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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Victoria empowers emerging LGBTIQ+ leaders

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By Emily Woods in Melbourne
Source: AAP

After Kim Lee came out as transgender to his manager at NAB, he remembers watching the security doors at the front of the building.

“I was sitting there watching people go in and out and I had a moment where I was telling myself, ‘I know I’m not the only trans and gender diverse person in NAB but I don’t know anyone else like me in this huge organisation’,” he tells AAP.

His experience at the bank had been a positive one and he wanted to ensure every other trans or gender diverse person working there was similarly supported.

“Even though it was a very inclusive space, it wasn’t trans or gender diverse ready yet in terms of policies; there were no gender affirmation guidelines,” Lee says.

“I understood the invisibility of people in my community within the corporate space.

“I wanted any other human being that goes through those doors to have the same opportunities, the same sense of belonging, that I have.”

Since he began working at NAB in 2014, the data analyst has achieved a number of milestones as an LGBTIQ+ leader within the organisation.

As co-chair of NAB’s Trans and Gender Diverse Customer Experience team, the 36-year-old helped to roll out the bank’s first gender affirmation guidelines.

He also worked to transform the bank’s legacy system so NAB customers can change their gender.

“It was really hard for people who were gender non-conforming, non-binary, to actually call up and go to a branch and say ‘I’m not comfortable with my salutation,'” Lee says.

“To be able to have those changes and to actually give equitable services to all trans and gender diverse people is a huge win and I was super proud of that.

“It’s a small thing for some but it could be the 100th time someone went through something that invalidated their identity or their existence.”

For him, leadership is about being vulnerable and “being able to share your story with pride”.

Last year Lee participated in a Victorian government program for emerging LGBTIQ+ leaders, which he says empowered him to continue with his ambitions as a leader in the community.

“It was an eye opener for me, to show that what I was doing was right but also that I shared the same passion and energy with so many other people,” he says.

He wants to encourage more people from multicultural backgrounds to participate in the course, which recently opened for applications.

“I really want more Asian representation and more culturally and linguistically diverse people to attend the course,” Lee says.

“We don’t have enough Asian representation in terms of leadership in our spaces.”

Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ commissioner Todd Fernando says the state has progressed “a long way in terms of queering the workspace”.

“Part of the challenge was people felt uncomfortable presenting who they were, or being who they are inside the work environment,” he says.

“If we look to corporate culture, we see that there are strict guidelines about what it means to work in that environment and for many LGBTIQ+ people those guidelines sometimes didn’t allow them to present accurately or authentically.”

He says it’s important colleagues and managers don’t just acknowledge people’s cultural identity but see it as a strength for the organisation.

Fernando says the leadership program brings LGBTIQ+ leaders from multiple sectors together to allow them to develop their skills and network in a safe and inclusive environment.

Applications are now open for 25 emerging Victorian LGBTIQ+ leaders to join the program over eight weeks between February and March 2022.

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