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Are Australian employees going back into the closet?

This year, 33,572 employees from 170 organisations responded to the AWEI (Australian Workplace Equality Index) employee survey on LGBTQ workplace inclusion. Of those respondents, 5,413 identified as either being of diverse sexuality and/or gender. 5,276 of those respondents identified with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.  This article discusses the extraordinary finding that suggests Australian employees are more likely to be in the closet and less likely to be completely out at work in 2020 than they were the year prior.

Respondents: Diverse Sexual Orientation

15.72% of these year’s 33,572 people responding to the AWEI survey identified as someone of diverse sexuality (n5,276).  Every year we analyse this data to look for trends in terms of experiences of workplace culture, productivity, inclusion and the freedom to be out at work.

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For the last nine years, we have found some consistent trends in regard to LGBQ employees. Firstly, the data has consistently shown that those who are younger are least likely to be out at work and more likely to be out to none. The second piece of consistent data is that the higher the organisation’s score on the AWEI (national benchmarking instrument for LGBTQ workplace inclusion), the more likely their employees are to be out when compared to employees within organisations who are just starting LGBTQ initiatives or do not have high visibility of inclusion for people of diverse sexuality and/or gender.

As LGBTQ inclusion initiatives become more prominent in Australian workplaces, a greater number of employees have, year on year, felt more comfortable to be out at work; however this year our data shows a slightly different trend.

Are people really less likely to be out and more likely to be closeted than last year?

The first cut of the data this year shows that there is a 2% increase in the number of people who are more likely to be completely closeted at work and a 17.65% drop in those who are out to everyone at work. In contrast to previous years, these findings were out of sync in terms of projected impacts of inclusion; and were alarming to say the least.

To investigate further, we looked into the differences in language used between this years survey and last, isolated data where language did not differ between the years and further analysed particular demographic data such as age and gender in order to compare those figures to last year’s figures.

Focusing on those who were completely out at work in terms of age, the numbers were down across the board but continued the pattern of our younger employees least likely to be out. In terms of gender, with the exception of those who are gender diverse, both men and women were less likely to be completely out at work when compared to last year.

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Our next investigation was to determine whether there were more employees from “gold” (higher scoring) organisations participating in the survey last year. Our data clearly shows that the higher the score on the AWEI, the more likely their employees are to be out at work, speaking to the visibility of LGBTQ inclusion and the support felt by the employees. As we did find more “gold” employees participating last year, we further extracted the percentage of completely out employees working for gold employers and compared these numbers across both years.

Once again, the data supports the finding that even within gold employers, people are less likely to be “out to all” and more likely to be completely closeted at work. In 2019 63.74% of gold respondents were completely out; this year only 43.91%. Last year 9.27% of gold employees were not at all all compared to 14.18% this year. For those organisations participating in the employee survey, it would be interesting to see if your own organisational data reflects this trend.

Another finding that could possibly impact the numbers of those who chose not to be out at work is an increase in the visibility of unwelcome jokes/innuendo and mild harassment targeted people of diverse sexual orientation (2.22% increase overall) and an increase in the visibility of targeted serious bullying/harassment (3.11% increase overall). The number of people who were themselves the target of more serious bullying/harassment as a direct result of their sexual orientation also increased by 3.02%.

On the positive side, those who are out to everyone at work enjoyed higher levels of productivity, engagement and greater positive mental health and wellbeing at work.

To read more about these finding and other topics of AWEI analysis, please visit:

This paper was compiled by Dawn Hough, Director, ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs.

Pride in Diversity annually publishes the key findings of the Australian Workplace Equality Index as part of the national benchmarking process for LGBTQ inclusion within Australian workplaces. This year 170 organisations participated in the survey with 33,572 employees responding. These reports focus on key findings within that survey. The benchmarking instrument and employee survey are published by the Pride in Diversity Program, ACON. 

