More to be done to create a truly inclusive workplace

Chasing Rainbows report highlights gaps between LGBTQI+ employees and employers.

The PwC South Africa report, “Chasing Rainbows: LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the South African corporate workplace”, highlights the gap between what LGBTQ+ employees want and expect from their employers, and what employers actually offer.

The report is based on an online survey across a spectrum of organisations, with participants ranging from diversity and inclusion leads, HR managers, and C-suite executives.

Liesbeth Botha, PwC Africa Shine Network sponsoring partner, says, “Many companies believe that they have all bases covered if they have non-discriminatory policies regarding diversity and inclusion in place, when, in fact, they may not fully comprehend the complexity of offering the right support to LGBTQ+ employees in their organisations to create a truly inclusive workplace.”


“It should be a top priority of every company to create a safe and inclusive working environment for all employees – one in which individuals are able to thrive as their authentic self. Though there is no easy one-size-fits-all approach, there are ways in which employers can ensure diversity in the workplace, and most importantly, a positive change in the culture of their organisations,” she adds.

According to the report, 60 percent of respondents confirmed that their company has LGBTQ+ initiatives in place and supports related events, but only 27 percent run an official or named LGBTQ+ network within the company.

The research shows that while LGBTQ+ initiatives often start with employees, more than 50 percent evolve and grow successfully within the companies’ diversity and Inclusion teams. This is likely due to the focused participation of such teams and their experience in dealing with what can be sensitive issues.

Liesbeth says, “We believe that for an LGBTQ+ network to thrive and be successful, there should be representation across all levels within the company, including top leadership, but especially from LGBTQ+ members and allies.”

Balance input
Despite the existence of LGBTQ+ initiatives, and the desire, and need, for new or improved initiatives to be implemented, the extent to which these initiatives are embraced within the company is not always as positive as one would expect.

Less than half of respondents (46 percent) believe that LGBTQ+ initiatives are fully embraced within their organisations. Another 39 percent are ambivalent about the success of the initiatives.

Sixty-two percent of respondents stated that there was visibility within the company surrounding LGBTQ+ initiatives. Platforms used for communication and to create visibility are: social media (62 percent), emails (54 percent), events and team discussions (54 percent), and leadership communications (23 percent). Despite the use of numerous forms of communication, there is still room for improvement, including increasing awareness, education, and effective communication.

While the Constitution has certainly contributed positively to the protection of LGBTQ+ rights on a national, legislative level, there are members of the community who still face challenges of discrimination, inequality, exclusion, and much worse on a daily basis in society and the workplace.

All company policies should incorporate 100 percent inclusivity and equality and zero percent discrimination. They should also be explicit in defining the rights of LGBTQ+ members’ needs, thereby eliminating any uncertainty.

When developing and implementing company policies, consideration should be given to having the right balance of sources of input. At a bare minimum, policies should be aligned to national laws and regulations, and HR, diversity and inclusion, as well as risk management teams should also be consulted.