Dave Beks is part of the ANZ Pride Network, a support network for LGBTI staff that, since 2007, has helped boost the bank’s HR and corporate sustainability platforms.
The Pride Network has achieved a lot in the past decade – from supporting the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, to consistent nomination as a top-ten company for LGBTI inclusion, to having its members use volunteer time to assist LGBTI organisations.
It’s a group with high-level executive support; Melissa Tandy, who is ANZ’s Senior Manager for governance transformation, is Chair of the network, and says that within the bank, the group has also had a big impact.
“The ANZ Pride Network delivers training and awareness for ANZ staff across all the regions in which we operate,” she says. “That involves educating all our staff about what LGBTI really is, we give them tools and guidelines; and we’re really proud of what we do.”
Dave is a Business Systems Manager in ANZ’s Retail Systems area, but for the last two years, he’s also worked on a different aspect of the business: leading the fifteen-strong team comprising the bank’s Transgender and Gender Diverse working group.
“Transgender Awareness Week is a good time to focus on how we support people who have different gender orientations and expressions rather than the binary masculine and feminine that they may have been born with,” he says.
Dave says that ANZ’s Transgender and Gender Diverse working group has been recognised by Pride in Diversity as the first of its kind in corporate Australia.
The group looks at staff and customer policies and processes “through a transgender and gender diverse lens” and has developed enterprise-wide guidelines to support employees who want to align their gender expression with their gender identity.
Around four percent of Australians are transgender; that’s about the same as the number of Australians who have red hair. Twenty four percent of LGBTI participants to Pride in Diversity's annual employee survey responded to indicate they are gender diverse.
“When you think about it, very few of us are wholly feminine or masculine in all of our expressions or our traits,” Dave says.
Using correct terminologies around transgender and gender diversity, and making that information readily available, is very powerful and empowering, Dave says.
“By creating a common basic understanding and removing misconceptions about the terminologies and people's experiences, we are empowering all our employees.”
Dave says that the training material the group has developed for all bank employees has been very well received by a small test group so far.
“People have said to me, I've never realised what other people go through, and it's a lot to take in, though it's all about respect.” he said.
“Simply understanding the difference between sex and gender can make it easier to grasp what someone is going through and support them,” he says.
Sex or Gender: What’s the difference?
Sex refers to our male / female biological differences, such as our DNA and genitalia.
But gender is more complex than just biology; it’s also our internal sense of ourselves (our gender identity) and our outward representation of that (our gender expression).
Gender scholars point out that the idea that a person is either male or female - “binary gender” - is a construct of Western society, and doesn’t reflect the full spectrum of human gender.
Over time, some people begin to realise that their intrinsic gender doesn’t correlate with binary gender, and they may identify to be transgender, the opposite binary gender or gender diverse.
This is not a new trend, Dave points out. “Gender diversity or gender fluidity have been around forever and accepted to some extent, but some expressions are viewed more benignly - a woman wearing a tie or suit might be more accepted than a man wearing a dress, for example.”
- Gender orientation: Personal experience of physical sex attributes: e.g. female / male / neither
- Gender identity: Intrinsic experience of self and character: man / woman / both / neither
- Gender expression: How we present our combination of gender orientation and gender identity to those around us: masculine / feminine / androgynous / gender neutral.
“We want to support values like integrity, collaboration, and accountability – and this is an on-the-ground way to be inclusive, and live those values.”
Explaining Gender Dysphoria and Transgender
Gender dysphoria can occur when a person’s gender expression or physical sex doesn’t align with their gender identity - for example, if you feel predominantly feminine yet you were born as male sex. It’s a medically recognised experience often involving a sense of strong, persistent discomfort or distress.
Managing gender dysphoria can be helped by awareness and understanding by others. However it’s made worse when there are expectations and external pressure to conform to “norms”.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender orientation, identity or expression doesn’t match the sex recorded when they were born.
Many people ‘transition’ by aligning their gender expression with their gender identity – this is often called “affirming gender identity”. Transition can be medical (through hormone supplements, surgery, and/or speech pathology) or it can be social. There is not a standard to affirming gender, the journey is unique and individual, influenced by many factors.
Examples of Social Affirmations of Gender
Pronouns: Someone affirming their gender may prefer to be called ‘he’ or ‘she’ or another term such as ‘they’ or gender neutral terms such as ‘ze’; in respectful environments, others follow their pronoun preference.
Names: May be changed to reflect an affirmed gender identity.
Appearance: May include makeup, clothing, hair styling, binding and/or tucking and other presentation attributes.
Bathrooms: Respectful environments support people's use of the bathroom of their identity and expression.
Simplifying complex goals
“It can get very complex,” admits Dave.
“But we know that, by recognising and removing any bias to employment, including unconscious ones, and creating an environment that rewards merit over gender identity or expression, ANZ and our people get the best possible outcome.”
Dave points out that ANZ has really adopted the concept of being ‘a learning organisation,’ where education and growth is highly valued and the company is in a state where it is constantly transforming itself.
“We won't be everything to everyone immediately, it’s about systematically improving the diversity, inclusion and respect we give to employees, customers and communities,” he says.
Becoming more inclusive carries a positive payload
Kristine Daniels, a District Manager co-ordinating ANZ branches in North West Victoria, from Mildura to Bendigo, is also on the working group.
She says that much of the work to be done involves making standard procedures more inclusive - which can be as simple as having a process for customers to affirm their gender.
“Our Echuca branch was recently reviewed by an organisation that offers to certify a business for its accessibility towards diverse groups – for example, elderly, indigenous, disabled and LGBTI people,” Kristine says.
“I think that definitely, our branches know how important it is to be inclusive for all our customers and particularly in regions, how they need to support people on staff as well.”
For Kristine, the group reinforces core ANZ values. “We want to support values like integrity, collaboration, and accountability – and this is an on-the-ground way to be inclusive, and live those values.”
“I think diversity is great, and that’s because, when everyone comes to work being 100 per cent themselves, they can relax and be comfortable amongst their colleagues, they have a great day at work, which means that we are operating as a better business,” says Melissa Tandy.
“So ANZ wins, the staff win – and ultimately, our customers will as well.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance
During Transgender Awareness Week, ANZ will support the global Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, by inviting notable figures in local LGBTI communities to five events, held in Melbourne, Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand, in Manilla in Philippines and and at ANZ buildings in Fiji.
“The events commemorate those who have lost their lives due to trans phobia, worldwide,” Dave says.
“As well as commemoration, we also hope to link back to a positive tangible benefit and focus on what we can do together to improve that.”
Writer: Fran Molloy
Photography: Vikk Shayen