What it Takes to be an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace

What it Takes to be an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace

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Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2019 is just around the corner, and Sydney is getting electric with events like Fair Day, Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Festival and preparations for a range of Mardi Gras events.

The month-long Mardi Gras 2019 celebration, the second since the YES vote, brings issues surrounding the LGBT+ community into the public sphere.

A pressing issue is creating inclusive spaces within the workplace, where members of the LGBT+ community feel safe, supported and welcomed.

At a glance: Diversity and inclusion for LGBT+ employees in Australia

Diversity and inclusion have taken a permanent place in leading companies’ workplace policies. Studies have shown that diversity in the workplace fosters innovation, encourages productivity and creates a dynamic workplace culture.

The Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) conducted the Inclusion@Work Index surveying 3,000 Australians about their views on inclusion in the workplace. What they found was that individuals in diverse teams had higher job satisfaction and were 10 times more likely to be efficient workers.

However, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission, only 41% of people believe that companies treat people fairly, regardless of personal characteristics. This statistic is mirrored in an ‘Out at Work: From Prejudice to Pride’ report by Diversity Council of Australia that states only 32% of LGBT+ individuals are ‘out’ to their colleagues at work.

Despite these figures, forward-thinking organisations are looking to reshape the norm. Individuals who identify as LGBT+ are starting to receive support from their workplaces with initiatives such as community groups and celebrations designed to all sexual preferences and genders.

How Australian companies are fostering inclusive communities & celebrating Mardi Gras 2019


EY in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States has been recognised as a leader in creating an inclusive workplace environment for LGBT+ individuals. Its global network Unity focuses on LGBT+ awareness training, as well as facilitating events like Wear It Purple Day, and CGU Move in May.

Oceania Unity Network Leader, Gina Mills, says that supporting the LGBT+ community is important at EY: “Businesses who value their people and their customers should care about the LGBT+ community because by being consciously inclusive, they make a huge difference to how welcome those employees and customers feel in their environment”.

In non-inclusive workplaces, there can be a toll on employees: “Being closeted at work requires a lot of emotional and intellectual effort to ensure that you don’t inadvertently ‘out’ yourself to colleagues through your actions or words,” Mills says.

“When the workplace is open and inclusive, LGBTI employees can be their authentic selves, and can simply get on with their work. At EY, we encourage everyone to bring their whole selves to work,” she continued.

Mills also says that there is a direct correlation between LGBT+ inclusion and “the corresponding impact on productivity, retention, loyalty and customer satisfaction”.

EY’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

EY realises the importance of creating a supportive LGBT+ environment with “policies [that] explicitly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity”.

It also offers “a transitioning guide to help… people support a colleague going through a gender transition”. EY has even been awarded “Number 1 Employer” status in the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI).

Mills explains that the global LGBT+ network plays an important role at EY: “Our Unity network plays a pivotal role in creating a supportive environment for our LGBTI employees and their allies. The network creates a valuable support system for our people, but also a sounding board for policy and communications to ensure that LGBTI perspectives are taken into account”.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

Leading up to Mardi Gras, EY has teamed up with Sydney Convicts and Reach Out at each of their Fair Day stalls.

Mills says EY will also be “hosting a parade viewing party for our Unity members and clients at Taylor Square, so we will be right in the middle of the action, and some of our Unity members will also have the opportunity to march down Oxford St on the Sydney Convicts float.”


Open Agent Mardi Gras

One of OpenAgent’s core values is “Dare to be a Little Weird”. This means they want their employees to embrace who they are, and not be afraid to show their true colours at work, especially if those colours are rainbow.

Georgia Reuter, Junior Community Manager at OpenAgent, recognises the need for support of the LGBT+ community in the workplace.

“Imagine coming to work every day, where you spend most of your time and efforts to be hidden, discriminated against whether directly or indirectly. It would be exhausting,” Reuter says.

“Although it may be a small percentage of LGBT+ people in the workforce, businesses should do their best to build a sense of inclusion for everyone”.

OpenAgent’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

OpenAgent has a zero tolerance policy for any form of discrimination in the office. “At OpenAgent, we aim to create an open, diverse environment for everyone,” Reuter says.

