Affinity Insights – Issue 2, October 2017
Market Update – October 2017

Marriage equality in the workplace

I may be biased, but I happen to think that I have the two most wonderful children in the world. Both our children are articulate, sharp, funny and provocative; the world’s best dinner companions. They are now in their confident mid-twenties though they have each taken their individual route to adulthood. One of our children did all the typical things required to separate from our parental role, though the other – and we only realised this with hindsight – disappeared from view for a few years. Very slowly. By the time we fully appreciated the deep difficulties of our child’s journey, they had emerged with a clear sense of gender and their orientation, fully engaged and connected. As a parent I have been a slow learner, but I would like to think that I now have some glimmer of understanding of how the LGBTQI community experience the world.

This learning experience has made me think about how poorly we handle diversity in our workplaces.

As leaders or team members, we are always striving to find ways to bring out the strengths in the people we work with. We all want to work in a vibrant environment where we are challenged to do our best. An environment where we have a voice and are visible. Where we feel empowered to achieve successes that are aligned with our values.

We all have had workplace training on the need to be aware of our own unconscious biases, of the need to work against our particular personal preferences that limit our effectiveness. We know the power of diversity in teams and the dangers of self-selection in recruiting. But it is only as a parent that I have truly understood how deeply our personal norms restrict our ability to see the world from diverse viewpoints. It is only as a parent that I have reached some understanding of the factors that truly go into our sense of identity. I have always thought of myself as being very inclusive and accepting of difference, but I have only recently gained some understanding of how my white male, heteronormative lens on the world has probably prevented others around me from feeling included. If our colleagues don’t feel accepted for who they truly are, then they will never contribute to their full abilities. It is important that we feel safe to bring our whole selves to the workplace. If we need to hide parts of our core identity, then we will never be able to fully contribute. Our mental health will forever remain more fragile. We will all lose from this loss of talent, and we will never benefit from diversity.

Those of us in Australia have the opportunity in the next few weeks to log our opinion about marriage equality. For many this debate is about removing discrimination against the fundamental human rights of the LGBTQI community and their equality before the law. For others this is a more vexed issue that needs to be reconciled with faith-based teaching and lineal cultural norms. But I am writing this in the hope that you will see this as a survey about giving people the freedom to make choices that are fundamental to their own deep sense of identity. We want – and need – people to feel safe in our workplaces and in our wider communities. This survey is not about our own personal choices, but rather the right of all Australians to make individual choices without fear of discrimination. This survey is not about agreeing a set of national customs and beliefs, but rather it goes to the basic principle that no part of society has the right to impose their personal beliefs on another.

In essence, this vote is about creating a community that embraces and accepts diversity. It is about our workplaces, our neighbours, our families. While many of us might be irritated that this survey has been foisted unnecessarily upon us, at this point let’s ensure that this opportunity for embracing diversity is not wasted.

Why am I writing to a “professional” forum about a “personal” issue? Quite simply, I think this is an issue that transcends politics, that is blind to family and work place boundaries. So please vote “yes”.


Rory Nathan

Published on September 7, 2017.