How to be an LGBTIQ ally in the workplace

Actuary and Risk Management Executive Mark Baxter highlights the significant number of LGBTIQ people who are still uncomfortable ‘coming out’ at work and the importance of an inclusive culture that includes ‘allys’ and rethinking of straight assumptions.

During 2017 there was a resounding ‘Yes’ to the Same Sex Marriage postal survey and you would be forgiven for thinking that not much more needs to be done for the LGBTIQ+ community.  However, recently released research by the Diversity Council of Australia reveals that only 32% of LGBTIQ+ people are out to everyone at work and a further 38% are out to most people at work – there is still a significant number of LGBTIQ+ people who are uncomfortable in coming out at work.

We are always ‘coming out’ which highlights the importance of inclusive cultures.  New colleagues, new customers, new work teams all make straight assumptions – and we are constantly coming out.

I remember the angst I had in deciding whether or not to make my sexuality clear on my LinkedIn profile – I’m very happy that I now have.

The research also shows that inclusive cultures make great business sense with more innovation, high service standards and high effectiveness.  With these benefits what can be done to make a culture more inclusive for LGBTIQ+ people?

While visible LGBTIQ+ role models are very important, inclusion does not work if it’s just us. We really appreciate and need our allies both male and female.  I am often the ‘only gay in the village’ on executive teams and the support of allies is critical in the development of an inclusive culture.

Allies come into their own when they support LGBTIQ+ initiatives, call out unacceptable language and behaviour and check in with their LGBTIQ+ peers during difficult periods. I have a special place in my heart for the colleagues who reached out to me during the Same Sex Marriage campaign in 2017 as some of the ‘debate’ had a visceral impact on me.

We can’t do all the work on inclusion and we need the help of the majority in creating an inclusive culture.  It can often be exhausting to be constantly rolled out for LGBTIQ+ initiatives at work and it is great when allies participate wholeheartedly and authentically.  So please, for the straight majority amongst you make sure you become an ally!

Mark was one of Deloitte’s Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018. In this Actuaries Digital article he talks more about mentoring, visibility and LGBTIQ inclusion.

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