“People who are ‘out’ in the workforce waste little energy hiding aspects of their personalities – meaning they feel more confident and progress within the business as opposed to staying in the closet”.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

With Mardi Gras around the corner, OpenAgent is gearing up for in-office celebrations supporting the company’s internal LGBT+ community: “Like most events that happen, we often do a whole office event centring around a theme (Mardi Gras). Right now, we’re exploring all the options and ideas to celebrate Mardi Gras”.


PwC Mardi Gras

PwC nurtures grassroots communities within its organisation to promote diversity and inclusion. The LGBT+ community is represented by GLEE@PwC (GLEE: Gay, Lesbian and Everyone Else), which strives to strengthen the LGBT+ community within the organisation.

Diversity and Inclusion Director at PwC Australia, Victoria Park, drives an everyday culture where people feel valued, irrespective of their “sexuality, gender identity or intersex status”.

“At PwC, we are committed to creating the kind of environment where everyone can feel comfortable and confident being themselves and are proud to be making a difference to the lives of LGBTI staff and members of our wider Australian community,” she says.

PwC’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

LGBT+ inclusion at PwC goes straight to the top of the C-Suite. CEO Luke Sayers is outspoken about issues surrounding inclusion, including topical debates like marriage equality. Sayers won the CEO of the Year Award in the 2018 Australian Workplace Equality Index awards for LGBTI Inclusion.

PwC also supports those undergoing a gender transition. “PwC supports its people by offering a transitioning and support policy to any person who chooses to transition and affirm their gender while working at the firm, including three weeks paid leave, a $1650 clothing allowance, unrestricted unpaid leave, and unrestricted access to our CARE support program” Park explains.

“LGBTI people can also participate in PwC’s Authentic Leaders Program – an intense six-month coaching and transformation program on traits unique to the LGBTI community, in order to accelerate your career goals and develop your leadership potential”.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

PwC has a history of marching in the parade, and will again in 2019 as part of Pride in Diversity’s float.

“Our offices in Barangaroo will be lit up with rainbow colours and our GLEE@PwC team in Sydney are getting their glitter ready for celebrations in the office,” Park says.



Optus has a number of initiatives in place to support LGBT+ employees , and is a member of Diversity Council Australia, Pride in Diversity and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association.

“All businesses should drive towards creating a culture of inclusiveness, where all people feel recognised and valued for their specific attributes, talents and contributions and they feel a sense of belonging,” says Veronica Lakin, Organisational and Development Manager for Diversity and Inclusion.

“One of Optus’ strengths is our LGBTIQ+ inclusivity. We welcome LGBTIQ+ employees to confidently express themselves and have continued to include the community as a key focus area in our Inclusion Strategy”.

Optus’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

Optus’ LGBT+ inclusion strategy “includes key initiatives that drive workplace inclusivity and community partnership.”

“Our initiatives include education and awareness for our people leaders and employees, social activities through our Express Yourself group and sponsorship,” explains Lakin.

This year, Optus has also elevated its sponsorship of GLOBE Melbourne, an LGBTI community group that supports and empowers Victorian LGBTI businesses and professionals, to principal partner.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

Optus has proudly sponsored and supported Queer Screen for six years. It is “one of the country’s highest attended film festivals and one of the largest LGBTIQ+ events nationally,” according to Lakin.

Additionally, Optus will be organising an exclusive screening of ‘Can you ever forgive me’ for employees, friends and family.

Red Bull

Red Bull Mardi Gras

Red Bull recognises that every individual has their own unique needs, interests, passions and goals. This is why Red Bull is a proud sponsor of Sydney’s 2019 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Jason Sargent, Red Bull’s Managing Director, says, “Companies need to reflect the societies they exist within, or you risk losing connection and relevance with that society. Today more than ever, people make decisions about which employers to work for based on a wide range of issues – not just job, salary and benefits or career progression, but also their commitment and belief in social issues [and] corporate responsibility.”

Inclusion, acceptance and feeling comfortable at work are key concerns for Red Bull: “Companies need to want their employees to feel accepted and respected. This, in turn, will improve health, happiness, and wellbeing which are integral to the success of any organisation,” says Sargent.

