UNSW’s work to develop an inclusive workplace culture for LGBTQIA+ staff has earned them their third SAGE Cygnet Award.

Since identifying support for transgender and gender diverse employees as a key area for improvement in 2018, the university has broadened the scope of their LGBTQIA+ inclusion actions and made significant gains.

“This achievement reflects our commitment to developing a more inclusive culture, where all staff can succeed regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender,” said Professor Bruce Watson, Pro-Vice Chancellor Inclusion.

“Amazing progress has been achieved since the inception of the Athena Swan Bronze Action Plan, including the growth of our ally@UNSW network and training, programs and initiatives in faculties.”

“It’s important to also recognise the continued work that must occur in this space to drive better LGBTQIA+ inclusion, particularly for transgender and gender diverse communities at UNSW. “

Actions to change workplace culture

With an ever-evolving approach, UNSW focussed on two key objectives: seeking to increase understanding of the issues facing LGBTQIA+ staff, and promoting awareness of the support resources in place.

Their wide range of activities included allyship training for senior leaders; increased participation in significant days such as IDAHOBIT and World Pride; plans to introduce LGBTQIA+ mentoring and professional development programs; and introducing the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) employee survey on LGBTI inclusion, using results to inform plans to support Transgender employees.

The university has also improved support for employees undergoing gender affirmation. This has involved offering 30 days of paid gender affirmation leave under UNSW’s 2023 Enterprise Agreement, alongside developing a suite of practical resources to support both employees and their managers throughout this process.

Improved LGBTQIA+ staff experiences

Since the introduction of these interventions, UNSW employees are more likely to disclose non-binary gender identity and sexual orientation, and there has been an increase in awareness and understanding of workplace barriers faced by LGBTQIA+ staff, across the university.

While LGBTQIA+ staff still feel slightly more compelled to hide themselves or change their identity to ‘fit in’ with workplace culture, survey results show that most LGBTQIA+ staff (more than 80%) perceive UNSW as an inclusive and respectful workplace, and report feeling a sense of acceptance and being valued in the workplace at similar rates to their non-LGBTQIA+ colleagues.

UNSW also improved its intersectional data collection, after more than half of LGBTQIA+ staff reporting that the combination of their cultural background and LGBTIQIA+ status impacted their workplace experience. The university is now capturing more detailed data about gender and sexuality, alongside cultural background, disability, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander identity.

Recognised for continuous progress

SAGE CEO Dr Janin Bredehoeft congratulated the university on its achievement.

“It’s notable how UNSW’s approach to LGBTQIA+ inclusion has continued to evolve in line with new information and best practices, including improving their intersectional understanding of staff experiences.”

“This work has produced year-on-year improvements in staff experiences of inclusion, and that survey data has been confirmed through staff feedback.”

“Congratulations to UNSW on earning their third SAGE Cygnet Award, and on their ongoing progress in equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Read UNSW’s full application for their Cygnet Award to find out more about the university’s actions, outcomes and impacts.