LGBTI Inclusion: Are Your Leaders Really Engaged?

Lin Surch
Topics LGBTIQ+
Lin Surch Workplace Education and Relationship Manager Pride in Diversity

LGBTI inclusion has arguably made substantial progress over recent years. Of course many of us know that there is still plenty of work to do but with the current groundswell of momentum and recognition of shifting practice, an increasing number of organisations across Australia are realising that to be truly inclusive, LGBTI inclusion initiatives count.

Pride in Diversity works with Australian employers to assist them with all aspects of LGBTI workplace equality and inclusion. We run many events throughout the year and at a panel I spoke on recently, an interesting question was raised which sparked much debate:

"When it comes to inclusion and progressing the diversity agenda - are your leaders really engaged, or are they just paying lip service?"

I know what I believe to be true. LGBTI inclusion is unique with more and more leaders becoming powerful role models and allies across their organisation. And yes, their support is authentic.

So in what is now being called "the fastest moving area of diversity and inclusion" in some circles, what are the key drivers in effecting real change and cultivating genuine support from leaders?

Sharing across networks

1. Practice Sharing. The amount of sharing that goes on between and across organisations active in LGBTI workplace inclusion is quite unlike any other. It is both inspirational to watch and exciting to be part of. Come along to any Pride in Diversity Member Round Table, and our Annual Pride in Practice Conference to experience this first hand.

Getting the executive on board

2. Executive Endorsement. Known as "Executive Sponsors", these influential individuals are often the epitome of genuine leadership and engagement in this space as they work from the top and on the ground. LGBTI networks with active Executive Sponsors have their work supported and endorsed. Their initiatives are much more likely to be promoted by other senior leaders across leadership teams and as a consequence, more broadly throughout the organisation.

And it's not just Executive Sponsors who are fast becoming genuinely engaged. In some organisations, CEO's are also coming out in active support of LGBTI inclusion by speaking out on the importance of corporate citizenship.

Connecting leaders from all ranks

3. Effective and Sustainable Employee Networks. All you have to do is take a look at any of the LGBTI network groups that Pride in Diversity work with across Australia to find teams of dedicated and driven individuals - many of who are ‘actively engaged leaders’ - all working towards best practice and creating cultural change. Some of these individuals identify as LGBTI, and many don't.

Providing a voice

4. And finally, the voice of the leaders. The 2014 AWEI Annual Employee Survey [i] show that over 90% of Senior Leaders in Australian Workplaces personally believe in LGBTI workplace inclusion and support inclusion initiatives. But don't just believe the statistics, go out and listen to their stories!

I would argue this is not something to be cynical about, as I hear first-hand through my work at Pride in Diversity, many heartfelt, personal stories being shared by these engaged leaders. They share these stories with their peers and employees and provide inspiration for many. It is indeed through this story telling that we are engaging more leaders and their teams along the way.

Many of the leaders that we work with not only understand the business case but genuinely support LGBTI inclusion. For some leaders it is for personal reasons, but for others, it is through education they have been provided true insight into the lived experience of their LGBTI employees and colleagues.

But this hasn't always been the case and it would be naive to think we don't still have a long way to go. Although the story of LGBTI inclusion is not only about engaging leaders, it’s certainly a good place to start.

Lin Surch

Lin Surch is Pride in Diversity's Workplace Education and Relationship Manager

Pride in Diversity is Australia’s not-for-profit employer support program for all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion. For more information on Pride in Diversity, call us on +612 9206.2137 or visit us at

DCA is proud to have partnered with ACON and Stonewall UK to establish Pride in Diversity in 2009. DCA will be celebrating International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia this year on May 17 and 18. 



[i] AWEI is published annually by Pride in Diversity, Australia’s national not-for-profit employee support program for all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion. The AWEI is the country’s definitive national benchmarking tool that benchmarks LGBTI inclusion in Australian workplaces in addition to providing the country’s largest annual LGBTI inclusion employee study, and acknowledgement of the country’s Top 20 Employers for LGBTI employees. For more information on Pride in Diversity visit For more information on the AWEI or to download a full copy of the benchmarking or employee study, visit

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