Allies Championing Change in the Workplace Review


The importance of support from those outside the LGBTI+ community is integral to an organisation being an inclusive space for all.

The Diversity Agenda, together with Auckland University of Technology and LGBTI+ in STEM, recently hosted the ‘Allies championing Change in the Workplace’ event in Auckland.

During the evening, the audience were treated to talks from Stu Pearce, Senior Engineer and Military Officer from the New Zealand Defence Force, and Andrew Roy, Northern Area Manager from GHD.

Stu was pivotal in the development of ‘Overwatch’, the LGBTI support group within the NZDF. His fascinating talk explained the process he went through to launch Overwatch, as well as how the NZDF have progressed to become the most gay friendly armed forces in the world.

Key points from Stu’s talk included:

  • Allies have been vital to Overwatch’s success
  • Having leadership support is critical, especially in hierarchical organisations
  • An important milestone was the Chief of Defence marching in the Gay Pride Parade
  • Stu’s key mantra is ‘Visible, Vocal, Valued’
  • It’s important to embed good practice into work culture — NZDF have been celebrating 25 years since LGBTI+ personnel were welcomed to serve openly, and in the past 10 years have really worked on their processes and policies
  • NZDF reviewed all policies and:
    • cater for gender diverse people when deploying
    • introduced really good robust guidelines on transgender staff and their managers
    • built Overwatch into normalised processes
    • enacted Operation Respect to tackle sexual violence.


Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short marched in the Wellington International Pride Parade 2017, becoming the first Chief of NZDF to ever march in a pride parade.[/caption]

After Stu, Andrew then talked through his personal journey as an allie to the LGBTI+ community, as well as the journey undertaken by GHD to become Rainbow Tick certified and a finalist in the Diversity Works Diversity Awards.

GHD are a global consulting firm with over 10,000 employees. Their diversity and inclusion pathway initially focused on gender. In 2017 they wanted to test staff views so carried out an all employee survey, which found 20% thought LGBTI+ inclusion was a challenge. So, they set up rainbow, cultural, and age inclusion committees. This led to a huge increase in activity, particularly with Pride Week and Wear It Purple. They also applied and were granted Rainbow Tick certification.

Takeaways from Andrew’s talk included:

  • The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace to both firms and employees are enormous
  • He and the firm now have more sincere, honest and authentic conversations with clients and partners
  • GHD achieve more creative solutions for their clients
  • Steps taken by GHD to be more diverse and inclusive include:
    • parental leave for same sex couples
    • a new policy on gender transition
    • management group training for rainbow inclusivity plus e-learning on inclusive behaviours at work
    • meeting times are now flexible to suit everyone
    • calling out of micro aggressions
    • being adaptable to change and feedback and open to learning.

The Diversity Agenda wants to thank all our speakers for their time and sharing of information. And to Callum Smith from LGBTI+ in STEM for all his work in making the event a success.

Lastly, we wish to thank Jo-Anne Lewis and the team at Auckland University of Technology for providing their stunning new Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences Building, Ngā Wai Hono, as the venue for this event, and for supplying the catering. AUT were the first tertiary provider in New Zealand to be awarded the Rainbow Tick, and you can check out a video all about their ‘Out @ AUT’ group, below.

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