Happy Mardi Gras 2018

Cathy Brown

Cathy Brown - Research and Policy Manager 

This year Sydney is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras. This year’s parade is going to be one of the biggest ever.

And this year, more and more organisations are taking part. Something that would have been unfathomable when the 78ers first marched 40 years ago.

Following that first march for equality, the Sydney Morning Herald published the names, addresses and occupations of people involved in the protest.

This public outing “saw many protesters further discriminated against, in some instances causing the loss of jobs and homes”.

In 2016, the Herald apologised, but the public outing had already caused life-long and irreparable damage to many people.

It’s [almost] unimaginable today, in Australia, that being outed would mean you could lose your job.

More and more organisations now want to show that they support the LGBTIQ+ community and their staff.

Workplaces have made great strides to be inclusive, more and more organisations are adopting LGBTIQ+ supportive policies. (It doesn’t hurt that organisations with LGBTIQ+ inclusive climates achieve higher productivity and profitability than those companies that are not supportive of their LGBTIQ+ employees (Pichler, Cook, Blazovich, Huston, & Strawser, in press).)

So times have changed. But how much have things actually changed? And how safe is it for Australian workers to be out at work?

Last year, DCA conducted a national survey which found that gay, lesbian and bisexual workers had one of the highest levels of experiences of harassment and discrimination of any groups of employees in Australian workplaces.

Other research has shown that most LGBTIQ+ employees in Australia have seen or heard homophobic or transphobic incidents at work (Barrett & Lewis, 2012; PwC, 2016). Given these findings, it is not surprising that almost half of all LGBTIQ+ Australian workers still don’t share their LGBTQ identity or intersex variation at work.

There is a body of evidence that says authenticity is a valuable trait to have in the workplace – it is linked to significantly higher job satisfaction and engagement, greater happiness at work, stronger sense of community, more inspiration, and lower job stress. And the vast majority (75%) of employees say they want their co-workers to share more about their true selves.

Mounting evidence suggests that ‘coming out’ is linked to positive work attitudes among LGBTIQ+ employees (Button, 2001; Griffith & Hebl, 2002; Ragins, Singh, & Cornwell, 2007; Trau & Härtel, 2007). But what does being ‘out’ mean to different people?

What does it mean to hide your sexuality at work? To have to think about how you talk about your family?  To not talk to colleagues about your partner, your home life, and to be constantly on guard around people who ask personal questions?

And for trans and gender diverse folk, or people with intersex variations, what does it actually mean to be ‘out’?

Living authentically doesn’t always mean people knowing about your gender history. But it does mean being safe, and working somewhere you don’t have to be exposed to discrimination and harassment.

And of course, coming out isn’t a one-off. As any LGBTIQ+ person could tell you, coming out is something that happens constantly.

What are the costs and benefits, perceived or actual, of being out at work? Am I lucky to work in an inclusive environment? Should it be that way? Should it matter where I work or who I work for?

We are conducting a study on what motivates Australian LGBTIQ+ workers to come out at work. What makes it safe to do so, and how does that link with satisfaction and productivity at work.

If you’re an LGBTIQ+ person, working in Australia, or recently employed, you can take our survey and help us understand what leading organisations do to make their workplace a safe and comfortable place for LGBTIQ+ workers to be themselves.

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