Red Bull’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

Sargent explains that because of Red Bull’s predominately young office, its workplace is naturally inclusive – but it’s still striving for perfection. As a member of the Diversity Council of Australia, Red Bull’s teams are equipped with knowledge and information to better facilitate inclusion, including training and awareness strategies to support LGBT+ colleagues.

Other initiatives at Red Bull include a detailed employee handbook that includes an LGBT+ commitment statement, as well as open dialogue about narratives and initiatives for LGBT+ inclusivity.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

This year marks the second year of partnership with Mardi Gras for Sissy Ball. “Sissy Ball is a vogue ball that provides a celebration of, and platform for, Asia-Pacific’s LGBTQIA+ community with a focus on queer and trans people of colour,” Sargent explains.

Red Bull is also a part of the Mardi Gras Parade with its own float.

In the lead-up to the parade, Red Bull will be “hosting a special edition of our monthly office drinks with games, including float decorating and party anthem-guessing competitions. There will be Red Bull cocktails and nibbles, and the invitation to dress in the spirit with people encouraged to put aside their typical office attire and really be themselves”.


Xero Mardi Gras

Xero strives to work by Vernā Myers’ famous quote: “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”. Xero wants to make sure that its employees are genuinely ‘asked to dance’, and continue to be.

“If businesses want to create an environment where their people thrive and customers get the best outcomes, they need to create a diverse and inclusive environment where LGBT+ feel like they belong,” says Rebecca Gravestock, Director of People and Performance, Xero Australia and Asia.

Xero’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

Xero has a range of initiatives across the company that support diversity and inclusion for LGBT+ employees. This includes hosting diversity and inclusion workshops around the world.

In New Zealand, Xero’s diversity team has been working closely with Rainbow Tick, a certification mark awarded to organisations that fulfil Diversity & Inclusion criteria.

“The Rainbow Tick recognises Xero values, our inclusive culture and provides guidance and resources for us to continue to create inclusivity at Xero” Gravestock explains.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

Globally, Xero celebrates LGBT+ events like Wellington Pride Parade, as well as pride events in San Francisco and Denver in the US. In Sydney, staff are encouraged to volunteer and participate in the Mardi Gras parade.

“Xero celebrates LBGT+ events around the globe where we have office bases. At this stage, we only have a small office in Sydney so have encouraged the staff locally to volunteer and participate in the Mardi Gras parade,” Gravestock says.



“Diversity is in Our DNA” is one of the core values at identitii. The company fosters inclusivity from day one on the job, and values diversity of all kinds, especially for LGBT+ employees.

“It’s important to remember that until 9 December 2017 same-sex marriage was illegal here in Australia. Systemic inequality has been a fact of life for the LGBT+ community. This can carry over into LGBT+ employees feeling unwelcome or even unsafe in the workplace,” says Layla Bates, Head of People and Culture.

“At identitii, we understand that a diverse workforce is the only way to be truly successful and innovative. The more diverse our team, the more diverse and innovative the solutions we are able to create.”

identii’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

“Identitii may be a small company, but we are lucky to have a truly diverse team: from gender to sexuality, to age, ethnicity and educational background, right through to cognitive diversity and socioeconomic background,” Bates explains.

identitii interviews feature diverse panels to make sure hiring managers are collectively fostering inclusion. Striving for a collaborative, transparent culture and respect is key at identitii. Disrespect and prejudice are not tolerated.

“By verbalising that we value diversity of all kinds, we can begin to create an environment of safety and inclusion,” says Bates. “A genuine commitment to diversity and inclusivity ensures that LGBT+ employees can bring their true selves to work without fear of persecution, bullying, or harassment.”

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

Mirroring its inclusive culture, identitii employees are encouraged to attend Mardi Gras. “We have a number of teammates who never miss the parade (myself included!) and will be there to celebrate on Oxford Street on 2nd March,” Bates said.


SBS is committed to representing voices of all Australians, regardless of gender, sexuality, age, cultural background or language; both in the office and as a broadcaster.

Eve Cooper-Muir, Business Analyst in Technology at SBS explains that there’s still plenty of work to be done to get things right on a broader level.

“Since marriage equality passed, there has been a seismic shift in attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Australia. However, the community still faces a lot of misunderstanding and discrimination – especially trans people”.

