Why do we need Pride Month?

Why do we still need to talk about this? This is not a workplace issue. You have marriage equality; surely the job is done!

Nicki Elkin

Nicki Elkin, Associate Director – Quality, Training & Research, ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs

These are just some of the comments we hear when having conversations about workplace LGBTQ+ inclusion, and people could be forgiven for believing all the work has been done if they are not LGBTQ+ or don’t have LGBTQ+ people in their lives.

However, data from the 2024 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Employee Survey shows that only 37% of employees with a diverse sexuality are ‘out’ to all their colleagues, and only 32% of those with a diverse gender. New workforce and early career employees are less likely to be out than more tenured people.

For almost 30% of sexuality diverse people who are not out, and 65% of gender diverse people not out, negative social media commentary and mainstream news media reporting targeting LGBTQ+ people was cited as impacting their willingness to be out. Fear of being labelled, fear of not being accepted by members of their team, fear of discrimination, fear of negative career impacts, and fear of being the target of jokes and innuendo were also commonly cited.

9% of employees of diverse sexuality and 16% of employees of diverse gender have been the target of workplace incivility in the past 12 months, with over 50% of incidents going unreported, and workplace wellbeing is poorer for LGBTQ+ employees than their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. And this data comes from employees working in organisations who are already making good progress with their LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives!

Many LGBTQ+ people in Australia have grown up hearing messages that there is something wrong with them, that they need to hide who they are, that they need to feel shame. And these messages are still prevalent. Consider the impacts of: the damaging hate campaign targeting LGBTQ+ people during the Marriage Equality Debate; slandering of LGBTQ+ people at the extreme end of the Religious Freedoms Movement; the rise of the anti-trans movement globally and the vicious social media attacks on gender diverse people, particularly trans women; the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ riots, marches, and demonstrations; vocal and public criticisms of organisations active in LGBTQ+ inclusion; public outcry around trans story-telling and the carrying of LGBTQ+ family books at public libraries.

This is highly relevant for our workplaces, where many of us spend a good deal of our lives. We know that organisations who visibly support LGBTQ+ inclusion, including acknowledging and celebrating LGBTQ+ times of significance such as Pride Month, feel safer and more inclusive, not just for LGBTQ+ employees, but for ALL employees. 86% of total (not just LGBTQ+) respondents to the 2024 AWEI Employee survey agreed that work on LGBTQ+ inclusion has a positive effect on organisational culture, and 69% say an organisation’s positive track record would influence them to join it. 

But inclusion should not just happen during one month of the year. Organisations with the most inclusive cultures for LGBTQ+ people work on this every day; it is a strategic imperative. As one CEO was overheard saying at the Australian LGBTQ+ Inclusion Awards, “This is not just the right thing to do; it’s our responsibility!”.

The most inclusive organisations follow a robust framework to direct their efforts. In Australia, the definitive national benchmark on LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion is the AWEI, which comprises a roadmap, auditing and benchmarking tool, and engagement survey by which national standards of best practice for LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion are set. The AWEI contains a set of criteria that empowers organisations to develop their LGBTQ+ inclusion strategies and action plans, through an evidence-based approach, guided by best practice insights from national and global trends in workplace inclusion.

Organisations may request a copy of the criteria or register to participate in the Employee Survey via the Australian Workplace Equality Index website.

In the meantime, here are 10 tips to think about:

  1. Create a visible DEI strategy and action plan to increase LGBTQ+ inclusion and have executive leaders openly speak about it and its importance.
  2. Have very visible Pride symbols in all workplaces. These can include banners, flags, lanyards, pins, technology backgrounds, etc., that people can use.
  3. Promote LGBTQ+ awareness and ally training to all employees and have senior leaders role model attendance and introduce them.
  4. Have senior leaders tell their ally stories and publish them on internal media.
  5. Publish examples of allyship, and how it has supported employees.
  6. Create ally guides, so that employees know what they can do to be a visible, active LGBTQ+ ally.
  7. Promote LGBTQ+ days of significance and ensure senior leaders attend and participate.
  8. Participate in the AWEI Employee Survey to understand and act on your organisation’s particular challenges for LGBTQ+ inclusion.
  9. Acknowledge that certain groups within the LGBTQ+ population are less visible/represented, and face different barriers, and review your LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives to ensure they are relevant and meaningful for those populations.
  10. Acknowledge that LGBTQ+ people may be represented in other populations covered in your organisation’s DEI strategy (e.g. gender equity, accessibility, multicultural, etc.) and review those initiatives to ensure they are relevant and meaningful for LGBTQ+ people.

Nicki Elkin is Associate Director – Quality, Training & Research at ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, which empowers organisations, using an evidence-informed approach, to develop leading practice in LGBTQ+ inclusion for the benefit of all Australian Communities. Nicki has worked with a wide variety of organisations to help them develop and deliver LGBTQ+ inclusion strategies to support LGBTQ+ people in the places that they work. With over 20 years experience in commercial roles across a wide range of sectors, Nicki’s strong corporate background has made them skilled at the development and implementation of strategies within organisations, working with many different stakeholders. Nicki is a committed advocate for inclusion and was a foundation member of their previous employer’s LGBTQ+ network before making the jump to Pride in Diversity to help other organisations.