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Strength in diversity

Research shows that diversity brings a range of experiences and perspectives that drives ideas and innovation. We are all individuals, different people need different things to flourish. When people feel accepted and supported they can be their best self. Everybody wins.

Factors like gender, culture, ethnicity, life experience (and others) add richness to our community. Our own lived experiences are different to everyone else’s. Self awareness and empathy is needed to understand that we may have an unconscious bias, and we may (inadvertently) be isolating people.

Inclusion matters. For example, 65% of transgender diverse individuals say knowing they are in a supportive workplace positively impacts their sense of inclusion and belonging. This increases how engaged (37.5%) and productive (24%) they are and improves their mental health and wellbeing by nearly 77%.

Inclusion is the practice of providing equal access to opportunities and resources to people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, but equal access is not always enough.

True inclusion requires the recognition that some individuals have different needs, and that these needs won’t be met within systems that assume everyone is the same.

Different ways to demonstrate support

Keeping an open mind is a great start, but its also important to seek out opportunities to educate yourself and those around you.

The Australian government business website can help with resources around employing minority populations; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people, people with a disability, mature aged people, new parents, and young people.

Learn more

The Victorian government has developed a Diversity and Inclusion strategy that includes a definition of diversity and inclusion.

Learn more

What is an ally? An ally is often defined as someone who is not a member of a marginalised group but wants to support and take action to help others in that group. Allyship in the workplace is crucial for inclusion and equality.

Avoid remaining silent: remaining silent during difficult events can negatively impact employee wellbeing. It’s best to acknowledge the situation, express concern and offer support. Consider whether staying neutral is an inclusive approach, or if it might make people feel marginalised.

Empathise and acknowledge the impact: It is important to show humanity and acknowledge the negative impact and emotional toll events can have on someone’s wellbeing. Allow space for people to discuss the issue should they choose to. Heartfelt thoughts can be extended to any colleagues and their families directly affected, and to communities more broadly.

Keep safety and wellbeing top of mind: Being exposed to images and stories of conflict, violence or traumatic events in the media can negatively impact our mental health and wellbeing. Focus on messages to reinforce the importance of self-care and strategies to reduce anxiety, as well as support services available.

Provide support: Including access to an Employee Assistance Program or other support services, it is important to remind people of the range of supports available to them.

Encourage respectful conversations: Some issues are harder to talk about than others and have the potential to be divisive with a range of perspectives and opinions. Encourage people to respect each other’s views and differences of opinion and be considerate, thoughtful, and respectful. Sometimes it can be an opportunity to educate yourself on an issue more.

Inclusive language is effective language – it is respectful, accurate and relevant to all.

1. Context matters: Language that may be fine outside of work can be non-inclusive at work. Sometimes people can use terms about themselves or their friends that are not appropriate for others to use about someone in a work context.

2. Keep an open mind: Be open to changing what you have always thought is ‘normal, respectful and appropriate’ to say. You don’t have to be perfect – just be willing to learn.

3. If in doubt, ask: If you’re not sure what terminology someone prefers, just ask them! Ask the person or contact organisations which make up and represent given diversity groups.

4. Focus on the person: Focus on the person first, rather than the demographic group they belong to.  Only refer to an individuals age, cultural background, gender etc. if it is relevant.

5. Keep calm and respond: Sometimes our unconscious biases mean we can say things that exclude others – even when we do not intend to.

A pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (I or you) or someone/something that is being talked about (like she, it, them, and this). Pronouns like he, she and they specifically refer to the people that you are talking about.

It is important to respect people’s pronouns. You can’t always know what someone’s pronouns are by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for gender identity.

She and He are gendered pronouns. She is typically used by female-identifying people. Similarly, He is typically used by male-identifying people. Both are sometimes used by people who don’t identify as male or female.

They, them, theirs are common gender neutral pronouns. These are basically pronouns that don’t imply ‘male’ or ‘female’. Gender neutral pronouns are typically used by gender diverse and non-binary identifying people. There are lots of other gender neutral pronouns which is why it’s important that people can let us know the pronoun they prefer as it’s important to use the right ones.

Flags, badges, door stickers and more are ways to show your business welcomes diversity.

The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas in 1970. The colours of the flag represent the Aboriginal people of Australia and their connection to the land. The Aboriginal Flag is divided horizontally into equal halves of black (top) and red (bottom), with a yellow circle in the centre.

  • The black symbolises Aboriginal people.
  • The yellow represents the sun, the constant re-newer of life.
  • Red depicts the earth and peoples’ relationship to the land. It also represents ochre, which is used by Aboriginal people in ceremonies.

The 6-Color Pride Flag is one of the most well-known and used LGBT flags throughout history. This flag includes the colors red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, and violet on it.

The Intersex-Inclusive Pride Flag was designed in 2021 by Valentino Vecchietti, combining the Progress Pride Flag with the Intersex Pride Flag. The flag is designed to represent the LGBTQI+ community and bring marginalised people of colour, transgender people, and intersex people to the forefront.

Connect with key organisations

For more information on how to be more actively involved, contact some of these support organisations:

Other resources to help your business

Is your business a place where everyone feels welcome? Use these resources to inform and guide innovative ways to address diversity and inclusivity in your workplace.

Content reviewed and updated: December 2023

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