10 April 2020Marketing strategy
5 November 2020
A supportive work environment, that is accepting of people’s differences, benefits everybody in your organisation
Melinda Gibbon and Aimee Le Poidevin discuss the deeply meaningful collaboration with Rainbow Tick on the inaugural NZ Workplace Rainbow Inclusion Survey and the results from year number two.
As I write this, the US election votes are still being counted, though the President elect has just been announced. From afar it feels like we’re all watching an episode of a TV show – about how to masterfully ensure bitter division in a fictitious land, far, far away. Yet that bitter division is happening for real, amongst everyday ordinary people who live side by side – they are mums, dads, nanas, poppas, sisters, brothers, neighbours. How did such a lack of tolerance for others and disrespect for a fellow human beings’ differences become so bitter and divisive? I can’t answer that, but I sure know I don’t want to live like that, or raise my kids in a place where people’s differences are so disregarded or feared, rather than celebrated and encouraged. I don’t want to work in an environment like that either. And very thankfully, I don’t. But there are most certainly workplaces around New Zealand where employees' differences are not encouraged or celebrated. In fact, at times they aren’t even tolerated – or worse. And that’s incredibly damaging.
Two years ago we had the privilege to collaborate with Rainbow Tick on the inaugural New Zealand Workplace Rainbow Inclusion Survey, along with generous corporate sponsor Spark. Rainbow Tick is the organisation that certifies New Zealand organisations with respect to their diversity and inclusion practices for LGBTTQIA+ employees. Achieving and maintaining a ‘rainbow tick’ is about accepting and valuing people in the workplace, embracing the diversity of sexual and gender identities. Rainbow Tick advocate that a supportive work environment, that is accepting of people’s differences, benefits everybody in your organisation. So does a huge body of published research literature. In fact, the research also says diversity and inclusion, in all its facets, benefits the bottom line for an organisation too – and benefits it handsomely. Of course it does! Because diversity at the table means different life experiences and different perspectives, generating different ideas and innovations. Rather than the same perspectives, producing the same ideas. Over and over. But diversity making financial sense shouldn’t be the forerunner reason. Making human sense should be enough.
This year, the New Zealand Workplace Rainbow Inclusion Survey (NZWRIS) had double the response rate from employees around New Zealand, across 52 different enterprise level organisations. We had feedback from employees at all levels, including 55 CEOs, 150 senior execs and nearly 3,000 employees – across both rainbow and non-rainbow employee communities. Thank you to all those who took part and shared your voice. This research was undertaken for the same reason that Rainbow Tick exists, and to quote Beatrice Clarke, Programme Director at Rainbow Tick, “we know that the mana of LGBTTQIA+ employees is not always upheld in New Zealand workplaces and this can have serious mental health consequences.”
In a nutshell, there is much to celebrate, as well as some definite areas to focus on within New Zealand workplaces. Here is what the experiences and perceptions of nearly 3,000 New Zealand employees revealed:
· 4 out of 5 CEOs and senior execs (amongst our Rainbow Tick certified organisations) consider themselves Rainbow allies or champions (i.e. non-Rainbow employees who support the full inclusion of their Rainbow colleagues)
· Three quarters of Rainbow employees feel they can be themselves at work – but that of course means one quarter of our Rainbow colleagues do not
· While a third of Rainbow employees feel their organisation is “fine as it is”, the other two thirds believe their organisations could, and should, do more to genuinely support Rainbow inclusion
· There is a difference between the inclusion sentiment and the activities happening around the country, and inclusion is not so apparent in workplaces outside of our main city centres
· Trans and gender diverse employees continue to face more challenges at work than other Rainbow community members – a third have considered leaving their job due to bullying, harassment or negative comments
· We also continued to see that the older an employee is, the less likely they are to believe their workplace should be doing more for Rainbow inclusion. So our challenge goes out to the young (and the young at heart) to continue with courage, to compassionately ‘educate your elders’
So despite the amazing work many organisations are doing, there continues to be challenges big and small to ensure our Rainbow community colleagues feel safe and included and to ensure their positive mental health. The big things, like policy and practice changes that impact employees from recruitment to retirement, the education and training, the visibility of inclusion and the walking the talk. And then there’s the small things (or not so small as it turns out) – the genuine smiles, the ‘are you ok?’, the compassionate listening ears. Those small things we do every day make a big difference to the lives of our Rainbow colleagues, and most importantly to their ability to be their true selves at work – because we all deserve that, every day.
Big congrats from us here at One Picture to the numerous organisations who entered the Rainbow Excellence Awards this year, the finalists and especially the winners: New Zealand Intelligence Community (multiple award winner and the Supreme Award Winner); Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission, ASB; Kathmandu; Auckland Council; New Zealand Defence Force. You walk the talk and continue to do so.