As I watched everyone strut their fabulous stuff on the Woolworths Group Rainbow Runway at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Fair Day this year, I couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of pride and joy. After a year’s hiatus of Fair Day, there was electricity in the air! Whether it was dancing, shimmying, rolling or strutting, everyone – no matter their age, sexuality, ability or background – had an opportunity to have their own moment to shine. And shine they did! 

Being visible and celebrating our unique qualities and all of our identities is something that is really important for LGBTQ+ communities and for me personally. As a bisexual woman with an invisible disability, I know all too well the importance of creating an inclusive culture where every single person belongs and feels valued for exactly who they are; every part of them. 

Passionate About Creating Change

AWEI Awards 2021

I’ve been with Woolworths Group for four and a half years now and everyday I feel privileged to co-lead our LGBTQ+ network, Proud at Woolworths Group. I love the people I get to work with and I am blessed to co-lead a diverse team of humans who are so passionate about creating change, not only at Woolworths Group but for communities too.

The passion, resilience and dedication of our team members is undoubtedly what has allowed us to achieve Gold Tier status in the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Awards for four consecutive years (we’re the first Australian retailer to receive Gold Status), now becoming a Platinum qualifying business in the AWEI.

A personal highlight, and absolute honour for me was also being awarded the AWEI Sapphire Inspire Award in 2021 which is an award that seeks to recognise the work done to help remove barriers for under-represented genders by an LGBTQ person who is or may be perceived as a woman. 

Proud @ Woolworths

Woolworths Group at Mardi Gras 2021.

Since the establishment of Proud in 2016, Woolworths has continued to embed LGBTQ+ inclusion across the organisation. Proud started as an idea from two Graduates, which has now grown into a thriving network with a membership just shy of 3000 team members in 2022.

Each year we’ve been progressively increasing our reach across our organisation and across communities, and we’ve welcomed more team members than ever before from our remote, regional and international sites. 

More recently Proud has turned their efforts to focusing on creating a sense of inclusion and belonging for our over 700 Trans and Gender Diverse team members. I’m not usually a big fan of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, but at the end of 2020 I felt compelled to make one; to be a better and more effective ally to Trans and Gender Diverse people.

Why this resolution? Because allyship is a noun, and it’s not just a noun for hetronormative people. Allyship between and across LGBTQ+ communities is critical. 

Gender Affirmation Leave Policy

In 2021 at Woolworths Group we made an important update to our Gender Affirmation Leave Policy and our Trans and Gender Diverse team members can now access paid leave to support them during their gender affirmation journey, which we know can be a really challenging and complex time. This is a first for Australian and New Zealand retailers and I hope other companies will soon follow suit. 

This year’s Mardi Gras theme of ‘United We Shine’ feels serendipitous! We know that when everybody at Woolworths Group feels like they belong, we all shine more brightly together. We go out of our way to make sure that every team member feels like they belong and that they can be their true selves at work. They can be who they want, live how they want and love who they want. This is true for every situation we find ourselves in – if we feel like we belong, our true selves can come to the front and SHINE! 

A Proud Partner Of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Woolworths Group at Mardi Gras 2021.

Woolworths Group is proud to be a major partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, an event we have been proud to be involved in since 2018. This partnership is just one of the ways we are helping to create an environment where all our team feel they truly belong. So many people see Mardi Gras as a big party (which it is, of course!), but for me, Mardi Gras is also a really emotional experience (I always pack my tissues!). 

Mardi Gras for me is all about paying respect to and celebrating three things; the past, the present and the future. 

The Past: Recognising the past struggles we’ve had for LGBTQ+ communities and paying our respects to the LGBTQ+ people who have come before us who protested and fought for our human rights. We owe so much progress to our elders before us, and to those who are no longer with us to celebrate Mardi Gras. 

The Present: Celebrating all that we have to be grateful for, being proud of being exactly who we authentically are, and celebrating for those who may not be ready, or who are unable to celebrate visibly yet. 

The Future: For as much progress as we have made, Mardi Gras is also a timely reminder about how much progress we still have to go. This year we’ve had a very abrupt and unjust reminder that our rights can be taken away so quickly and it is up to all of us to continue doing the work now to secure them for future generations. 

So however you are marking Mardi Gras this year, don’t forget to allow yourself a moment to shine. On behalf of myself and Woolworths Group we wish everyone a safe and happy Mardi Gras! And in the beautiful words of my co-lead of Proud at Woolworths Group Nick Christian: Stay safe, Shine bright and be Proud! …Now, get out there and shine! 




Nic Hennessy [she/her], is Inclusion Partner and Co-Chair of Proud at Woolworths Group.






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