Difest Speaker Series

Headshot of Byron Adu

Creating equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees – Byron Adu

 Inclusion Policy Adviser, Victorian State Government (Australia)

How can the government and society work together to do to create equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees?

Governments have the potential to play really critical leadership roles in creating safe spaces, communities and workplaces for LGBTIQ+ employees through evidence-informed actions and collaboration and communication within the community. For example in Victoria the government is developing a LGBTIQ+ Strategy to guide our efforts to achieve equality for the LGBTIQ+ community (which has involved extensive community consultation). Our departments have workplace LGBTIQ+ inclusion approaches, Pride Networks and staff LGBTIQ awareness training. These actions demonstrate to both the LGBTIQ+ and broader community how government may be perceived as an ‘employer of choice’ and present examples of actions and leadership for workplaces in creating equal, safe, respectful workplaces for LGBTIQ+ employees.

Based on your experience, what are the biggest workplace diversity issues we are faced with today?

While the qualitative and quantitative research on the benefits of diverse workplaces continues to accumulate, there is still a challenge with businesses and organizations understanding the value of diversity – beyond a ‘nice to do’. There is now such a wealth of information on the broader social and economic benefits of a more diverse workforce – including increased productivity, greater customer loyalty and purchasing, lower rates of staff turnover and other economic benefits to an organisation. Explaining and educating the benefits of diversity in the workplace continues to be a challenge and an important area to address (the financial case for diversity) in the objective to create more diverse, inclusive workplaces. 

We frequently discuss diversity, but inclusion is so strongly interlinked with diversity – and workplace inclusion is one of the biggest workplace issues today. While there is a movement to increase diversity in some workplaces, the inclusion of diverse employees is a really critical issue to address. So, while for example a workplace may have quite a diverse workforce (e.g. culturally diverse, disability, LGBTIQ+ etc), we generally find that positions of leadership and decision making within organisations are still not as diverse as the organisation’s broader workforce nor do they reflect the community overall. If we have an organisation where 25% of its employees are diverse but only 2% of leadership are then this suggests that the workplace is not as inclusive as it could be – as diverse people are likely in lower level roles and not being provided access to leadership or career progression opportunities. Workforce inclusion is one of the next summits to climb. I read a quote once that has always stuck with me: ‘Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.’ It is critical that workplaces position themselves to be both diverse and inclusive to create genuinely safe, equitable environments for staff.