people to “test the waters”, meet people who are most like themselves, determine whether or not the organisation really is accepting without committing to be out themselves.
  • Allies can call anti-gay behaviour and slurs, address negative stereotypes, correct destructive myths and take a stand against gay jokes in a way that LGBTI cannot. It’s a different voice taking a stand, one that may carry more weight with some people and one that will be privy to a lot of the comments that LGBTI people may not be, just by the very nature of them being there.
  • Allies can be a tremendous support to other employees who may have family and/or friends that identify as LGBTI people, who may not want to come on board as an ally but may want to talk to someone who understands and will lend a supportive ear.
  • Allies can support LGBTI employees by sharing factual information with their colleagues, helping to clear up common misconceptions, destructive myths and outright incorrect information.
  • Allies bring their own passions for equity, inclusion and essential human rights and are able to channel that in a way that will promote what it is you are trying to achieve.
  • Allies help to confront the “silence” and discrimination that normalises heterosexuality at the expense of LGBTI employees.
  • Allies are your supporters, your advocates, your friends and they are able to take everything they learn about LGBTI inclusion at work out to their family, their friends and their external social networks.
  • The new workforce (Gen Y and beyond) are increasingly discerning re: their potential employers and their track record in diversity, corporate social responsibility and ethics. Many see LGBTI inclusion as the ultimate litmus test and question employers who promote diversity and yet continue to deliberately exclude what is still a highly stigmatised group. For many, being part of the change is being part of the solution.”

LST Members who attend the Employment Law Conference will receive exclusive members-only access to the Pride in Diversity resources (including the publication above) and future training opportunities.