Sydney councillor Christine Forster has spoken about the “glass ceiling” lesbian women face in Australian workplaces, and the importance of lesbian role models.
In a blog post to mark Lesbian Visibility Day on Thursday, Forster (pictured, right) said, “Over the past few years I’ve been asked many times to name positive, out lesbian role models.
“Often I’ve joked in response: Ellen DeGeneres and… Ellen DeGeneres!
“In Australia we can now proudly add our national sweetheart Magda to the list, but the reality is, in our patriarchal world, the gay men have made it to public acceptance and prominence way ahead of us girls.”
Forster said the situation was similar in business, with only 14 out women ranking on Deloitte’s list of the top 50 LGBTI business leaders in 2016.
“Compare the relative profiles of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott,” she said.
“The glass ceiling exists and it appears to be an even more insurmountable barrier for women who identify as lesbian.
“And yet these are the women who most need to know they are not alone in their workplaces.
“They are telling us loud and clear that knowing there are other lesbian women in their organisations gives them the greatest sense of inclusion and engagement.
“It’s a simple thing, but promoting visibility helps breaks down stereotypes, builds respect and provides genuine support.”
Lesbian Visibility Day is marked on April 26 each year, and ACON’s Pride Inclusion Program director Dawn Hough said the recognition of the day is needed “to knock down some of the stereotypes, help reduce some of the stigma and give a voice to our lesbian workmates and colleagues.”
Hough pointed to this year’s Australian Workplace Equality Index Survey which found a significant number of lesbian women within organisations active in LGBTI inclusion still choose to consciously hide their sexuality.
The respondents to the survey said they’re just not comfortable enough to be themselves at work (40%), they don’t want to be labelled or the target of innuendo and jokes (28%) or they are just unsure of the repercussions (21.43%).
“While it’s clear that we still have a long way to go in terms of LGBTI workplace inclusion, it appears that when it comes to sexuality, the road is even longer for those who identify as lesbian,” Hough said.
“We need to break down the barriers. We need more training and zero tolerance in terms of homophobic – and transphobic – behaviours.
“We need to create an environment where more lesbian women feel safe enough to come out at work, to be a role model, to help support other young women entering the workforce through their openness in terms of their sexuality and their willingness to support.”
(Top photo by Brent Wilson/ABC)