When Vodafone’s Go To Market Manager, Barry Brophy and his husband Shane’s first child was born to a surrogate in June 2018 the unconditional love was immediate.
“It was like the only thing in the world was just him. There could have been everything burning down around us but we focused purely on Luke. Meeting him in person was just an overwhelming experience. I also helped to deliver Luke. That felt amazing,” said Barry.
To look after Luke, Barry, who’s been with Vodafone since 2011, took just under a year off work on parental leave. Vodafone’s Parental Leave Policy is gender neutral – it doesn’t matter who you are or how your child is brought into the world, all eligible employees have the option of utilising the policy. Employees who have been with Vodafone for 12 months or more, receive 16 weeks of paid parental leave and parents returning to full time work have the option of working for four days per week but being paid for five days for the first six months after they return.
“I knew that I’d get the same benefits. I never thought of Vodafone as not being an inclusive company. It never occurred to me that I should question the equality of it. I still needed to provide the same documents as any pregnant woman would have to provide. I emailed HR that we were expecting a baby and asked what was the process – and the response was “congratulations that’s great news and here’s the documents you need,”” said Barry.
“I never once thought to ask is it possible, can I get it? It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t get the same benefit as a woman taking the time off – it’s amazing. It’s so important to me to know that Vodafone offers equality in benefits – regardless of an employee’s gender or sexuality.”
There’s been much research conducted into why equality is important in the workplace. If employees feel comfortable being themselves at work then they’re more likely to be happier which leads to an increase in productivity, higher retention rates, lower absenteeism and they become advocates for the company they work for.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said in 2018, “LGBTI employees want diverse workplaces where they feel included and supported – it isn’t only a moral imperative, it’s also just good business.”
Overall equality in the workplace creates a positive culture – where there’s an atmosphere of collaboration, respect and understanding.
Kristy Kelly is Vodafone’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager.
“There are many compelling reasons for organisations to leverage diversity and strive for equality, ultimately for us at Vodafone we strive every day to do just that purely because it’s the right thing to do,” said Kristy.
In 2020, for the third year in a row Vodafone is the Major Partner and the Official & Exclusive Mobile Service Sponsor of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. We are proud of our association with such an iconic event and it reinforces our commitment to inclusion and equality for all.
Vodafone will be engaged in Fair Day again this year. At our stall last year we created a photographic mosaic that now hangs in our office and in 2020 we’re going to have a ball pit as a background for even more fantastic photos. We’ll also have a float in this year’s parade – in 2018, 80 employees danced to Heather Small’s Proud and, Vodafone employee and drag queen, Raine Ingmenn stood next to a massive glitter speech mark. In 2019 we shimmied down Oxford Street to Everybody’s Free by Rozalla.
Since launching an internal LGBT+ and friends network called Connect, Vodafone has rolled out rainbow lanyards to employees as a visible symbol and daily reminder that Vodafone is a place where you are encouraged to be yourself and where we strive every day to create an environment of respect and inclusion.
Events have been held to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), National Coming Out Day and Wear it Purple day, and Vodafone has participated in Tas Pride, Pride WA, Adelaide Pride, Brisbane Pride and Midsumma in Melbourne. We also use these key calendar dates to generate awareness and education for employees to support our focus on inclusion and equality.
Last year we ran an internal awareness campaign to draw attention to the higher suicide rates for young LGBT+ people and the challenges they still face. The #betheone campaign encouraged everyone to be the one person in a young LGBT+ person’s life to support them through tough times. This is based on research through the Trevor Project that shows that just one accepting adult can assist to reduce the chance of suicide for a young LGBT+ person by 40%. We’ve also trained Connect committee members in mental health first aid.
Given that the 2020 Mardi Gras theme is, “What Matters,” we asked colleagues from different teams at Vodafone to share what matters to them in relation to equality and we broadcast the sentiments on our internal digital screens.
Ethan Miles, in our brand team said, “Inclusion is important to me because I don’t think anyone should be at a disadvantage because of how they were born or who they love. It’s important to me that Vodafone supports Mardi Gras because I want to work somewhere that shares my values. And seeing Vodafone out there on the street and represented in the parade – it’s something I can be really proud of.”
Stephanie Moll, a state capability lead said, “We’re all human beings and we all have different elements and experiences to bring to the workplace and if we were all the same then we wouldn’t be as successful as we are. I really enjoy talking to people of different backgrounds, I really enjoy being able to work from different perspectives and you can’t have that without inclusion.”
And from our technology team, Kunal Gupta said as part of our internal campaign, “If inclusion is not a part of a workplace it’s a big problem. If you’re not able to accept people for how they are and their personal choices then you’re taking a prejudiced approach to how you conduct yourself in a work environment. It’s just not the right way to be. It makes people uncomfortable. It separates people for the wrong reasons and besides it being morally wrong. It’s also – from a productive perspective very bad for an organisation.”
While there’s been a determined effort to ensure that LGBT+ identifying employees feel included at Vodafone, there’s an overarching premise that everybody regardless of religion, gender, age, race or sexuality should be comfortable being themselves at work and Vodafone warmly embraces diversity throughout the year so that everyone feels included and valued.
For Diwali, employees with Indian heritage wear saris and an Indian feast is enjoyed for lunch. To mark Rosh Hashana or Jewish New Year, a message is placed in the weekly employee newsletter and for Eid Mubarak supportive messages are displayed on the internal digital screens. To mark the Lunar New Year, you’ll regularly hear people saying Gong Hei Fat Choy or Gong Xi Fa Cai. And in December, there are Christmas trees in the foyer.
Vodafone also acknowledges the imbalance of superannuation. Given Australia’s cumulative retirement system, women continue to retire with roughly half the superannuation of men, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). Vodafone has addressed this inequality by providing a Super Bump program for female employees that have been with the company for more than 12 months. From January 2017, eligible female employees receive two extra payments of $250 per year.
Vodafone has an active employee network that focuses on positively impacting gender equality. Having spent time speaking with employees to understand the key factors limiting gender equality, our network focuses on strengthening our approach to flexibility, supporting career growth and capability, and actively championing Women in STEM.
There’s always more to do to ensure that Vodafone is an inclusive place to work.
As part of our What Matters campaign, this year Vodafone will be rolling out the use of gender pronouns in email signatures and initiating conversations to clarify what each individual would like to be referred to as rather than assuming. Across the gender spectrum, there are people that don’t identify as masculine or feminine – they’re gender nonbinary.
It can be jarring and alienating when employees that are gender non-binary are referred to as masculine or feminine. In many cases there’s no ill intent, it’s just through a lack of knowledge or unconscious bias.
To alleviate the confusion, Vodafone’s email signature template will be updated so everyone has the opportunity of stating the pronouns they would like used when people refer to them. Your pronouns might be, “he, him, his,” or “she, her, hers,” or they could, “they, them, theirs,” or, “hir, hirs, hirself,” or they could be whatever an individual nominates. By knowing and using the correct rather than assumed gender pronoun of each individual we are making a significant step towards inclusivity.
“Ensuring everyone, everyday feels included at Vodafone means our employees can be themselves and bring their best self to work. This is so important to us as we understand that the things that make each of us different, is what makes the difference,” said Kristy.