Data may be used with the reference AWEI(2020), Pride in Diversity, ACON,

Gold employers: PM&C and ATO recognised at LGBTI inclusion awards

by David Donaldson, The Mandarin, 28 May 2019


The Australian Tax Office and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have been named among Australia’s best employers for LGBTI inclusion.

Both were included on the list of 14 gold employers at last week’s Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards, hosted by ACON’s Pride in Diversity — the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion.

The awards are based on the results of the Australian Workplace Equality Index — an evidence-based benchmarking tool that annually assesses workplaces in their progress and impact on LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

PM&C was also named most improved.

RMIT University took out the top spot as employer of the year — the first time the award has not gone to a private sector business. RMIT also won best on trans and gender diverse inclusion, acknowledging the support offered via the gender transition guide, including special leave for staff transitioning genders.

Andrea Kenafake, divisional manager city planning and sustainability at Brisbane City Council, took the executive leadership award, while her employer was included on the gold list. Nicholas Steepe from Charles Sturt University won the out role model award.

The inclusive service provider of the year is Uniting, which is also a gold employer. The full list of gold employers includes:

  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Brisbane City Council
  • Clayton Utz
  • Deakin University
  • Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet
  • EY
  • Macquarie Bank Limited
  • MinterEllison
  • NAB
  • PwC
  • QBE Insurance Australia
  • RMIT University
  • Uniting
  • Woolworths Group

Four employers were awarded platinum status for longevity in high performance — Accenture, LendLease, ANZ and the University of Western Australia. Two employers have qualified for platinum status next year — EY and the Macquarie Group.

There has been continued growth in participation in the index since its launch in 2010, said Dawn Hough, director of ACON’s pride inclusion programs.

“This is the ninth year of the AWEI and, once again, we have record numbers of employers across all sectors and states participating in the index. The accompanying employee survey elicited a staggering 27,349 responses, which underscores the importance of LGBTI inclusion in the workplace,” Hough said.

“Practice is continuing to shift significantly in this space with employers across Australia not only maintaining their commitment to LGBTI inclusion but in fact strengthening their inclusion initiatives and activities. Scores required to obtain the various tiers of recognition have continued to increase.”

Pride in Diversity is part of Pride Inclusion Programs, a suite of social inclusion programs delivered by ACON, Australia’s largest LGBTQ health organisation.

Uniting is the highest ranking LGBTI service provider

Originally published by Uniting, 27 May 2019


Uniting continues to build on its recognition of commitment to inclusivity and celebration of the LGBTI community. Uniting won the inaugural service provider of the year in the Health and Wellbeing Equity Index (HWEI) and retained gold employer status at the 2019 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) awards.

The annual Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) awards are a rigorous, evidence-based benchmarking tool that assesses workplaces in the progress and impact of their LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

The HWEI award which featured for the first time this year, recognises organisations for their LGBTI inclusive service delivery in the Health and Wellbeing industry while the gold employer award is an acknowledgement of exemplary achievement in workplace LGBTI inclusion. Uniting was recognised for its effort in these spaces across the ageing, disability, homelessness, early learning and family services sectors.

“Both these awards are an acknowledgment once again for our work in maintaining and strengthening our commitment to LGBTI advocacy and inclusion for our staff and our service users,” said Uniting Director Customer, People and Systems, Jill Reich.

“Being an inclusive workplace and service provider is beneficial for everybody; it enriches and energises our community and is reflective of the wider society we live in. We are extremely proud to be at the forefront of LGBTI inclusion for not only our staff but also for those people that we serve,” said Jill Reich.

Participation in the AWEI index has seen continued growth for the 8th year in a row, since its launch in 2010 with a 14.7 percent increase by organisations in 2019.

“The nature and focus of LGBTI inclusion is constantly evolving and Uniting strives to expand the scope of our ongoing efforts in creating a more diverse and productive workplace so that all our staff, volunteers and clients in our services feel included and supported,” said Jill Reich.

