News / South Africa

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
5 Apr 2018
11:40 am

The workplace doesn’t do enough for LGBT+ employees, but that could change

Makhosandile Zulu

A new initiative wants companies to show more interest in creating LGBT+ inclusive workplaces.

The South African LGBT+ Management Forum will launch the first of its kind in Africa-Middle East region index, a standard that South African companies can use to measure their levels of LGBT+ inclusivity.

The South African Workplace Equality Index (SAWEI) will be launched on May 17 to coincide with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (Idahot).

According to the forum’s website, IBM South Africa, Thomson Reuters, Shell and PWC are some of the first companies to sign up for SAWEI.

It further states that an advisory panel that will oversee the process and moderate the results of the index has been appointed.

The forum says those appointed to the panel are:

  • Xhanti Payi, an economist and founder of Nascence Advisory and Research and the chairperson of The Other Foundation.
  • Tracy-Lynn Humby, a professor of law at the Wits School of Law, focusing on creating an inclusive, environmentally sustainable and diverse economy.
  • Keval Harie, the director of the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action Trust (Gala) and a qualified attorney dedicated to promoting social justice and human rights across the country.
  • Juan Nel, a registered clinical and research psychologist and a research Professor at Unisa, he is a founding Board member of OUT LGBT Well-Being (Out), a national health service provider for LGBT+ people.

The forum’s Teveshan Kuni told the SABC that the initial focus will be on large companies and corporates in the country because the human resources (HR), diversity inclusiveness and employment equity teams of these companies do not have sufficient information on the LGBT+ community, and so cannot adequately cater for their workplace needs.

Kuni says considering that 10% to 15% of the country’s population identifies as LGBT+, means a significant number of employees that fall within this spectrum are not accommodated for through proper programmes, policies and behavioural methodologies.

Kuni adds that though South Africa has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world that protects the rights of LGBT+ people, a look at large corporates in the country reveals that there aren’t any openly proud LGBT+ CEOs and prominent business people.

This, Kuni said, could mean that people from the LGBT+ community are either not openly proud about being of the community, or that this may be due to societal discrimination or that members of the group are held back by an unspoken of glass ceiling.

“South Africa is a very Christian conservative society, and we understand that LGBT+ people face a lot of challenges within our society,” Kuni says.

Kuni says the forum has noted that the South African workplace lacks sufficient benchmarks and policies that encourage individuals to be themselves and not have to create double personalities for their work and personal lives.

“We are not asking for LGBT+ people to out themselves, we are just saying if you choose to live a more open existence in your workplace, do it and the workplace should be able to cater for it,” Kuni says.

The forum will also measure how these large companies put in place policies promoting more inclusiveness for LGBT+, especially how widely these companies would spread the programmes and policies to their branches in rural areas, Kuni says.

Kuni says the index will serve as an important toolkit for HR teams of large companies that have a footprint throughout Africa, specifically those operating in countries where LGBT+ rights are legally discriminated against.

Kuni says companies that wish to take part in the initiative can visit the forum’s website where a survey can be completed.


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