'Fear of abuse' forces many LGBTI employees to hide sexuality

A major new study has looked at how inclusion initiatives have impacted LGBTI and non-LGBTI employees

'Fear of abuse' forces many LGBTI employees to hide sexuality

It isn’t only a “moral imperative” to have LGBTI inclusive workplaces; it’s also good business, according to ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill.

“Fear of abuse or discrimination forces many LGBTI people to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity when they access health and wellbeing services, leading in many cases to an increase in anxiety or depression,” he added.

Parkhill’s comments come following results from the nation’s largest survey into lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) inclusion within Australian workplaces.

The 2018 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Employee Survey canvassed employees from around Australia on their organisation’s LGBTI inclusion efforts. The survey was conducted by Pride in Diversity, ACON’s national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion.

In 2018, 23,120 surveys were completed from employees working at 89 different organisations, and 3,709 respondents identified as LGBTI. The survey was open to all employees regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

The results found that just one in ten non-LGBTI employees believe that LGBTI inclusion at work is no longer necessary following marriage equality.

Moreover, 88% of non-LGBTI respondents believe that LGBTI employees can comfortably be themselves at their workplace, compared to 80% of LGBTI respondents.

However, those LGBTI employees working at organisations active in inclusion feel much more comfortable, with 86% believing they can comfortably be themselves at work.

It also found almost 10% of LGB respondents from regional areas reported experiencing negative commentary or jokes, more than double the proportion experiencing these in the cities.

An even higher number reported having been personally experienced bullied in the past year – almost 12% in regional areas, compared to six per cent in metropolitan areas.

Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, Dawn Hough, said that even with some recent successes in achieving LGBTI rights, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do.

“It is important that in all aspects of Australian working life that we have businesses comprising of leaders, advocates and allies within Australia’s major business, governmental, sporting, health and educational institutions who know the importance of LGBTI inclusion.”

Other interesting results include:

•         More than 13% of gender diverse employees experienced ‘very high’ or ‘high’ levels of anxiety during the recruitment processes. 

•         22% of LGB respondents in regional areas were also more likely to expend energy hiding their sexuality to fit in – compared to 18% of those working in the city. 

•         Gay men are the most likely to feel that inclusion initiatives have had a positive impact on how they feel about their sexual orientation (60%) compared to 52% of lesbians.


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