In addition to being the only faith based organisation to win the AWEI and HWEI awards, Uniting was also the first faith-based organisation in Australia to be recognised as LGBTI friendly and received the Rainbow Tick accreditation in 2015 for aged care and corporate services. In 2018 Uniting was also re-accredited for ageing corporate War Memorial and Local Area Coordination services.

BHP employee wins Network Leader of the Year at the 2019 Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards

Originally published by BHP on 4 June 2019, 10:30 AM


BHP Principal Program Delivery and Jasper Global Co-Lead, Cameron Tirendi, has won the Network Leader of the Year at the 2019 Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards.

Jasper, our LGBT+ network, makes BHP a better place to work for all. It makes our sites and offices more inclusive workplaces by treating everyone with respect that translates into long-term improvements in both safety and productivity.

Cameron, who was one of the founding members of the Jasper network in 2017, said he was inspired to create a LGBT+ group at BHP to provide a place for people to speak up and bring their whole selves to work.

“It touches me that we are making such a real difference to people’s lives at BHP,” said Cameron.

“It provides me with a sense of purpose and will continue to work with our employees and leaders to make BHP an even more inclusive workplace.”

The Award recognises the impact of individuals within network leadership groups that perform above and beyond the expectations of the role and significantly impact LGBTI workplace inclusion as a result.

Learn more about Jasper and inclusion and diversity at BHP via

BHP is a Pride in Diversity member.

Media Release: CU scores LGBTI inclusion trifecta

Originally published by Clayton Utz, 28 May 2019


Clayton Utz has been recognised as a Gold Employer for its efforts around LGBTI inclusion for the third consecutive year, at the 2019 LGBTI Inclusion Awards.

14 Australian organisations were awarded gold tier status including Clayton Utz at the award ceremony hosted at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney on Friday 24 May. The LGBTI Inclusion Awards draw upon robust data and metrics from the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) and are managed by Pride in Diversity.

At the awards Clayton Utz was recognised as a true leader in LGBTI inclusion, having placed in the top three of 156 organisations who participated overall.

Gold employer recognition is the highest status obtainable for the current year, outside Platinum employer recognition, the highest accolade. Gold tier status is indicative of a substantial amount of meaningful activity in the area of LGBTI inclusion.

Clayton Utz Chief Executive Partner (CEP) Rob Cutler said he was incredibly proud of the firm’s progress around LGBTI inclusion.

Mr. Cutler said, “This reflects the sustained effort to create a truly inclusive culture for our people.  This recent accolade shows our commitment to entrench policies and practices that ensure we are properly set up to continue to remain inclusive for future employees.   We know it’s a long journey and are committed to driving change whether it’s engaging with our clients or industry and external stakeholders to advance LGBTI inclusion within Australian workplaces.”

More than 700 business leaders, diversity champions and HR professionals representing all sectors and employer sizes came together to celebrate the results of the AWEI.

Media agency Initiative scores two national awards for LGBTI inclusion at AWEI Awards


Media communications agency Initiative has been awarded two of the top honours at the 2019 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Awards, celebrating LGBTI Inclusion. AWEI is a rigorous, evidence-based benchmarking program that annually assesses workplaces on the progress and impact of their LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

The awards are hosted by ACON’s Pride in Diversity, the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion.

Initiative was awarded Gold in the Small Employer (less than 200 people) category and was also named Small Employer of the Year. The agency was among many of Australia’s largest and high-profile corporate entities recognised for their LGBTI inclusion programs, such as Macquarie Bank, Australian Taxation Office, ANZ, LendLease, Woolworths, PwC, Brisbane City Council and RMIT University.

Initiative Australia has focused its LGBTI inclusion through the agency’s bespoke Rainbow Elephant program that includes developing HR policy and diversity practice, strategy and accountability, LGBTI training, network and champion initiatives, visibility and inclusion, community engagement and advocacy. The program is led by the agency’s head of studio Olivia Warren and national director of people and culture, Scott Laird.

