AROUND 45 per cent of LGBTI Australians hide their sexuality or gender diversity at work because they fear it may impact their career, according to a recent report.

The finding was revealed during a session on LGBTI inclusive workplaces at Dive In, a diversity and inclusion festival held by and for the insurance sector.

Lloyd’s General Representative in Australia, Chris Mackinnon, said helping LGBTI people feel more valued in the workplace had benefits for business.

“Research shows that when LGBTI staff are ‘openly out’ to all, businesses see a 15 to 30 per cent increase in productivity and retention rates improve by 10 per cent,” he said.

In Australia six in ten LGBTI people experience verbal homophobic abuse in the workplace, two in ten experience physical homophobic abuse, and one in ten experience other types of homophobia.

Mackinnon said it’s up to business leaders and managers to create and support a working environment where people know they can succeed by being themselves.

“If someone is spending half their energy hiding their reality, leading a dual life and making excuses, then they are not being authentic at work and they won’t be as engaged or productive,” he said.

In its first annual report on diversity and inclusion in the Lloyd’s insurance market, Lloyd’s found that only one third of organisations had a formal diversity and inclusion policy in place.

During the session on LGBTI inclusive workplaces, Group Head of Internal Audit for QBE Insurance Liam Buckley said his experience of being gay in the workplace had changed drastically over the past 15 years.

In 2000, the culture at one of his former workplaces was very secretive, particularly for queer women.

“Lesbians were completely invisible,” he said.

“A group of us would get together and go out to lunch, it was all very underground.”

Buckley added that 15 years ago he dreaded senior executives asking him to bring his partner along to work functions.

“I remember the feeling of panic that used to come over me,” he said.

Mackinnon believes promoting an inclusive and healthy workplace benefits the entire team.

“It’s not just the right thing to do – it makes good business sense,” he said.

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