POSTED 16 Mar 2016
Centre for Workplace Leadership, University of Melbourne
Rowena Allen is Victoria’s first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, and will be a speaker at the Future of Work 2016. We had a quick chat with her about LGBTQI rights at the future of work.
Q: What hindrances and obstacles are there for the LGBTQI community and individuals in the workplace?
A: It can be about invisibility within the workforce, it can be about your own internalised homophobia or transphobia about having to come out within the workplace, or previous bad experiences of what has happened in the workplace. Having to go through all of the processes repeatedly throughout your life.
It can also be about really poor policy surrounding LGBTQI people within the workplace. Or outdated policies, a contract with an external provider which was written 20 years ago and no one has re-read the fine print.
Doing an audit of internal processes and policies to turn discrimination which is invisible into a visible option.
Q: Are there any organisations or indeed industries who are leading at being great places for employment for the LBGTQI community?
A: Well, Price Waterhouse and Coopers are number one on what is called the Pride in Diversity index. Pride and Diversity is a program that your organisation can sign up for nationally and they do an audit on your policies and they score you.
Some organisations have been given quite low marks on the index but really the only way is up and signing up for the index is a sign of a willingness to improve and learn and build a safe work community. It is a difficult process to go through, it requires work and commitment and is much more than just sticking a rainbow on your window.
Something which is exciting is that the big consultancies and the four big banks have become competitive about having a great Pride in Diversity ranking. The top twenty organisations get launched every year and it is a point of distinction to be on that list.
Corporations in particular understand the financial value of their employees bringing their authentic self to the workforce.
Q: So what is that financial value?
A: Loyalty and productivity and the removal
Q: And how important are safe workplaces for the community as a whole?
A: Generally we spend a long time at work. It goes back to people’s mental health at work and how much they enjoy going to work, and the flow on life benefits of all of that. Poor mental health from the workplace is very expensive for communities.
Q: And what is exciting about the future of work for the LGBTQI community? What changes are we currently seeing.
A: For me I am excited that the eight departments of the Victorian Government have signed up for Pride in Diversity and the government is leading on that front. I am going to a Pride and Diversity launch in a corporate probably once a fortnight. And it is exciting to see them be innovative and forthcoming in trying to outdo each other to be the best places of employment for LGBTQI people.
Q: And finally what is one simple thing that people can do in their own workplaces to make it a safe place for their LGBTQI colleagues?
A: I think be aware of the pronouns that you use on a Monday morning when you are talking about your weekend. Don’t assume people are heterosexual and don’t make it awkward for people by using a pronoun they don’t want.
Q: Is there a way to get pronoun training?
A: Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria will do training. Transgender Victoria will do training. There are a lot of organisations working within the space. Sign up to Pride in Diversity and they have a training function also. The simplest thing I tell people is just use inclusive pronouns such as the term Partner over boyfriend, use terms that are inclusive.
It was a pleasure speaking to Rowena and there is some great advice above, come along to the Future of Work to hear her speak more on the topic – she’s also one of the most engaging presenters in the game.
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