Since 2004, May 17 has stood as a day to celebrate LGBTI+ people around the world – to recognise their existence, to understand their struggle, and to commemorate their achievements in striving for equality.

The date stands in solemn recognition of May 17, 1990, when the World Health Organisation’s then-new International Statistical Classification of Diseases no longer listed homosexuality as a diagnosis for mental illness – and remembering the days before then when this was not the case.

Over the years since 1990, and even since 2004, the world has come a long way in embracing diversity and inclusion in many different ways small and large. In some ways, however, the progress has been slow. It has been barely 18 months since Australia’s Federal Parliament voted marriage equality into law, a crowning achievement for the LGBTI+ community. This achievement, however, also served to remind us that we still have a way to go to be free of inequality and prejudice.

Every year, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT Day) is also an opportunity for allies of the LGBTI+ community to show their visible support, to declare “I proudly stand with you”, to speak up to reject homophobia, transphobia, interphobia, biphobia, and exclusive behaviour wherever we see it.

Part of that support comes from the understanding that advocating for inclusion is a constant process, and that everyone can play a role no matter how they identify.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

We realise that in our modern age, this discrimination can and does occur in many forms – institutionally and informally, on the street, in the workplace or online.

We sincerely believe everyone who works at Telstra should be able to bring their whole selves to work – and we want that to be true of anyone throughout their career, no matter their place of work.

For our part, we as an organisation are striving to move past simply considering age, gender and ethnicity in our work to instead take a holistic view of diversity, as part of our newly implemented company-wide Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, while prioritising fairness for any under-represented or marginalised groups.

This new strategy sets in stone our intention to use the power of diverse thinking in inclusive teams to pursue innovation – in creating an inclusive environment at Telstra where everyone can thrive, we want to ensure that under-represented people and groups are heard, and that diverse thinking is valued.

To that end, we’ve set up four new employee representative groups to champion diversity across our business, each with a sponsor from our executive leadership team – we want to underline the importance of this representation at every level within our organisation, and for everyone to commit to creating inclusive teams. These new groups come in addition to our long-running SPECTRUM network representing LGBTI employees and their allies at Telstra, now in its 11th year, and our Brilliant Connected Women group pushing forward in gender diversity.

Diversity is a reality; inclusion is a choice. We’ve made the choice to be inclusive, to set an example for others in our professional and personal lives. As an organisation, we’re a foundation member of Pride in Diversity, the national not-for-profit group advancing LGBTI workplace inclusion and the publisher of the Australian Workplace Equality Index. Diversity and inclusion permeates our culture, and we have embedded it in our values and priorities.

We know it has taken a long time for LGBTI+ people across Australia and the world to start to be included. Days like IDAHOBIT Day are important for us to recognise that there is still a lot more to do to champion diversity and inclusion in all its forms. Today is a day for us to remember that we all have a role to play to drive the change necessary to ensure our society and workplaces are equal for all people.