Some of the world’s most prominent tech companies have joined forces to support LGBTQIA members of the Australian tech industry, with Atlassian joining forces with the Australian branches of Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and LinkedIn to form the InterTech Australia initiative.
The initiative is designed to provide networking opportunities and events with panels and speakers, as well as working with non-for-profit LGBTQIA organisations to provide inclusive workplaces for the queer community, and encourage change in the tech sector as a whole.
The initiative was launched at Atlassian’s Sydney offices last week, at a time when LGBTQIA rights have been thrown into the spotlight as Australia prepares for the federal government’s postal survey on same-sex marriage.
With homophobia shown to be costly to both workers and employers, affecting not only employees’ mental wellbeing but the culture and sense of inclusiveness in workplaces, InterTech’s initiative comes at an important time for Australia’s tech ecosystem.
InterTech Australia is an offshoot of InterTech UK, which was launched in 2014 by Facebook staff member Jan Hoffman.
Co-organiser Haylee Brittliffe, who is also a senior technical recruiter at Atlassian, told StartupSmart InterTech Australia grew from a series of discussions seven months ago to a fully-fledged community initiative today.
“The idea was originally launched in Ireland by one of my co-organisers [Jan Hoffman],” Brittliffe explains.
Hoffman worked at Facebook in Ireland, and when he moved to Sydney he found there was no similar LGBTQIA support group for tech employees in Australia.
“He drove it from the beginning, and two of us from each company [Twitter, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Google, Atlassian] have been meeting up fortnightly since March,” Brittliffe says.
“It’s all about connecting and supporting LGBT people in the tech industry, and also our allies,” she says, adding that workplaces that promote diversity and inclusion are inevitably more successful and innovative.
“We really want to make sure that everyone brings their whole self to work: happy staff makes a happy company.”
While Atlassian, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and LinkedIn are the founding members of the initiative, Brittliffe says the organisation is “definitely going to invite other companies to be a part of it” in the future.
She says InterTech is now looking at running events on a quarterly basis, which will be open to the public and hosted at the offices of each of the founding companies “so people can get to see those office spaces for themselves”.
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— InterTech Australia (@InterTechAU) August 31, 2017
How startups can become more inclusive
Brittliffe encourages startups to become involved in the initiative and see it as a key way to share knowledge, support networks and advice.
“I think its great for smaller startups to get involved [in InterTech] so they can learn from the diversity and inclusion programs we’ve run [at Atlassian]” Brittliffe says.
“Becoming diverse is easy as a smaller company — they can learn from a lot of our [Atlassian’s] challenges as a large company in that space.”
Startups looking to support queer workers should strive to become engaged with the LGBTQIA community, as well as being supportive in the workplace, according to Brittliffe, who suggests “little things like events, having unisex bathrooms, [and] mentorships” are great steps to encourage inclusiveness.
“Companies with diverse teams and different opinions are more successful. Business wise it’s a really great idea, and it’s also a much nicer environment to work in,” she says.