The Australian public has conclusively and unequivocally supported same sex marriage with 61.6% voting Yes in the postal ballot.
Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton noted the result but cautioned that creating diverse and inclusive workplaces remains a significant challenge in the STEM workforce.
“A range of barriers face LGBTI professionals – being open about sexual identity can compromise career advancement and leave individuals open to verbal abuse and even physical violence. A recent report found that six in 10 LGBTI people in Australia experience verbal homophobic abuse in the workplace, while two in 10 experience physical violence. The study also found that nearly half of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Australians hide their sexual identity at work.
“While there’s significant work yet to be done, the case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace is clear”, Walton said. “The challenges we face as a nation are diverse and complex and driving real innovation will require a STEM workforce that is also diverse. A diverse workforce brings together a range of people who think differently and approach problems in different ways – and this creates a diversity advantage that can generate a range of benefits including a positive impact on the bottom line.”
Equity and diversity are important factors in determining enterprise success. Diverse and inclusive workplaces encourage workforce participation, which then drives productivity improvement. Research shows that workplace diversity is linked to significant business benefits such as improved effectiveness, profitability and revenue generation as well as improved employee and customer engagement, greater product innovation and better staff retention rates. Diverse teams consistently outperform on innovation, problem-solving, flexibility and decision-making. Studies show that organisations with diverse workforces have superior business performance and better governance. Research in Australia and internationally has found that companies with greater diversity on their boards delivered better financial performance. The 2015 McKinsey Report Diversity Matters found that companies committed to diverse leadership were more successful culturally and 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. A 2016 Lloyd’s study showed that when LGBTI staff are openly out, businesses see a 15 to 30 per cent increase in productivity and retention rates of staff improve by 10 per cent.
“The same sex marriage result is an opportunity for organisations to revisit workplace policies and practices to ensure inclusiveness,” Walton said. “The imperative to create workplaces which value diversity is a win/win and Professionals Australia is committed to helping create workplaces where professionals are valued for who they are and the contribution they make to their workplaces as well as the nation’s productivity and innovative capability.”
“It’s all about attracting, developing and retaining the nation’s best and brightest in the STEM workforce. The more comprehensive our understanding of the ways to create diverse workplaces and eliminate bias and discrimination, the better placed we are to ensure employers have access to the highest-quality pool of professional talent and creating a sustainable, highly-skilled STEM workforce to take the nation forward.”