Bored with wearing the same track pants while working from home: Wear it Purple

Bored with wearing the same track pants while working from home or in lockdown? Wear it Purple day could be the opportunity you need to support LGBTQ+ young people and give yourself a sartorial nudge to brighten up your day. Ten years ago Wear it Purple day began as a visible way to show rainbow youth we accepted them fully both at work and as an important part of society. Show them they are not alone; they have understanding and support and allies to advocate for change.

This year, LGBTQ+ youth are facing particular challenges as a result of lockdowns. Some are cut off from chosen family, potentially being in an unsafe/unsupportive environment at home, or even just lacking the ability to get out and meet other young people like them on campus, at work and within their social sphere.

As the Executive Sponsor of the Pride@KPMG network, I advocate for LGBTQ+ people to be in a workplace that allows them to bring their whole self to work, where they are valued for the unique and different perspectives they bring. I get to hear their stories and watch them thrive. These people are our future leaders, our change makers and it is my job to be visible and active as an ally.

In the last 10 years we have come a long way. It is now unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of gender identity. The police department have apologised for the violence enacted during the first Mardi Gras Parade and we now have same sex marriage. All great progress – but we are not there yet.

Research from The University of Sydney in 2020 shows being out at work is still a challenge for 58 percent of people, with the majority of younger people (under 40) most likely to be closeted at work. This is even more poignant for young women who are more reluctant to publically embrace their sexual orientation. This is seen from partner to new starters in professional services firms, but the numbers are much higher for younger professionals. It appears many LGBTQ+ Australians hide their sexuality at work in fear of negative career repercussions.

And younger people are not convinced the business argument for equality is enough. Younger people have different expectations with 41 percent requiring that equity/social justice inform the decisions, rather than a business case alone.

Discrimination is not always obvious and many organisations still don’t address workplace issues for LGBTQ+ people. For instance, many trans people it can often be difficult to gain employment. Career progression can be problematic and for more conservative industries it can be even harder. Where are the role models – often you are the ‘first in class’.

Young rainbow people don’t want to be treated differently they just want to be accepted. Being queer is not separate from who they are. It is deeply embedded in what they want to do as a young working person.

We see and hear you

So what can allies do?

It is one thing to have workplace policies but if no one actively supports them they are useless. Young people need someone else to speak for them on their behalf – they can’t always be the activist. This is where allies come in. Young queer people need to engage other voices.

Wearing a rainbow lanyard is a simple starting point. Get involved – listen to real LGBTQ+ people with real ideas. Go to training sessions – we are all learning and every little bit helps.

Finally, speak up when you see or hear something wrong – a silent ally is not an ally. This year to celebrate 10 years of Wear it Purple come together and make a big purple statement because, ‘We are the Change’.

I want to thank all the young voices that are reflected in my words – my words are often their words and their insight and braveness is awe inspiring. Thank you.

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