5 March 2021
Inclusion is at the heart of being who you are
With the 43rd Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade coming up this weekend, two of our lawyers share their thoughts on identity at work.
What is the importance of inclusion in all workplaces and what does this mean to your career opportunities, mental health and identity?
Gemma Hallett: 'Personally, I have been privileged to work in several workplaces where my colleagues were welcoming of my identity, including Hall & Wilcox. The times in my life when I was closeted were some of the hardest in my life – so I think having the opportunity to be myself and enjoy a rich social life at work are critical parts of my wellbeing.
'However, about 2 out of 3 LGBTIQA+ Australians report that they aren’t ‘out’ to everyone at work for reasons including fear of exclusion, discrimination and harassment. There is still huge progress that needs to be made particularly for transgender, non-binary and bisexual workers, whose experiences may not fit into the mainstream understanding of ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ and who are much more likely to experience discrimination and violence in the workplace. We need to do much better to understand, include and celebrate our colleagues with these lived experiences.'
Erin Doyle: 'Growing up in regional Australia in the 2000s, it was not always easy to be the ‘gay’ kid. At that stage, there was no ‘pride’ events that I was aware of and I didn’t really know any other queer people in my community. While I knew I was gay from probably age 13, I was not always comfortable in expressing that, and would often hide that part of myself out of shame, fear - and frankly, guilt. That would then lead to a vicious cycle where I knew I was not being my ‘true, authentic’ self and I would end up feeling worse at the thought of betraying myself, laying awake at night deliberating what on earth I was going to do about my ‘shameful problem’.
'Thankfully, a lot has changed since those early days (Wagga now has a Mardi Gras!). It’s great to know that I can proudly fly my rainbow flag at my desk at work, and comfortably refer to my ‘girlfriend’ during conversations with my colleagues without any fear of judgment. For me, it is not an overstatement to say that simply feeling comfortable to bring my ‘whole self’ to work has had immeasurable benefits for my own self-acceptance, and mental health more broadly.'
What do recruits look for when considering potential employers as LGBTIQ+ inclusive?
Gemma: 'Young professionals really value, and have come to expect, workplaces that empower us to be our authentic selves. Although seeing a rainbow flag on a website or lanyard is a great outward sign of support for the LGBTIQA+ community, candidates and employees are increasingly looking for more tangible examples that the workplace is a safe place to be LGBTIQA+. It’s a relatively small community, so people talk – and stories of positive (and negative!) experiences in the workplace travel fast. That’s why it’s important for employers to make real change – like updating parental leave policies to take queer couples into account, running trainings on inclusive language, and doing pro bono work for LGBTIQA+ charities. It’s changes like these that make me proud to work at Hall & Wilcox.'
Erin: 'Visibility and a move beyond tokenism. One of the first things I researched prior to joining Hall & Wilcox was whether the firm outwardly supported LGBTIQ+ initiatives. I was pleased to discover the firm is the registered office of the Victorian Pride Centre and has offered pro bono legal assistance to the initiative.'
Can you tell us about the opportunities to get involved and give back to the LGBTIQ+ community?
Gemma: 'Outside of work, I’m the Chair of the Minus18 Foundation, Australia’s leading charity for LGBTQIA+ youth. Hall & Wilcox has gone above and beyond to support my volunteering with Minus18, from providing time off and study leave, to celebrating our milestones, to booking firm-wide training sessions delivered by Minus18 on Gender & Sexuality 101. This firm is definitely a place where you can be supported to give back to the LGBTQIA+ community.'
Erin: 'I was pleased to be able to assist in organising our first ever Sydney-based LGBTIQ+ Interfirm Network event in 2019. It was a fantastic event and we were lucky enough to be joined by former High Court Justice The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, in conversation with Partner Leigh Parker, who discussed the challenges traditionally faced by LGBTIQ+ people in the professional context. It was a great coming together of the firm to show a genuine commitment to supporting our LGBTIQ+ colleagues and the issues they face.'