Says Warren: “This award fills me with a lot of pride. I feel very fortunate to work in an environment that not only accepts me for who I am but fosters an environment that is supportive and inclusive for all.”

Initiative’s national CEO Melissa Fein said the LGBTI inclusion awards were a massive highlight for the business: “The whole agency has supported our progress in being a more inclusive and welcoming workplace, especially for the LGBTI community. Olivia and Scott have also been inspirational leaders for a group of agency volunteers and these awards prove how popular and effective our Rainbow Elephant program has been.”

There were just 17 employers, Australia wide, who received Gold standard in LGBTI inclusion, three of which were in the small-employer category (less than 200 employees) where Initiative was recognised. The agency’s Rainbow Elephant program continues to be an important internal program.

View the winners here.

Sapphire Inspire Award Winner 2019

12 June 2016

The Sapphire inspire Award celebrates the achievements of an LGBTIQ+ Woman, from their impact on workplace inclusion and support of other out women, to contributions they’ve made to promote and encourage such visibility. It is an individual award nomination that is part of the annual Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) and announced at The Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards.

With some outstanding achievements from several women nominated for this year’s award, the 2019 winner is Caitlin Monnery–Korving from ANZ. The award was announced by Pride in Diversity Relationship Managers Sarah Cox and Nicki Elkin, who govern the Sapphire Initiative.

Caitlin impressed the judges with the inspiring number of activities she delivered throughout 2018. In particular, she was instrumental in the development and creation of Women in Pride, a network for LGBTIQ+ women and allies within ANZ, and co-creator of Rainbow Women, an external network in Melbourne. Caitlin also drove ANZ’s early endorsement of the Darlington Statement for Intersex People.

The name of the award stems from Pride in Diversity’s Sapphire Initiative, developed to generate greater awareness of the unique challenges faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTIQ+) women in the workplace. The Sapphire initiative seeks to provide women with an opportunity to openly express and discuss some of these challenges in a safe, non-confrontational professional environment.

The initiative seeks to engage LGBTIQ+ women (regardless of whether or not they are out at work) who feel passionate about wanting to see a more inclusive workplace, one in which LGBTIQ+ women can freely be themselves at work and one in which there is a greater visibility of  ‘out’ female role models.

The dual impacts of being an out LGBTIQ+ female role model in the workplace is often referred to as the double-glass ceiling. Caitlin’s work in this area has certainly had a major impact, progressing towards equality, inclusion and visibility of LGBTIQ+ women in the workplace.

Click here to learn more about the Sapphire Inititative or become a member.

This year, ANZ was also recognised as a Platinum Employer of the AWEI, having achieved Gold Employer Status for the past four years. In recent years, ANZ has previously been recipients of:

  • Employer of the Year (2017)
  • The Sally Webster Ally Award (Melissa Tandy, 2016 & 2018)
  • External Media Campaign (2018)
  • Trans and Gender Diverse Inclusion (2017)
  • Out Role Model Award (Dave Beks, 2017)

ANZ is a Pride in Diversity member.

Woolworths awarded Gold for second year running in LGBTI Awards

Mirage News, 30 May 2019 3:07 PM AEST


Woolworths Group is proud to again be recognised with gold tier status at the 2019 Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards for the second year running.

The Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards is based on the results of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), the national benchmark on LGBTI inclusion.

The event recognises Australia’s top organisations for LGBTI inclusion and celebrates leaders, individuals and networks that have made a significant impact within their workplaces.

Woolworths remains the only retailer in Australia to be awarded Gold Tier status.

Woolworths Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Rachel Mead said: “At Woolworths, creating an inclusive culture is a huge priority for us. We want all our team members to feel free to bring their whole selves to work.

“We are delighted to be recognised as a gold tier workplace by AWEI for a second year in a row and extremely proud of the work we have undertaken to progress LGBTI inclusion in the workplace and the efforts of our teams across the Group.”

