Have you ever felt like you can’t be your real self at work? For LGBTIQ people, this is an everyday concern.
For businesses trying to engage their employees, encouraging inclusion and openness is incredibly important. EY is one business that has focused on LGBTIQ issues, with the aim of creating a culture where all employees can be more open and engaged workers. The company is committed to putting LGBTIQ issues at the forefront and creating an environment that encourages people to be themselves, says Heather Geary, EY Oceania Diversity & Inclusiveness Leader.
“I think you can really tell if people are committed to their agenda by if they start to focus on the smaller areas like LGBTIQ,” she says.
Geary says that if people feel unable to reveal their sexuality in the workplace, then they probably won’t perform at their best.
“It sort of tells you it’s not an environment where people are going to bring their best to their workplace if they constantly feel like they have to hide something.”
EY have been nominated as a finalist for AHRI’s 2016 Michael Kirby AC LGBTIQ Inclusion Award for their efforts in creating a work environment conducive to openness and acceptance.
Here’s two lessons we can learn about how to create a workplace that encourages LGBTIQ inclusion:
1. Put your money where your mouth is
Money talks – and when it does, people listen. Donating money to causes you want to encourage is a great way to put those issues on the agenda. As part of their overall aim to encourage LGBTQI inclusion, EY sponsor the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, as well as a number of gay sports teams and leagues, including the Sydney Convicts rugby team.
Geary believes that this has opened the door for discussing these issues with those who aren’t initially comfortable talking about LGBTIQ issues, but are happy to talk about sport.
It’s also been great to create connections between LGBTIQ inclusion and other workplace topics, such as leadership.
“Being a sports team, they can talk well about leadership and the importance of teamwork, which is really relevant to what we do here,” she says. “It gives people another way to talk about LGBTIQ in a way they’re comfortable with.”
2. Allow your employees to shape the culture of your organisation
Unity is EY’s LGBTIQ-focused network, which runs conferences, community events and mentoring to encourage openness about LGBTIQ issues in the workplace.
Unity is run entirely by employees and provides an opportunity for cultural change from the ground-up. The network’s aim was to encourage employees to implement change for themselves, says Geary.
“At the end of the day, it’s really not LGBTIQ people who should be responsible for changing the whole culture of the organisation around LGBTIQ – it’s the allies who need to be comfortable and stand up and say ‘I stand up for LGBTIQ inclusion’. So it’s engaging allies as well.”
Being nominated for an AHRI award is a huge encouragement for the Unity network, says Geary.
“It’s really good for the network, given that we’ve got a lot of people who voluntarily give their time and who are connected to this agenda that do it purely as a labour of love,” she says. “For them to get nominated around the work that they do is really a justification of why they do it.”
The AHRI Awards will be announced on Thursday the 1st of December. To learn more, click here.