South Africa’s first LGBT+ network to support professionals of all sexual and gender identities in the workplace was launched on International Coming Out Day in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Called “The Forum”, the South African LGBT+ Management Forum aims to create an inclusive, safe and equitable workplace environment for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, by working with local businesses to promote and celebrate diversity in the workplace.
Chairperson Dylan van Vurren said that at least 4% of employees are LGBT+. “Yes, you do have queer people in your workplace,” he told the audience. “They may just not feel comfortable coming out – and that’s the problem.”
Among the initiatives announced by The Forum are plans to implement a South African Workplace Equality Index (SAWEI). Along the lines of similar indices in Canada, the US and the UK, SAWEI will benchmark the LGBT+ inclusivity and friendliness of companies on an annual basis.
“It’s a great vehicle for change,” The Forum’s Luke Andrews told the audience in Rosebank. He explained that in these countries companies compete to achieve good rankings on their respective indices, which in turn helps them to attract LGBT+ talent.
“Every employee, regardless of their ‘otherness’, should be treated fairly,” commented Teveshan Kuni, spokesperson for The Forum. “It is now essential that business leaders set standards promoting inclusivity and diversity-based policies on sexual orientation and gender expression.”