Why being out and proud at work is an important step forward Youth Projects is proud to be an inclusive employer and a safe and supportive space for LGBTIQA+ people of all ages who may be accessing our services, free of judgement. It’s a collective responsibility that everyone at Youth Projects is committed to providing. It’s something that we’re incredibly proud of but acknowledge that as a whole community we still have a long way to go – particularly in workplaces across Australia. If we are to empower young, LGBTIQA+ people to be proud of and confident in who they are, we need to encourage and support them every day - from the home to the classroom and into the workplace. The power of storytelling and visibility enables young LQBTIQA+ people to hear from those before them and be inspired about brighter, safer, and more inclusive possibilities ahead. Australia’s leading human resource company – Seek – recently launched their P.R.I.D.E Report (2021) which explores the lived experience of, and attitudes towards, LGBTIQA+ employees within workplaces and across the community in Australia. The report highlighted that despite organisations making major improvements to diversity and inclusion in recent years, there is still much work to be done to support LGBTIQA+ employees and combat discrimination in the workplace. Seek found that LGBTIQA+ employees are still TWICE as likely to be victims of workplace discrimination as their non-LGBTIQA+ colleagues – even greater among intersectional LGBTIQA+ employees. Ginetta Mammarella (she/her), our Youth Employment Services Manager and - as she puts it - “a female who is in love with a female who identifies with the L (Lesbian) in my LGBTIQA+ family” knows all too well what passive discrimination feels like. “My very first job out of university was at a company that (based on all my research) claimed to be inclusive all of genders and sexuality, so I felt safe to be myself. I remember having a photo on my desk of myself and my partner (at the time) from my uni graduation ceremony. A colleague commented on how nice the photo was, which I then proudly disclosed that the other person in the photo was my partner. After I shared that, I noticed things changed in the workplace, and the company turned out not to be so inclusive after all…" “I grew up in a strict Italian Catholic family where being gay was rarely (if ever) accepted, so this experience in the workplace really pushed me back within myself as if I was a teenager having to hide my true self again. Sadly, that experience occurred in more workplaces after that." Since starting at Youth Projects, Ginetta has felt something very different compared to previous workplaces. “As a workplace, I genuinely feel free to be exactly who I am at Youth Projects. I no longer harbour shame at work and can be proud of my partner’s gender and what makes me, me. For the first time in my life, I can now be my true and whole self in all facets of my life – at home, on the weekends and at work!” Ginetta’s advice to young LGBTIQA+ young people coming into the workforce is to “tap into your supports, be safe but not afraid of who you are. No matter your gender or preferences, know that there are safe workplaces out there for you.” Allyship remains at the heart of our journey at Youth Projects to become a more inclusive and equitable workplace and serves as a critical tool in addressing workplace discrimination more broadly. Over the past 3 years, we’ve increased our focus on improving our understanding of LGBTIQA+ lived experience, how we can evolve as an organisation, and enhance our policies and practices to pave a safer way forward for all. We've since introduced learning and development workshops to build our knowledge of gender, pronouns, and inclusive language, and established a Pride Counsel which has since evolved into our Diversity & Inclusion Committee. We encourage the use of pronouns on individual identifiers in the workplace like staff ID cards, email signatures and business cards, and most recently re-launched our Paid Caregiver Leave Policy to be more inclusive and supportive of rainbow families and non-traditional family dynamics. Additionally, we celebrate meaningful recognition days and occasions on the LGBTIQA+ calendar like IDAHOBIT Day and Wear It Purple Day throughout the year to promote greater awareness, inclusion, and continual learning opportunities for everyone at Youth Projects. Nic Horton (he/him), Co-Chair of our Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and our openly gay Marketing & Communications Manager reflects on the lack of allyship that still exists in workplaces in our community: “The fact that 1 in 6 people feel that it is not their business if one of their LGBTIQA+ colleagues is discriminated in the workplace in Australia is absolutely abhorrent in 2021. What message does that send a young person who are already feeling incredibly isolated because they might feel different to their peers?” It doesn't have to be that way though, as Nic shares: “More visibility of queer people in the workplace, better education for our non-LGBTIQA+ colleagues to understand what subtle and casual discrimination is (and how to stop it), and embedding change into workplace policies is the way to create more inclusive workplaces and effect real change for the next generation of - LGBTIQA+ and non-LGBTIQA+ - people coming into the workforce.” According to Culture Amp’s Workplace, Diversity, Inclusion and Intersectionality Report, 2019 the entering workforce is increasingly more diverse – more women, more people of colour and more than twice the number of people in Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ than Gen X. Inclusive organisations with diverse workforces tend to have greater employee engagement and are more agile and innovative. At an individual employee level, people tend to experience greater physical and psychosocial wellbeing, foster stronger work relationships and are higher performers. Youth Projects is an inclusive and safe community services organisation, employer and workplace for the LBGTIQA+ community and remains committed to continuous improvement and learning – which you can read all about here. Nic’s advice to other workplaces is that “the future is diverse, and by fostering a safe and inclusive workplace you are opening your business up to thrive with a resilient, agile, creative and healthier workforce.” If we are to empower young, LGBTIQA+ people to be proud of and safe in who they are, we need to encourage and support them every day - from the home to the classroom and into the workplace. Wear It Purple Day 2021’s theme – Start the conversation. Keep it going – is focussed on the important and necessary conversations we have in our daily life that centre around sexual orientation and gender identity. It aims to remind us that the issues we reflect on today are issues that should not just be considered today, but every day.