“It’s really encouraging to others in the community to have the visibility of women in the workplace that have the confidence and are comfortable to be who they are and know they are safe and included. The higher the visibility, the more it’s going to breakdown the stereotypes and open the gates for women to be open in the workplace,” said Jade.
“Data suggests that LGBTIQ+ women in the workplace are the least ‘out’ and this absolutely has an impact on the younger generations and their feelings of security and confidence to be their authentic selves. Having LGBTQI+ women visible for younger women increases the feeling of inclusion and acceptance. This would lead to more women being out.”
PWC published a study in August 2018 entitled Where are all the women? The study examined the low visibility and engagement of same-sex attracted women in the workplace.
The study found that 65 per cent of respondents are comfortable being out to most or all of the people they work with, 38 per cent of the same-sex attracted women surveyed are out to all of the people they work with, and interestingly 35 per cent are not out at all or only to few people in their workplace.
Younger same-sex attracted women were less likely to be out in the workplace (39 per cent were comfortable being out) and were less likely to come out immediately after joining a workplace – 53 per cent are comfortable being out in their first year.
Alarmingly 29 per cent of respondents believe being same-sex attracted inhibits their ability to progress their career, whilst 51 per cent believe that being female is an inhibitor.
Emma Salkild (she/her/hers), who’s a UX copywriter at Vodafone and identifies as pansexual, believes that more Senior role models can help younger women be more comfortable to be their authentic self at work.
“Older role models have a huge impact and are inspiring. When I see LGBTQI+ women, especially in positions of power, nailing it at work, it shows that sexuality shouldn’t stop anyone from reaching their career goals,” said Emma.
However, Emma has clear ideas what’s preventing visible LGBTQI+ women in the workplace.
“LGBTQI+ women, especially bisexuals and pansexuals, can be fetishised and asked inappropriate and private questions, so coming out may feel unsafe. People may assume they’re straight which can feel othering. When I say something about “my partner”, 99% of people will use heterosexual language back at me. When that happens, it can feel easier to go along with it, rather than politely correct people, because the person being corrected is always embarrassed. So not only do I feel unseen as someone in a same-sex relationship, I need to do the work of appeasing people from their faux pas, which is exhausting.”
Jade agrees and also believes that the dual aspect of being LGBTQI+ and a woman is a significant impediment.
“Traditionally the workplace has been a “man’s world” and I think that absolutely has an impact on LGTBQI+ women and their feelings of security. The gap is narrowing in terms of gender equality however I do believe some of this still lingers for women wanting to have a career and not wanting to have their relationships affect their career,” said Jade.
The solutions aren’t easy, however Jade believes that employers need to consciously and proactively highlight their support for the LGBTQI+ community. This will not only assist in supporting LGBTQI+ women, but also educate the wider business.
Emma lists these initiatives to help drive the change:
- Having visible symbols of LGBTQI+ inclusion, eg pronouns in email signatures and rainbow lanyards are huge markers of a safe workspace.
- Inclusive language makes a big difference. If a person hasn’t told you their gender or their partner’s gender – default to “they/them” pronouns (eg “What’s their name?”) or ask politely what pronouns to use.
- Employees, and the more senior the better.
- Acknowledging important days like IDAHOBIT, Wear It Purple Day and other dates on the calendar such as Celebrate Bisexuality Day and International Lesbian Day
- A zero tolerance policy of discrimination and harassment, including inappropriate personal questions about people’s romantic or intimate lives.
- Gender affirmation leave
In their report, PWC identify that creating a supportive workplace culture is a way to ensure that LGBTQI+ women are comfortable being visible at work. They suggest such actions as:
- Continue to show clear leadership through consistent and explicit workplace messaging and behaviour to enhance macro culture
- Empower your allies (both straight allies and other members of the LGBT community) to influence the micro culture within the workplace
- Educate people in the workplace on the importance of terminology and positive language
- Build opportunities to reverse mentor your workplace leaders to build greater connection to the LGBTI community.
Other ideas included in the report are:
- Identify and build a group of ‘early adopting’ same-sex attracted women to help design and deliver initiatives that connects with an inclusive purpose and vision for the broader LGBTI network
- Set a goal for gender balance within your network leadership team, including people in supporting roles within your network
- Clearly articulate and share the purpose of your LGBTI network
- Reinforce the broader purpose of your LGBTI network at events
Kristy Kelly (she/her/hers) is the Head of Inclusion and Belonging at TPG Telecom.
“At TPG Telecom we are determined to ensure that everyone is comfortable being their authentic selves at work. We recognise that LGBTQI+ women have faced obstacles in the past and we are determined to rectify the situation. Sixty per cent of our Connect Committee are women, including both allies and members of the community. These women have a direct line to the People Experience team to make recommendations on how we can continue to make TPG Telecom fully inclusive and do what’s necessary so that all LGBTQI+ women are comfortable being visible without fear of prejudice or facing unconscious bias,” said Kristy.
Jade, who’s on the Connect Committee, would like to see more and more visible LGBTQI+ women.
“LGBTQI+ women are underrepresented in the workplace, which increases the feeling of isolation for employees within the community. It will be great to see some more LGBTQI+ women in the workplace to break through these barriers,” said Jade.
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