With WorldPride underway in Sydney, we look at what the public sector can do to support LGBTQIA+ staff to feel safe, respected, and valued at all times. On our latest episode of Work with Purpose, LGBTQIA+ inclusion thought leaders Frances Gamble, Marty Jovic, and David Momcilovic share their insights with us.
Despite efforts to build inclusive workplaces, the LGBTQIA+ community is still facing significant barriers at work, which can have a serious impact on their mental health and job satisfaction.
At the same time, individuals within these communities can have vastly different needs, and conversations about inclusion need to continue to keep this mind, according to Marty Jovic, health economist and partner PwC Australia.
“Being able to be your true self completely at work, absolutely has an impact on people's mental health when that isn't at its best, or it isn't completely available... I think people shouldn't have to choose between authenticity and being part of the tribe,” he says.
“There are those that are gender diverse, or identify as gender diverse, and they're looking at gender affirmation, our transgender community, and the specific needs there. These are things that we can continue to support and enhance.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but a first step to better support the LGBTQIA+ community and address some of these barriers can be to simply listen – to diverse voices.
"I think it's really important that when you do, that as a workplace you understand the power dynamics that come into play there in ensuring that you are creating safe spaces for your staff to share their views,” Frances Gamble, CEO of Out for Australia says.
“I've seen great change in getting that voice of lived experience, but we've also got to remember that we have a very broad community. The breadth of that voice needs to continue to evolve and change to make sure that we really have policies that are attuned to the diversity and the community that we have,” Marty adds.
Reflecting the voice of diverse lived experience is crucial to making any changes to inclusion policies – in this context, intersectonality should always be considered, according to David Momcilovic, Director at the Office of LGBTQIA+ Affairs, ACT Government.
“Regardless of the priority community, whether it's LGBTQIA+ or culturally and linguistically diverse, engaging with one group means doing work intersectionally. And there is a need to approach this holistically, understanding that one's gender, sexuality or race cannot be isolated,” he says.
“What works for an LGBTIQA+ person who is an Australian citizen and able-bodied, will not work for an LGBTQIA+ person on a temporary visa who has a chronic illness and lives in poverty.”
Once you’ve listened to your LGBTQIA+ staff and understood some of the core concepts, our panellists recommend taking some concrete steps towards formalising and funding processes to improve inclusion.
“The workplace having things in place such as policies, leadership, and cultural initiatives, internal advocacy, strong and effective diversity, equity and inclusion teams and investments, strong and effective employee-led networks... is really important,” Frances says.
“Another example that I want to highlight is around budgets and ensuring that there are actually dollars put behind these various initiatives because they really demonstrate where your values lie as an organisation.”
For Marty, it is also important that staff have the opportunity to celebrate days of significance in the workplace.
“All of those things in isolation may seem simple, but for somebody who is part of a community that may just be thinking about coming out, that is just trying to work out their workplace, those visible things are really important,” he says.
David urges public sector organisations that develop policy or have customer-facing functions to invest in training and education for staff performing those functions.
“And I'm not talking about e-learning here, I'm talking about in-person professional development with people with lived experience,” he says.
For those who feel they would benefit from additional support, it is always a good idea to reach out to people who share a similar identity or seek out mentoring.
"We are a community of communities, and as much as you might have a strong pride network or DEI environment in your organisation, you might find that you are needing support outside of your organisation to support whatever your intersectional identity might be,” Frances says.
“And I think a really great role that a mentor can play is really mirroring back the experiences that you're sharing with them to help you build that confidence.”
Finally, Frances says that celebrating with the community not only benefits individuals, but also the workplace itself.
“When you support us, and when you celebrate us, we are better at our jobs.”
Piqued your interest? Listen to the full conversation on Work with Purpose.