“When you consider that an estimated 11% of the population are LGBTIQ+ people, that’s an awful lot of employees and customers who either identify as LGBTIQ+ or are close to someone who does,” Joshua Griffin, SBS’ Diversity & Inclusion Lead explains. “All of those people are involved in the social pact that organisations form with their communities and they are increasingly looking to organisations to do more to prove their value”.

SBS’ LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

SBS has a range of community groups that support diversity in the workplace. “In 2017, we launched SBS Pride & Allies which is a staff led network to help support LGBTIQ+ staff and further promote SBS as an inclusive workplace for prospective employees,” Cooper-Muir explains.

SBS is also leading the way for LGBT+ representation within the media industry. “We established an industry-wide annual event called Media Pride which brings together representatives from media organisations around the country to make commitments to furthering LGBTIQ+ inclusion in media workspaces,” Griffin says.

With specialised editorial guides, SBS aims to ensure its content creators and the wider media industry are educated to speak about LGBT+ communities respectfully.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

SBS is set to broadcast the parade with a 2019 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade special on Sunday 3 March at 8.35pm.

Outside of the broadcast, SBS has its own float for SBS staff. The SBS office will also be holding its own internal event, hosted by World News presenter Anton Enus. It will also feature prominent LGBTIQ+ community members, with attendees embracing the 2019 Mardi Gras theme: Fearless.



Paving the way with extensive research and papers into workplace LGBT+ inclusion, Mercer is passionate about supporting its internal LGBT+ community.

“Inclusion is something everyone can practice. Sometimes the smallest acts of inclusion and understanding have the largest effect. I am really proud of the work our colleague teams have done on bringing our LGBT+ agenda, awareness and support to life for all at Mercer,” says Gaye Morris, Pacific People and Culture Leader.

Mercer’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

Mercer aspires to create a workplace where many different perspectives are welcomed and cherished. Its community events are created by colleague-led PRIDE Business Resource Group (BRG), which has been awarded Gold status by the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI).

For Pride Month 2018, Mercer hosted ‘PRIDE through the eyes of children’, an internal event focused on the experiences of rainbow families and how to create inclusive environments for children.

Mercer also has internal awareness campaigns about language use for the LGBT+ community. This includes ‘Transitioning gender in the workplace’ guidelines to give everyone the tools to support their transitioning colleagues.

“Our purpose is to ‘create better lives’, not only for the clients and customers whose lives we touch but for our colleagues, too,” says Morris. “Our hope is that our clear support and work in inclusion and diversity will create better lives for the LGBT+ community and their allies”.

Outside of the workplace, Mercer supports Melbourne’s Midsumma Carnival, to demonstrate its support to the wider of public on LGBT+ issues.



Woolworths celebrates diversity in all its forms and has been awarded Gold Status by the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) as well as being placed 14th globally on the Thomson Reuters’ 2018 Diversity & Inclusion Index.

“When your team members bring their full selves to work and no longer need to waste energy hiding part of who they are, you see a positive impact on productivity and tenure, organisational reputation and ultimately your competitive advantage,” says Rachel Mead, Senior Manager Diversity and Inclusion at Woolworths Group.

For this reason, Woolworths supports national celebrations like Mardi Gras and Wear It Purple Day, where branches across the nation can support the LGBT+ community.

Woolworths’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

“Our People Policies are LGBTI-inclusive and we have specific policies in place to support our transgender and gender diverse community” Mead explains.

“We have a passionate and active LGBTI employee network, Proud at Woolworths Group, with over 2000 members”.

“Through our Proud at Woolworths employee network, we have a strong and visible ally network. These allies play a critical role in supporting the LGBTI community, role modelling inclusive behaviour and calling out behaviour that is discriminatory”.

Woolworths also conducts regular LGBT+ inclusion training to help provide guidance and support for employees on LGBT+ issues.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

The Woolworths Group is a proud partner of Mardi Gras 2019 and has already been active with a fruit frappe stall at Fair Day.

“The Mardi Gras Parade is the highlight of the Sydney Mardi Gras festival and Woolworths will be joining other iconic brands to celebrate our belief in diversity, acceptance and equality,” says Mead.

