Opinions about whether to introduce marriage equality in Australia are strong, be they positive, negative or silent – as is your absolute right.
An inevitable side effect is whether companies (and their leaders!) should be part of such debates.
I am very conscious of the fact that when corporations step into public debates, particularly where there are polarised views, they risk being perceived as trying to use their size and reach to influence an outcome.
For us, the criticism runs along the lines of why does a company like Telstra feel it has authority to offer a view on marriage equality?
For us, our obligation overrules the criticism.
As business leaders, we care deeply about the community of which we are a part and the employees we represent. We respect and protect their right to work in a diverse and inclusive environment and their right to hold equally diverse views on marriage equality.
Many of our 32,000 employees care deeply for marriage equality as it affects them directly, or a family member or friends. For us it’s about celebrating equality in all of its forms so our people feel safe, are comfortable, can be proud to love and marry their chosen partner.
Supporting differences, and similarities
We need to be part of the communities in which we operate and that idea plays out most acutely in the diversity and strength of our workforce.
Companies that are diverse and inclusive are also the most effective at attracting and retaining the best talent because they are the best places to work.
Over many years Telstra has developed and rolled out many things to build and encourage diversity and inclusion including:
- Our support for gender equity, including our work to close the gender pay gap and create gender equality in our recruiting procedures;
- Our support for our employees that, for family and other reasons, need greater flexibility in their work arrangements;
- Our support for employees who are victims of domestic violence, including the creation of our Family and Domestic Violence Leave Policy that provides employees with up to 10 days paid leave each year;
- Our support for our LGBT+ employees including the creation of a thriving internal affinity network; and
- Through our support for marriage equality.
This is not just a single cause for us, but a universal ambition to provide support for the many walks of life who choose to work and do business with us.
With the greatest respect for the diverse views held, to see marriage equality in the context of diversity and inclusion makes for an easy decision in a difficult debate.
We support diversity and inclusion heart and soul at the most senior levels so we support marriage equality.
Clearly there are many different views on marriage equality amongst our millions of customers, our employees, our shareholders and in the community more broadly.
We are not trying to tell people what to think or what to do. We are respectful of all sides of the debate.
We are keen to reflect what we hold dear, what makes us who we are as an organisation, and that is passionate, unwavering support for equality, diversity and inclusion.
We want Telstra to be a great place to work, a place to belong, where people bring all of themselves to work and feel valued irrespective of their background, race, religion, age, gender or sexual preference.
If there is one thing we have learnt over many years of working to build a more diverse, more inclusive organisation it is that there are no universal or easy answers.
Making those programs work – and they have worked – has required courage, creativity and a determination to challenge traditional approaches. I am convinced we are a better organisation for it just as I am convinced we should support marriage equality.
Telstra Corporation Limited
Authorised by: Andrew Penn
The Commonwealth government has passed laws to promote a respectful public debate on the marriage law survey. These laws apply to any public statement we make as a company about the survey, and require Telstra to authorise and attribute all communication about the survey. These laws apply from now until the publication of the survey results on 15 November 2017.