On the face of it, a diversity and inclusion program and ranking index encouraging organizations to be more inclusive to gender and sexual minorities should not attract more attention or criticism than any other such initiatives (such as for race, or disability). Yet the UK’s Diversity Champions Programme and Workplace Equality Index, run by the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, has faced considerable scrutiny and censure, and many important public bodies have withdrawn from the initiatives.
Critics argue that the initiatives embed contested facts and values into policies, compromise public bodies’ independence and impartiality, and facilitate backdoor political lobbying.
Defenders counter that the program and index simply promote best practice in policy, and help employers to foster much-needed inclusion, support and understanding for LGBTQ+ employees. Some also see criticism of these initiatives as reflecting and reinforcing gender conservatism.
With many of our own public institutions signed up to similar initiatives – ACON’s Pride in Diversity employer support program and the Australian Workplace Equality Index – the aim of this event is to open-up a timely and balanced national conversation about the benefits, risks and tensions of these initiatives for Australia’s public institutions, and their employees.