How can organisations be more LGBTQIA+ inclusive 365 days a year?

As Pride month comes to an end in the southern hemisphere, Society want to take stock from what we have seen and learnt, to do our bit to ensure Pride and LGBTQIA+ representation isn’t just an annual celebration. We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Martin King (he/him) to talk about how organisations can avoid rainbow washing, and instead, make a permanent commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusivity.

Martin King is the Director of Pride Pledge and Festival Director of Winter Pride. He has over two decades of HR experience, most notably leading the HR function for Coca-Cola in New Zealand and the Pacific. Recently recognised as a LinkedIn Top LGBTQIA + Voice for 2023, Martin is a driver for visibility, inclusion, and safety for LGBTQIA+ people in the community, workplaces, and organisations.

Pride Pledge supports organisations across New Zealand and Australia to improve their commitment to diversity. Established five years ago by Martin King and his husband Mike Hughes (he/him), Pride Pledge began as they had both observed the need for workplaces to start having regular, positive conversations around LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. Fast forward to today and Pride Pledge is now the largest rainbow inclusion organisation in New Zealand. They have a 300+ roster, which includes some of New Zealand’s largest organisations as well as small businesses, to whom they offer services regardless of staff size or funds.

As a global executive search business, our North America and EMEA offices feel that the drive for LGBTQIA+ representation has been put on the back burner, post pandemic. Following our interview with Martin, the APAC team are delighted to hear that he has seen a real surge in the demand for his services, in the past 12 months, with many organisations making their commitment early on. Post covid, he has also seen a significant resurgence of employee networks, with medium to large organisations establishing a rainbow network and creating roles dedicated to LGBTQIA+ persons and representation.

When questioning Martin on what he thought Australasia are doing differently to the northern hemisphere and what lessons could be learnt, he noted that LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace is quickly becoming a key priority for organisations of all sizes across New Zealand and Australia. Martin also shared that “New Zealand has been a dark horse when it comes to LGBTQIA+ diversity, although as a country we don’t tend to brag about it!” New Zealand has thrown a lot of resources into this (and we need to do more), for example we have seen many organisations measuring engagement scores including LGBTQIA+ self identification and creating practical plans to address findings from these results. In New Zealand, Pride is not just about a march and changing your logo, it's about targeted programs based on good data.

With this progress in mind, we asked Martin for his top suggestions for ways organisations can be more inclusive 365 days a year. He highlighted that globally more young people are rainbow identifying than ever, and in order for organisations to prepare for the future, they need to start creating a safe and trusting environment, especially for the newer generations entering the workforce.

A study by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) found that 20% of respondents aged 18-34 identified as LGBTQIA+, compared to only 12% of those aged 35 and older. Based on this trend, it's likely that a higher percentage of the next generation may identify as LGBTQIA+ than previous generations. Employers need to be ready for this. This includes safe recruitment processes and employee experiences, especially when it comes to the recruitment sector. Making clients and candidates feel safe to be their authentic selves is essential.

Support for the LGBTQIA+ community should extend to all year-round, not just for the tokenistic one month a year.  It is not enough to just change logos to incorporating the rainbows. Martin has shared a few suggestions with us, cited below, and you can find Pride Pledge’s free guide “Steps to Rainbow Inclusiveness” here.

  •  Updating all policies, contracts and staff handbooks, to ensure they are wholly inclusive, regardless of gender or sexual identity (i.e. pay affirmation, gender neutral uniform and bathrooms, application forms, parental leave policies);
  • Setting an annual LGBTQIA+ agenda, with clear objectives and meet one of these objectives each quarter. This shows a clear ongoing commitment throughout the year, ensuring to share this with all employees and external stakeholders, and encouraging companywide involvement;
  • Implementing Rainbow Awareness training for all people leaders and other key staff to build understanding, support and allyship;
  • Gain an authentic commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusion all year round, from the top levels of the organisation;
  • Celebrate a number of days of significance throughout the year e.g. Transgender Awareness Week, IDAHOBIT Day, Pink Shirt Day, Bisexual Awareness Week and so many more which can be found here.

Martin’s parting advice is to “just start something and get it done - celebrating Pride once a year is not the answer.”

If you would like to know about Pride Pledge and the incredible work they do or want to start your commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community, then visit their website here.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is in the core DNA of Society and is central to everything we do. As a business we are committed to helping build diverse, talented workforces, we invest time in understanding the roles we are recruiting for, as well as the wider organisational context and DEI footprint. We ask the hard questions of our clients around their diversity gaps and what they are doing to rectify them. We design our search and selection processes that both demonstrates our clients DEI commitment and assess candidate fluency around this agenda.

A helpful tool we have designed in 2021 is our Inclusive Recruitment Toolkit, a succinct and accessible collection of practical ways to advance DEI in the area of talent acquisition, to help organisations make meaningful headway on designing robust, inclusive recruitment processes.

Furthermore, all our clients receive a Diversity Monitoring Report following each assignment showing the aggregate profile of the candidates who applied in relation to ten characteristics ranging from age and religion to ethnicity and sexual orientation. This information is collected anonymously through our bespoke, compliant monitoring questionnaire and allows clients to reflect on where their opportunities draw interest from in the market. We also track gender and ethnicity statistics across all our searches. Back in 2019, we started adding our preferred pronouns to our email signatures and LinkedIn Profiles, as a little node that we are allies and a safe place for the LGBTQIA+ community.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of ways the recruitment sector can be doing better to ensure that the rainbow community feels seen and represented. Society is always looking to improve the work we do, externally and internally, and our interview with Martin King has encouraged us to reflect on new ways we can continue to make Society as inclusive as possible.


Related Articles