In the past twelve months, Woolworths Group has undertaken the following initiatives to progress LGBTI inclusion in the workplace:

  • Continuing educational LGBTI events and training sessions for team members and leaders;
  • Hosting a diversity roundtable and networking event;
  • Growing the Proud at Woolworths Group to 2000+ members;
  • Celebrating Wear it Purple Day across the Group, nationwide;
  • Partnering with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2019 with teams participating in their first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade this year;
  • Launching LGBTI inclusion training online to improve access for all team members;
  • Hosting a guest panel event to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance to drive transgender awareness and inclusion across the Group; and
  • Inclusion of a double page spread on LGBTI inclusion in Woolworths Group Sustainability Report.

Rachel concluded: “While we know we still have more work to do, we are fully committed to continuing to create better experiences for our LGBTI team members.

“It is a very exciting time to be at Woolworths. As a diverse team, we know we can create better experiences together, each and every day.”


QBE ranks as one of Australia’s top LGBTI inclusion employers

by Mina Martin, Insurance Business Magazine 28 May 2019


Insurance giant QBE has been recognised as one of Australia’s top LGBTI inclusion employers, receiving gold employer status in the 2019 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI).

The ranking, announced at the Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards held at Sydney’s Hyatt Regency, saw QBE advance from last year’s bronze status to become the highest-rated insurer on Australia’s benchmarking instrument for LGBTI workplace inclusion.

Catherine McNair, QBE head of diversity and inclusion for Australia Pacific, said the accolade recognises its progress on engaging and educating its people on LGBTI inclusion.

“Our organisation-wide commitment to diversity and LGBTIQ+ inclusion sees us focus on visible leadership, visible role models, and delivering differentiated ways in which we can continue to engage and educate our people on LGBTI inclusion. This achievement recognises the progress we have made through that focus,” McNair said. “Special thanks must go to our QBE Pride committee, who have contributed significant time and effort over and above their day jobs – this achievement would not have been possible without their dedication and sustained commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive culture at QBE.”

University of Sydney awarded Silver at the Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards

University of Sydney, 27 May 2019



The University of Sydney has been named as a Silver Employer at the Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards, up from last year’s Bronze award. The awards are based on the results of submissions to the Australian Workplace Equality Index.

Dr Matt Pye, Academic Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Co-Chair of the University’s Pride Network described what the award meant to him: “It means validation for the work that the whole team does, in addition to our own jobs, trying to instil a set of behaviours, policies and procedures to influence change, with equity for all being our ultimate goal. This kind of award means being recognised by external bodies in competition a range of other impressive high-profile organisations, all held to an extremely high standard. For a University to achieve this status is no mean feat and I am so proud of all of the work we have achieved over such a short period of time.”

Christie Adamson, School Manager of Sydney Nursing School and Co-Chair of the Pride Network, said, “I am delighted that our work in trying to improve LGBTIQ inclusion at the University has been recognised in this way. It recognises the importance of providing a safe and supportive environment for our LGBTIQ staff and students. With a highly engaged Pride Network, we will continue to see further growth and improvement in this space. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard for this achievement.”

I would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to the success of the University in winning this award. Professor Stephen Garton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

Step up to silver

Silver recognition is given to employers that have obtained high scores on the AWEI and provided evidence of a substantial amount of sustained or new work in LGBTI inclusion. The recognition is difficult to obtain and quite often, the score differences between silver and gold recognition are minimal.

Submissions are marked according to a set of stringent criteria and given a total score out of 200. In 2018, the University received 107 points and this year we received 153. The scores required to achieve each level have gone up year on year, making it harder to achieve the same level – a reflection of the strides being made in this area by organisations across Australia.

Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Garton, who is executive sponsor of the Pride Network, said that the results are a testament to the hard work and dedication of so many of our staff.

“I would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to the success of the University in winning this award, which recognises our deep commitment to enabling all of our LGBTIQ staff and students to bring their whole selves to work and to their University study. It is so important to the culture of our institution that we create space for all of us to do our best work,” Professor Garton said.