Downer NZ promotes authentic selves amongst its employees

Downer is going above and beyond to ensure its team of 11,000 feel empowered to bring their most authentic selves to work. The organisation received the Rainbow Tick in 2021 before establishing a StandOut Community in 2022, a network for LGBTTQIA+ employees. It aims to support, provide education and advocate for the rainbow community across Downer, with a focus on enabling a safe and inclusive workplace for everyone.

Hannah Steven, Downer’s NZ Communities and Initiatives Manager, said it took just one email from one of the organisation’s senior managers to get the ball rolling. The email detailed their own experiences in the workplace and called for expressions of interest in forming a national rainbow community. That one email generated 300 responses, mostly positive, some negative.

Hannah said the responses highlighted, on the one hand, the large support for the community in Downer, but on the other, the need for a community to be formed. Following that initial email, StandOut was formed to provide support, education and advocate for the rainbow community across Downer, while also providing a safe and inclusive workplace for all.

It means gender-inclusive language has been incorporated in all internal advertisements and exit forms, the development of gender transitioning at work guidelines and permanent rainbow signage for all depot entryway doors across 80 New Zealand locations, among much more.

StandOut provides a safe and inclusive workplace for all across Downer.

“Downer is focused on creating a culture that allows all Downer employees to be ‘out’ on their own terms.”

Hannah said the civil construction industry has strong and traditional roots, with heteronormativity being the norm as the industry has been slower to adopt change. “As a result, members of the rainbow community face unique challenges.”

Hannah said those challenges could include bias, discrimination, lack of understanding and limited representation. “It is important to acknowledge the existence of these issues and to work towards creating an inclusive environment.” Hannah said the barriers to being oneself in the workplace could be significant and negatively impact mental health, well-being, job satisfaction and career prospects.

“Downer understands that people being ‘out’ at work is their choice. For some, bringing their authentic self to work is risky, with comments or overt discrimination too hard – or just not their job – to handle.” Hannah said that, with that in mind, Downer embraced the opportunity to tackle the issue head-on and not shy away from rainbow inclusion in the workplace.

“By supporting the creation and mission of StandOut at all levels of the business, Downer is focused on creating a culture that allows all Downer employees to be ‘out’ on their own terms, if they wish, without fear of negative reactions.” Last year, Downer was re-accredited and went on to receive a range of accolades at the 2023 Rainbow Excellence Awards, including a high commendation for The ASB Emerging Award.

NZ Country Leader and StandOut executive sponsor Craig West was awarded the prestigious 2023 Newmarket Business Association Executive Leadership Award, while Downer’s People & Culture Business Partner for Transport and Infrastructure Jake Baker, who is also leader of StandOut, was named a finalist for The Chorus Ambassadorship Award. Downer and StandOut also secured fourth place in the Overall Supreme Award.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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