The workplace is becoming more LGBT+ inclusive

SAWEI findings show that companies are using new systems to allow for pronoun identification.

The South African LGBT+ Management Forum (The Forum) has released its 2021 South African Workplace Equality Index (SAWEI).

The structure of the SAWEI consists of six elements that address both the ‘structures’ and ‘behaviours’ within a company.

Now in its third edition, 23 companies completed SAWEI in full, with seven companies competing for the first time.

Thabang Sebata, director of the Forum, said: “A change in attitudes and acceptance in the workforce has the potential to create wider positive change. Moving forward, we plan to use the SAWEI as a platform to create dialogue between employers in order to share best practice.”

Ernst & Young, McKinsey & Company, Procter & Gamble, Unilever South Africa and Vodacom South Africa achieved gold tier status, while Accenture, Baker McKenzie Inc, Bayer, Norton Rose Fulbright, Novartis, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Standard Bank, SAP and Uber Technologies achieved silver tier status on the index.

The participants this year scored higher than participants in 2018 and 2019.

“We are optimistic that this is indicative of a South African workplace that is becoming more LGBT+ inclusive. All companies that have been tiered can be considered leaders in their field for LGBT+ inclusion,” read a statement from The Forum.

Key observations this year include:

  • The highest scoring sections were “Diverse and Inclusive thought” and “Awareness and Sensitivity”.
  • The lowest scoring section continues to be on “Visibility”, for a third time in a row.
  • Nearly all companies have some form of anti-discrimination policy based on sexual orientation, but there continues to be poor clarity on the difference between gender and gender identity.
  • Policies that are trans-sensitive continue to be an indicator of overall performance in the SAWEI.
  • Explicit policies protecting LGBT+ employees in hostile regions continues to be a key differentiator of high performing companies.
  • Almost all participants had some form of active LGBT+ network or employee resource group, with most having an “allies” programme.
  • Diversity training and awareness continues to be widely implemented.
  • There was far less divergence on the inclusion of LGBT+ within Employment Equity (EE) Forums, which could signify the mainstreaming of LGBT+ inclusion alongside other dimensions such as race, gender and disability.
  • Covid-19 appears to have impacted the level of communication and general activity for some participants, which in some cases resulted in lower tiering than previous years.

Findings also showed that new systems that allow for pronoun identification, LGBT+ marketing focus groups and other initiatives looking at the broader spectrum of sexual orientation and identity are being implemented within companies.

The SAWEI is the continent’s only index measuring levels of LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace.