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Tag: diversity-and-inclusion

Connecting love: our stories from Midsumma


Posted on February 9, 2018

5 min read

One of the great things about working for Telstra is the opportunity to make a real difference in the community. I’m feeling especially proud of the role we’ve just played as the technology partner to Midsumma, Australia’s premiere queer arts and culture festival, held in Melbourne each year.

While I’ve enjoyed Midsumma before, this year was different. I am part of Telstra’s Diversity and Inclusion team, and worked closely with the organisers in the lead up the lead up to the festival. And I also jumped at the opportunity to be a Telstra Citizen Reporter, a voluntary role which saw me attending events throughout the three week festival, sharing the Midsumma experience through my own social media accounts.

There was a lot to share. The three-week festival included some truly awe inspiring events this year. Besides Carnival Day and Pride March, there was a wide array of shows to see – theatre, musical theatre, stand up, cabaret, art exhibitions. Midsumma truly caters to the wider LGBT+ community, and personally I loved their stronger focus on the Indigenous LGBT+ community this year.

I was one of six Telstra Citizen Reporters in 2018. As we return to normal life this week, I’ve asked some of them to share a little of their Midsumma experiences this year.

Elana Monteleone is a sub-editor and copywriter in Telstra’s Knowledge Team, and a TV binge-watching, taekwondo enthusiast.

She keeps coming back to Midsumma as a Telstra Citizen Reporter for the variety of events and the welcoming people who attend them – even in heatwave conditions.

“Despite blistering heat, this year’s Pride March had a more celebratory feel. With the Marriage Bill finally amended, participants and spectators took the opportunity to relish in the win. The determination now shifts to other matters, as there is still so much to work to do beyond the yes vote.”

Stephanie Dickson has been attending Midsumma since she was a child. Now an Executive Assistant, Consumer & Small Business, with three very different degrees to her name, she was delighted to share her ongoing enthusiasm for the festival.

“I felt more connected being a Telstra Citizen Reporter but I also think there was more awareness this year about the other events. Previously, people have been very focused on Carnival and Pride but I think there was more talk of the other events this year which is great.”

Another long term Midsumma participant, Adam Sparnon is a Customer Experience Program Specialist by day and a sci-fi enthusiast and coach away from work. He found this year’s involvement of a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds particularly inspiring.

“My greatest impression of Midsumma this year was the friendly, inclusive social nature of people attending events across the festival period. I’ve found the events both fun and at times deeply insightful.

“And I felt a sense of pride to be representing an organisation which visibly supports diversity and inclusion by actively participating in Midsumma.”

Pride in Telstra’s support for Midsumma is a common thread in all of our experience over the three weeks of the festival.

“It’s heartening to know that Telstra actively shows support for the LGBT+ community by partnering with Midsumma. Many can say they value and strive for diversity and inclusion, but actions speak louder than words,” said Elana.

I’ll let Sophie Stewart from our Copper Continuity Process Support team have the last word.

“As I’ve just recently moved here, this was my first ever experience with Midsumma and it has easily been my favourite thing about Melbourne so far. I was overwhelmed by the audiences at every event that I went to; it was such a breath of fresh air to be a part of a community who wants to support one another and support the parts of the community that deserve our support and understanding.

“Knowing that the company I work for played a part in sponsoring this festival filled me with great pride. I believe all people should be supportive of diversity and inclusion and I love knowing that my workplace is one of the ones leading the way. I was so grateful to Midsumma for giving me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the lived experiences of people who identify as LGBT+.”

Midsumma is Australia’s premiere queer arts and culture festival, held in Melbourne each year. We have proudly partnered with Midsumma since 2011. We see the connection of queer culture and what we do as a company that connects people to the things they love as a natural partnership and as important in championing an inclusive culture for our people.  This is at the heart of why we proudly show up each year at Midsumma. 

As technology partner, we are proud to provide phone and internet services to the Midsumma team, enabling them to be brilliantly connected. Our volunteer social media reporters attend Midsumma events and promote through their social media accounts, encouraging others to attend the variety of events on offer.

More CEOs named Joan than John? How VR may tip the balance


Posted on January 25, 2018

3 min read

There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. In part it’s the Remarkable ideas behind each of the program’s tech4good startups. But mostly, it’s the Remarkable people making these ideas a reality. With applications closing soon for the 2018 program, we want to share these Remarkable Stories. This is Annie’s.

Annie Harper isn’t someone you could easily forget. In Silicon Valley she was known as the blue-haired hacker (not to mention a feisty cage fighter). Now based in Sydney, she’s a surfing, salsa dancing, rock-climbing tech entrepreneur.

But there’s one or two times even Annie has felt invisible.

“I remember sitting in an audience last year while our co-founder Brennan was presenting on our startup Equal Reality,” Annie explained. “During the presentation Brennan pointed me out in the crowd as his co-founder while talking about my virtual reality graphic animation.”

“Straight after the presentation, a man came bounding up and shook the hand of man next me – congratulating him on his work and wanting to learn more. It hadn’t occurred to him that it was the 5’5″ blonde girl to his right who was the animator,” Annie laughed.

It’s ironic that this was exactly the type of unconscious bias experiences that had inspired the 32-year-old alongside partners Brennan Hatton and Rick Martin to create Equal Reality – the world’s first interactive diversity and inclusion training using high-end virtual reality (VR) technology.

Annie met Brennan three years ago while both working in Silicon Valley. She’d taught herself to code and was at Intel’s RealSense lab building brain-computer interface prototypes. At the same time Brennan was pioneering augmented reality (AR) technology, creating virtual worlds and communities, and founding his own companies in AR and VR.

Equal Reality - Remarkable Tech VR startup

The pair connected through their passion for adventure and the outdoors – on weekends you’ll find them canyoning, rock-climbing or even abseiling from bridges. But there was something deeper that brought them together. They both possessed a niggling feeling that they could use technology and their skills for social change. And it was a feeling they couldn’t let go of.

“When I first said to Brennan that sexism exists in our industry, he was surprised – he hadn’t seen it,” Annie said. “We talked about the unconscious biases people don’t even realise they bring to the workplace, stereotyping various groups of people, such as people with disabilities or those from different ethnicities, and yes, male-to-female biases.”

“We know these biases lead to discrimination, but how do you prevent them? How do you prevent something that people don’t even know that they do? We realised that VR technology was the perfect way to make an impact.”

There’s no doubt understanding personal unconscious biases can be hard through a PowerPoint presentation or corporate seminar. But through the immersive experience of VR, Equal Reality allows users to step into someone else’s shoes and feel the impacts of unconscious bias.

“We want to help companies shape their culture through high-end VR technology and experiential learning,” Annie said. “Equal Reality gives people the lived experience of different ethnicities, ages and physical impairments, helping them to understand their own prejudices through the eyes of others.”

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a thousand pictures.”

11 teams, 72 hours, one goal: building tech solutions for people with disabilities

Tech and Innovation

Posted on December 13, 2017

3 min read

TOM (Tikkun Olam Makers), is a global non-profit movement bringing together people with disabilities and ‘Makers’ to develop open source assistive technology to address everyday challenges. After its successful debut in 2016, TOM: Melbourne was back for a second year running from 1-3 December.

TOM: Melbourne was a three day ‘marathon of making’ in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology to develop affordable, assistive technology that addresses the needs of people with disabilities.

Teams of Makers – engineers, product designers, innovators and problem solvers, were connected with Need Knowers – individuals with a deep understanding of a specific disability or challenge, to develop hardware and software prototypes.

In collaboration with communities, organisations, and corporations worldwide, TOM brings together social activism, open innovation, and open source to work directly with people in need to address areas where market forces fail.

TOM inspires the tech community to use their skills for good and make a positive impact. There were 11 challenges which consisted of things that able-bodied people take for granted, but addressed the needs of people with disabilities, from being able to dry yourself independently, being able to play golf, stirring boiling liquids in a pot, going fishing, or just being able to draw independently.

Telstra Labs supported the event as a TOM Change Maker, assisting with judging and mentoring, and a team of Telstra graduates formed Team7 to tackle the Seeing Eye Dog harness challenge.

Harness handles for Seeing Eye Dogs vary in length depending on individual users, meaning specialised handles with varied lengths are required to be made for every user. Furthermore, Seeing Eye dog harnesses have the potential to incorporate technological features. Can the Seeing Eye Dog harness be redesigned to be both ‘smart’ and adjustable?

The team took on both problems and made many prototypes of the adjustable harness over the 72 hours, testing it with their Need Knower, Sif, as well as adding a Bluetooth button to the harness which was able to trigger different events on the Need Knower’s phone, from starting navigation, answering calls, or being able to find friends nearby using an app developed over the weekend.

As part of the closing ceremony, Sif was able to demonstrate the new handle and described how much of a difference this will make to her life. In fact, every Need Knower said something similar about each solution, which reinforces the whole purpose of the event.

Team7 was made up entirely of current Telstra Graduates, including Elise Ajay, David Andersson, Josh Hart, James Coburn, Mathew Greaves, Ben Tutone and Taylor Brown.

IDAHOT: Why I’m taking a stand against discrimination


Posted on May 16, 2017

3 min read

In 2017, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) is celebrating the theme “love makes a family”. Today Sarah McGeehan shares her reflections on how her family relationships and life experiences have profoundly shaped the way she shows up at work as a leader.

I’m a step mum, which means when I got married 20 years ago, I had an instant family of three beautiful kids.

They’ve been in my life for a long time now and our middle son Jack is gay.

It was only during his coming out that I saw some of the discrimination he faced, which made me reflect on how tolerant I’d been when experiencing prejudice or discrimination in my own life.

When it came to issues around gender imbalance in the workplace, I’d always thought “I’m a woman in business – this is just how it is”. Or when I was working in another country I always thought “I’m a New Zealander trying to forge a career in the UK – this is just how it is”.

It was only when I spoke with my son about the discrimination he encountered during his coming out, that I realised I had absolutely no tolerance for that.

At this point in my life my thinking shifted entirely to, “I won’t sit by while you present less opportunities to my son than anyone else – that’s just not acceptable”.

And it’s this lived experience from my personal life that has shaped how I am in the workplace.

In a leadership position, I know I can make a difference. I want to be very visible about supporting equality for everyone, so I’m working to not only create a better working environment, but ensure I’m supporting people who don’t feel included at work.

Through my work with Telstra’s internal network for LGBT+ employees and allies – Spectrum – I’ve met people in our company I normally wouldn’t have met. It’s allowed me to learn more about our company and more about our people. As a leader, that’s an important part of what I should and can be doing.

Importantly, the Spectrum network is not just for people who identify as LGBT+. There are lived experiences my LGBT+ colleagues have that I never will.  But as an ally, I believe we all have a role to play to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

This year alone we’ve signed up 81 new Telstra leaders to our Executive Allies for LGBT+ Inclusion to our 1000+ strong Spectrum network, which shows our organisation’s growing commitment to embracing and respecting all forms of diversity.

Everyone wants to be accepted and belong.  I love my team and value the relationships I have with my workmates and the supportive environment I work in.

If I want this for myself, why would I want anything less for others?

I can –  we all can – do more to champion diversity and inclusion.

So, join me and ask yourself: what will you to do to stand up against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia?

Telstra’s committed to being inclusive at all levels of the company – and this is supported through our Values, Cultural Priorities and our Diversity & Inclusion and Discrimination & Bullying policies. Find out more.

#IDAHOT2016: Celebrating diversity

Telstra Careers

Posted on May 16, 2016

3 min read

Telstra is proud to again support the International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia. We need to support and encourage everyone and make sure their wellbeing is taken care of by preventing discrimination, writes Hugh Bradlow Chief Scientist at Telstra and a member of Telstra’s LGBTI Executive Champion group.

Technology has the potential to dramatically improve our world by addressing issues such as sustainability, improving healthcare, and making our cities smarter.

Progress however, is not just about technology it is just as clearly about social change and sometimes, as with all progress, this comes with varying views.

It’s important to show understanding of all people and respect everyone’s right to hold their own views. We need to support and encourage everyone and make sure their wellbeing is taken care of by preventing discrimination.

That is why events such as the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) are so important. As a society we need to stand up and assert that we stand for progress.

I want to live in a society that embraces progress and respects all forms of diversity – our support for IDAHOT is an important step on that journey.

And now, I’d like to introduce you to Andrew Georgiou, a Project Specialist in our Operations team and a member of Spectrum, Telstra’s internal network for LGBTI identifying people and allies.

Andrew Georgiou Bio Photo Picture

May 17 is a special day to me. It’s the day I get to celebrate my birthday with the global day aimed at drawing people’s attention to the discrimination still faced by same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse people and a celebration of sexual diversity and gender diversity. IDAHOT’s date was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organisation removing homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases in 1990.

May also marks my anniversary joining Telstra, and 2016 represents my five year milestone. Since January last year, I have had the opportunity to be one of Melbourne’s council member representatives for our internal network for LGBTI employees and allies – Spectrum.

I know personally how important LGBTI inclusion is in the workplace, so that we can bring our whole selves to work and contribute fully to delivering for our customers and each other. We all have a role to play in changing the organisational norms and structures, and ensure our workplace is inclusive for all people.

I am already an out and proud employee and it gives me a greater sense of pride knowing that Telstra supports the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.