Just say 'gay': Why NZ companies need to do more than 'embrace diversity' in the workplace

“Companies have to start using the words ‘gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual’ out loud,” says Michael Stevens, founder of New Zealand business diversity certification body Rainbow Tick. “Not something vague about diversity. Those words.”

“Companies have to start using the words ‘gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual’ out loud,” says Michael Stevens, founder of New Zealand business diversity certification body Rainbow Tick. “Not something vague about diversity. Those words.” 

Stevens was speaking at a workshop to celebrate 15 Kiwi organisations accredited by Rainbow Tick, or going through the process. 

Rainbow employees make up 10% of the Kiwi workforce, Stevens says, “but carry scars of shame we’ve grown up with, of not being worthy. Visibility counters these difficulties. So say the words out loud in your organisations.”

Rainbow Tick (and groups like it around the world) argue companies with a diverse and inclusive workplace are in a better position to attract high quality applicants, retain staff, and boost productivity.

They may also have a market advantage, if in-house attitudes bring LGBT customers. Figures from the latest census (2013) suggest same-sex couples are significantly better off than their heterosexual counterparts – though from a smaller base.

Statistics NZ data shows almost 70% of same-sex couples earn over $70,000 a year, with 20% earning over $150,000.

That compares with just over 50% of opposite sex couples earning over $70,000 and only 14% earning over $150,000. Moreover, fewer than 10% of same-sex couples have children – giving them greater discretionary spending.

Illustration by Rupal Hira