Scientists from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, will be proudly marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade as the city hosts WorldPride 2023.
CSIRO’s team of 70 LGBTQIA+ staff and allies will don their dancing shoes and lab coats, grooving to Kylie Minogue, Icona Pop and Charli XCX in a celebration of diversity, acceptance and equality.
In 2022, CSIRO achieved a Silver Employer Status in the Australian Workplace Equality Index and continues to improve LGBTQIA+ inclusion across the organisation.
This includes significant policy changes like the introduction of gender affirmation leave in 2022, to smaller positive signifiers like the inclusion of pronouns in email signatures, gender-neutral bathrooms, and support structures for LGBTQIA+ staff.
25-year-old Kamilaroi man and CSIRO Research Assistant, Ethan Towns, said he is glad he signed up to participate in this year’s Mardi Gras at the encouragement of a colleague.
“Coming out as gay in a town of cotton farmers at 18 years old wasn’t easy,” said Ethan, who grew up in Wee Waa, New South Wales.
“But returning to work at CSIRO right after coming out was a stabilising experience for me. It was a place I knew I wouldn’t be judged.”
The theme of CSIRO’s float is ‘Geek Out’, and Ethan has learned to take pride in the many facets that make up his identity as an openly gay Aboriginal man with a love for science.
Studies show LGBTQIA+ people in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sector are more likely to face career limitations and harassment than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers.
CSIRO scientist Renee Birchall, from Perth, said small acts of allyship and visibility can help create a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people.
“I had a young scientist open up to me because they saw a pride pin on my lanyard. This started a dialogue about my experience with LGBTIQA+ inclusion at work and resulted in them coming out at work for the first time, and even participating in Mardi Gras.” Renee said.
“Seeing other visible LGBTQIA+ people in the organisation, especially senior team members, is really empowering to people who don’t have a safe space to just be themselves outside of work.
“I’m glad I can be the person I wish I’d seen when I was growing up.”
CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said valuing diversity empowers people and is essential to foster innovation, creativity and productivity.
“Our research breakthroughs and solutions from science wouldn’t be possible without the unique perspectives and experiences of our people,” Dr Marshall said.
“Diversity is the compass to guide us through the ambiguity of innovation, so for us, diversity and inclusion can’t be just buzzwords, they have to be part of our DNA.
“I’m proud to be marching shoulder-to-shoulder with some of CSIRO’s brightest minds, celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community" he said.