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LGBTQ Australians Still Not Comfortable Being Themselves at Work, Report Reveals

Why Global Citizens Should Care

Everybody deserves to feel safe at work. LGBTQ people around the world are still facing shocking levels of hate and discrimination. Global Citizen works to promote diversity, acceptance, and tolerance for all. You can take action here.

Despite the fact that same-sex marriage passed through Parliament last year in a massive and historic win for LGBTQ equality, the majority of LGBTQ employees in Australia still feel uncomfortable disclosing their sexual orientation at work, new research suggests.

Conducted by the Diversity Council of Australia and RMIT University, the ‘Out at Work: From Prejudice to Pride’ study revealed just 32% of LGBTQ employees had disclosed their identity to their colleagues. Those who were not out were 45% less likely to be satisfied with their job and twice as likely to feel down when juxtaposed against those who had come out to their workplace.   

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The study, conducted via an online survey with more than 1,600 LGBTQ workers, revealed inclusive policies, bold leadership, and workplace culture were the main requirements LGBTQ people looked for when determining whether or not they should come out to their colleagues. 

“Many people realise coming out at work is complex but don’t always realise that it’s not a one-off event,” said Raymond Trau, RMIT workplace diversity adviser and Out at Work lead researcher. “It is an ongoing dilemma for many LGBT workers, particularly when they start a new job or meet new co-workers and may have to go through that process all over again. Even LGBT workers who are very comfortable with their identity and have come out many times still need to think twice when they work in a job or occupation that is homophobic, transphobic, or not LGBT inclusive.”

Various respondents revealed in the report that they had lost their jobs when they came out as gay, and many claimed they were often subjected to sexual innuendo. Transgender and gender diverse employees said that being deliberately misgendered and subjected to invasive questioning about their medical history were commonplace within the workforce.

Lisa Annese, the CEO of the Diversity Council of Australia, said that creating a welcoming and safe environment for LGBTQ people isn't just ethically correct — it's also beneficial for businesses.

“Concealing compromises well-being. But, hiding who they are can be costly not only to their own well-being, but also to the organisations they work for and the broader Australian economy,” she stated.

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According to the report, employees who were out to all their colleagues were 50% more likely to innovate, 35% more likely to work highly effectively in a team, and 28% more likely to provide excellent customer service.

“This report comprehensively quantifies the business case for creating LGBT inclusive workplaces in Australia," Annese said. "I urge employers to take a good look at what they can do to take advantage of the benefits; not only for their LGBT employees but for their organisation as a whole.”

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Despite workplace equality and diversity making headway in some expanse, the inclusion and acceptance for LGBTQ people remains largely unchanged. Particularly lagging behind is the approval of bisexual and transgender people. 

While increased research and anti-discriminatory laws are beneficial, LGBTQ organisations and activists have long stated that shifting diversity standards will require a total upheaval of traditional biased standards, stereotypes, and behaviors.