Less than 32% of LGBTQIA+ employees in Australia are out to everyone in their workplace and studies reveal that this number is going down. Out For Australia is one of the few charities in the country that is looking to address the issue with its mentorship programs and targeted support for LGBTQIA+ students and young professionals.
Alvi Ahmed had first heard about Out For Australia when he as a Finance Graduate in banking. He signed up for the mentorship program with the organisation in 2015.
“At the time, my employer was a partner organisation of Out For Australia and I received an email from the employee diversity group with information about the OFA Mentoring Program,” said Ahmed, who holds a Bachelor of Accounting from the University of Technology Sydney and is a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA).
A Mentor & A Mentee
Following a career break and after relocating from Sydney to Melbourne, Ahmed joined OFA as a full time volunteer in 2019. He held various roles including Mentoring Program Coordinator and Data Analyst, before rising up among the ranks to now taking over as OFA’s Chief Financial Officer.
“I felt very privileged to have been supported by my graduate program and felt safe enough to have come out at work, however, I also knew how challenging the experience was in past intern roles and felt like I needed to be part of a movement to support that cause,” said Ahmed.
According to Ahmed, OFA’s mentorship program not only enriched his professional life, but also ensured a safe space to be with his LGBTQI+ peers and allies.
Supporting LGBTQI+ Students & Professionals
Ahmed reached out to a mentor when he moved to Melbourne. “I didn’t have a network in Melbourne and was also shifting industries from banking to not-for-profit and wanted to know more about what the community sector was like. It was also great to have personal contact in a new city to help me settle in,” he said.
Out For Australia says it is focussed towards supporting LGBTQI+ students and aspiring professionals. “Our vision is to create an Australia where every LGBTQIA+ student and aspiring professional is confident to be their authentic selves in workplaces which celebrate diversity and are inclusive,” said Ahmed.
“OFA does this through providing visible mentors, role models, thought leadership and targeted support to aspiring LGBTQIA+ professionals and to strengthen the sense of community among professionals and students.”
While 2020 was marked by extended pandemic lockdowns in some states and work from home, OFA is hoping to continue to host online events and bring back in-person events across the country this year.
“We’ll also be looking to deliver a rural and regional roadshow in Victoria and possibly NSW. And also hoping to continue our Podcast series “Out For You” which we created during the pandemic to help showcase and highlight some amazing role models in the LGBTQIA+ community,” revealed Ahmed.
The nominations for OFA’s “30 Under 30 Awards” are scheduled to open in August. To nominate an LGBTQIA+ leader under 30 and to help shine a light on the amazing work they have done, check the OFA website for the announcement about nominations.