Woolworths will also be a part of the parade: “Our Mardi Gras Parade float will celebrate the ways our customers engage with our brands in a fun and family-friendly way.  Our float will be made up of team members from across the business, all passionate about the value of inclusivity”.



QBE has partnered with the Diversity Council of Australia on the “Out at Work: From Prejudice to Pride” report, as well as hosted diversity seminars like “Out in the Workplace: The power of LGBTIQ+ Inclusion”.

Frank Costigan, QBE Chief Customer Officer, says, “It simply makes good business sense that treating others the way we wish to be treated ourselves means we will have a much greater chance of engaging and tapping into a larger pool of talent and potential customers.”

QBE has its own Pride Logo, which allows its employees, and prospective hires, to feel comfortable in the workplace.

“As recently as this week, we had feedback from a prospective external candidate that they felt they could speak about their partner freely in an interview simply due to the fact they had received an email with the QBE Pride logo,” Costigan explains.

With a representation of LGBT+ colours, Costigan says that QBE “continue[s] to work towards building a culture that allows LGBT+ employees to feel safe to be themselves and come out at work without fear of being discriminated against”.

QBE’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

“We have an ongoing quest to ensure our policies and benefits are inclusive and designed to support same-sex couples through gender-neutral language,” says Costigan.

QBE Pride is the biggest internal workplace initiative at QBE to support LGBT+ employees. It is supported by a range of leaders throughout the company who work to implement internal guidelines and training initiatives, along with organising events and forums.

QBE was also named a joint winner of the AHRI Michael Kirby LGBTI Inclusion Award for its support of LGBT+ communities at work.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

QBE is a proud supporter of the LGBT+ community and Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

“This year, we’ve teamed up with long-standing partner, Sydney Swans, with a jointly branded float that will see members of QBE Pride marching proudly alongside members of Sydney Swans official supporter group, the Rainbow Swans,” says Costigan.



“Diversity isn’t just something we do – it’s who we are”: As one of the first statements on Intuit’s Diversity and Inclusion information page, it’s obvious Intuit is passionate about promoting diversity.

“Embracing a diverse culture helps foster innovation in an organisation and, at Intuit, we are passionate about innovation,” says Melissa Bowden, HR Business Partner at Intuit Australia.

But she is not oblivious to the hardships facing LGBT+ individuals in the workplace: “Anecdotal stories indicate that LGBTIQ community members worry about revealing their sexuality in the event it will drive discrimination, or harassment. This is why it’s critical to build an inclusive workplace, as we do at Intuit.”

Intuit’s LGBT+ community workplace initiatives

Intuit was listed as the 7th best company for LGBT+ employees by Business Insider in 2014, and continues to improve on its inclusive workplace initiatives.

“Our leaders are trained and coached on building an inclusive workplace for all,” says Bowden. “We have an LGBT+ network that all employees can join and we hold events, such as celebrating the Aussie Mardi Gras.”

University of Sydney


The University of Sydney (USyd) embraces diversity in the workplace, for its students and the wider organisation.

USyd’s Pride Network is one of the staff and student communities that foster meaningful discussions about LGBT+ issues on campus. They host regular meetups for members of the community to contribute to wider inclusion discussions at USyd.

“Our LGBTIQ communities are part of the fabric of our diverse society and have so much to contribute and offer,” explains Louise Bannerman, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant at USyd.

“The USyd Pride Network help us keep our finger on the pulse but also to come together to celebrate key LGBTIQ calendar events throughout the year, network and support each other”.

USyd’s LGBT+ community initiatives

USyd has a multi-pronged LGBT inclusion program that spans the whole organisation.

“We are constantly looking at our systems and processes and working to make sure that they are inclusive for example ensuring that students preferred names are used across all our student administrative platforms and ensuring we have a thriving Pride Network where students and staff can connect,” Bannerman explains.

USyd also has Sexual, Gender Diversity and Ally training on offer for all staff and students, that provides insight into key issues facing the LGBT+ community.

Plans for Mardi Gras 2019

USyd has a history of being involved in the Mardi Gras parade and Fair Day. This year, USyd’s floats theme is ‘knowledge conquers fear’.

“We will have a glorious float in the Parade followed by students and staff who will be practising their dance moves until the big day arrives,” says Bannerman. “Think fearless, think superheroes, think capes!”

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