PEXA recently hosted its first ever pride event – the latest milestone on our D&I journey.
The event brought businesses, government and NFPs together for an important discussion about the state of LGBTQI+ inclusion and equality in Australia, as well as an exploration of the role leaders and organisations within our network have in advancing inclusion and equality.
We were privileged to have Ben Allen, Partner at Dentons, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Dentons in Australia and Partner Sponsor of Dentons’ LGBTQI+ network GLOW, moderate an insightful Q&A session among attendees.
We spoke to Ben about his own D&I journey and the steps corporate organisations can take to be more inclusive, as well as his experience at the PEXA pride event.
“Being asked to help facilitate an audience discussion following Anna Brown’s excellent keynote address was a real honour,” said Ben.
“The discussion focussed on where different organisations are on their inclusion journey, and it was great to be a room of like-minded professionals who were able to share their insights and thoughts openly.”
Reflecting on his own D&I journey, Ben said that “having openly identified as gay for most of my professional career, it has been encouraging for me to see how my identity has not hindered my career progression and in fact has given me greater empathy for those within the profession who are from diverse backgrounds and minority or underrepresented groups.
“I am a proud member of the LGBTQI+ community.”
Ben lamented that while this wasn’t always the case during his legal career, helping in the fight for marriage equality in Australia in 2017 through Dentons’ LGBTQI+ network, GLOW, opened his eyes to the importance of inclusion in the workplace, being a visible role model for others in his identity and the importance of representation.
“Achieving marriage equality in Australia was a huge win for the LGBTQI+ community, however it opened my eyes to the fact that there are many areas of discrimination and reform still to be tackled, for not just that community but for all of those marginalised groups who lack representation.
“The importance of securing rights for those in the trans and gender diverse community remains a divisive issue in Australia, and one about which I am passionate. None of us are equal until we are all equal – and the fight continues, and the work that Dentons is doing by running the Trans and Gender Legal Service is one of my proudest professional achievements.”
Research by the Diversity Council Australia1 shows that Australian workers overwhelmingly support inclusion initiatives. In 2021, as in 2017 and 2019, three out of four Australian workers supported or strongly supported their organisation taking action to create a workplace that is diverse and inclusive (D&I) and only 3% of Australian workers opposed or strongly opposed their organisation taking action.
So while there are many corporates like Dentons that are leading the way when it comes to implementing policies and taking action in the D&I space, and despite the fact this progress is evidently well supported by Australians across all sectors, there is clearly still significant progress to be made.
We asked Ben what his advice would be to corporates who want to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
“Corporates need to stand up and be held accountable for their stated position on inclusion and diversity. We hear about the term “greenwashing” at present, where organisations overstate their environmental credentials, and the same can happen in the inclusion space.
“Being inclusive means ‘walking the talk’ and actually committing to real steps that foster greater inclusion of all underrepresented members of an organisation.”
Ben added that “this also means being public about why inclusion matters, and giving back – financially or in kind – to organisations in the community who need assistance.
When asked why events like the PEXA pride event are important, Ben stated that we need to continually remind those within organisations that the journey to true inclusion is far from over.
“While many strides have been made, there will be a role for discussions like this for many years to come.”