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How to choose an LGBTIQ friendly workplace

Nathanial Kammer

Diversity and inclusion are highly valued by today’s graduates. Here are five tips to help you find an LGBTIQ friendly workplace.

So hopefully you’re a little bit closer to working out what you want to do when you graduate but now, where are you going to do it?

If you’re a young person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer, chances are that while everyone else has been narrowing down on an answer to what seems like life’s toughest question – what are you going to do when you graduate – your thought space was probably preoccupied with discovering and learning to accept yourself. For some, that journey was quick and painless, for others it was, or may still be, a hard slog. Hang in there, it really does get better.

Always remember recruitment is a two-sided process. After you define your offering (talent, skills, qualifications, enthusiasm) and match it to the requirements of an advertised position, you then have to determine if it’s the kind of workplace you want to join based on their offering (culture, values, salary, benefits). You’re picking them as much as they’re picking you. Below, we share with you five ways to help you choose an LGBTIQ-friendly workplace.

From the familiar to the unfamiliar

As a young person at uni, finding your tribe is now probably instinctual. You know where you feel most comfortable being yourself because your environment is familiar. And let’s face it, for the most part, culture on-campus is pretty progressive – but soon you will be emerging into the unfamiliar landscape of the modern workplace. It shouldn’t be so scary, but it probably feels that way.

Being LGBTIQ doesn’t define you but it is a part of you, therefore, just like any part of you, it has needs too. As a woman or a person from a culturally diverse background, you wouldn’t want to work in a team that discriminates against women or has a culture that limits your potential for growth because of your gender or ethnicity. Nor would you want to join a team that treats you adversely for being queer. Sure, anti-discrimination laws protect you in varying degrees, but everyone wants to find a team where you don’t just survive, but one where you will thrive. It’s only human to want to feel accepted and not just tolerated.

Importance of diversity

The modern workplace is slowly learning the value of diversity and more importantly the value of inclusion. An often-used analogy distinguishes diversity as being invited to the party whilst inclusion is being asked to dance. There have literally been dozens of business cases made in support of diversity. I know – to you and me it seems obvious, but hey, not everyone has had the privilege of a millennial perspective. After all, change takes generations, and generations are living longer.

Choosing an LGBTIQ friendly workplace

So how do you find a workplace which doesn’t just tolerate you, but accepts you? The search requires a combination of identifying those workplaces which say they are inclusive (top down approach to inclusion) and then finding ways to validate what they say against the experiences of its LGBTIQ employees (bottom up approach to inclusion), so you can make an informed choice.

1. Check their career pages and search for ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’

Workplaces that recognise the value of diversity and inclusion will want you to know about it because at the end of the day they’re looking for top talent. That’s you – yes – you! Everyone has a unique combination of skills, qualifications and interests which makes them a strong candidate for a given opportunity. You will need to filter through career pages which sound a lot like disclaimers and look for ones with evidence of inclusion such as the existence of LGBTIQ networks, or profiles of LGBTIQ employees – actions always speak louder than words. Accenture is a great example.

2. Check if they participated in the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI)

The Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) is Australia’s national benchmarking tool on LGBTIQ workplace inclusion. What does that mean? Well, Pride in Diversity, (an ACON initiative) in collaboration with academics and similar programs abroad, created a series of criteria which employers are assessed against to gauge the level of inclusivity within their workplaces. Employers submit evidence on HR Policy & Practice, Strategy & Accountability, LGBTIQ Training & Education, LGBTIQ Employee Network & Allies, Visibility & Inclusion, Community Engagement & External Advocacy. This information is not released publicly but is reflected in an employer’s recognition as a Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze or Participating employer. In 2018, its eighth year, 136 employers participated, of which 4 were Platinum and 12 were Gold employers.

3. Ask the graduate recruiter

This is important. The graduate recruiter is the gatekeeper to what will hopefully be the beginning of an interesting and meaningful career. You can think of a graduate recruiter as both an adviser and a sales person. This means that you need to be mindful that at the end of the day they are trying to convince you that their workplace is an attractive place to work. They are not going to be dishonest, but they are subconsciously biased. However, they will have more information on their workplace culture than you will be able to find on the internet. Read our article, 6 questions to ask a graduate recruiter on LGBTIQ inclusion and why.

4. Ask a current LGBTIQ employee at networking events

There is simply no better way to learn about the inclusive culture of a workplace than speaking to a current or past LGBTIQ employee. Ideally you want to speak to someone from the specific team you plan to join, as workplace culture can vary between teams. But how do you find them? Well, Out for Australia is a national, volunteer-run not-for-profit which runs regular networking events across Australia for LGBTIQ students and young professionals. More and more employers are running professional networking events for LGBTIQ students, and many often invite the public to their Wear it Purple Day celebrations. You can follow their career pages and sign-up for their newsletters to learn more.  

5. Get an LGBTIQ mentor

A mentor can talk of the lived experience of LGBTIQ inclusion within their workplace and industry. They will be able to connect you with other LGBTIQ people from their network across multiple industries and workplaces who can provide similar insight. But that’s not all they offer – read our article on the value of an LGBTIQ mentor and how to find one.

Through your research you will find that some workplaces and industries are more inclusive than others. However, ultimately this will be just one factor of many when choosing where you’d like to work. We all make compromises throughout our careers, it’s a part of adulthood, but remember, whilst having a destination in mind is important because it provides direction, it is far more important to enjoy the journey. And hopefully, along that journey you won’t just be invited to the party; you’ll also be asked to dance.


Nathaniel is a Juris Doctor student at Macquarie University who volunteers with Out for Australia, a national not-for-profit helping LGBTIQ students and young professionals navigate the early stages of their careers. Personal pronouns: he, his, him.