Sydney Councillor Christine Forster has spoken out about the importance of positive lesbian role models on Lesbian Visibility Day, which was yesterday.

“Over the past few years I’ve been asked many times to name positive, out lesbian role models,” said Forster in a blog article by ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs Director Dawn Hough.

“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 lack of lesbian visibility was a concern in business as well as entertainment.

“Compare the relative profiles of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott,” she said, adding that of Deloitte’s top 50 LGBTI business leaders in 2016, only 14 were women.

“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.”

Hough said that lesbians reported the highest rates of unwanted negative commentary, innuendo and jokes at work, at 34 per cent, and the highest rates of serious bullying and harassment.

“While it is clear that we still have a long way to go in terms LGBTI workplace inclusion, it appears that when it comes to sexuality, the road is even longer for those who identify as lesbian,” she wrote.

“We need to break down the barriers.

“We need more training and zero tolerance in terms of homophobic (and transphobic) behaviours and 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.”

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