Global tech giant Atlassian will be projecting huge rainbow designs on its Sydney CBD office builiding for a week, beginning tonight, in support of same-sex marriage.
“The reason for that is because we think it’s important to stand up and project… our view on the issue and stand up and support our LGBTI employees,” said Aubrey Blanche, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Atlassian.
“The idea that the most important relationship in your life is being put up for public debate is something that’s really hard to go through.
“And to hear employees say that, ‘Well, at least I can come to work.’ Right, that means something and that says something about the impact and value of us standing up and doing it.
“We recognise that right now is a really fraught time, and our goal is really to spread a little bit more love because we have a fundamental belief that love is love.”
This type of support for employees is engrained in the Atlassian culture by the company’s founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, who say “it is more important than ever for us to stand up for what we believe in”.
There are a number of internal programs the company has to support employees to ensure they feel equal and included among their peers. For Mardi Gras the company flew three rainbow flags from the Sydney office, and more recently introduced “swag dresses” to their line of branded clothing options so that employees who we’re uncomfortable in the standard tech get up of a t-shirt and hoodie, had another alternative.
“We fundamentally know that when people feel like they belong, they do their best work, and they’re happiest, and that’s something that we think is critical to our employees whether they’re here at work or even whether they’re being included in whether they feel like they belong in their daily lives.
“[That’s] the reason that why we’ve been a vocal supporter of marriage equality in Australia, and in our communities around the world since the beginning. We were one of the first companies to sign up to support equality in Australia, but fundamentally we just believe that love doesn’t discriminate. And so, it’s important when we have the option to stand up and speak out on behalf of people where we can.”
Going all in
It was important to Atlassian to show its support for the “Yes” campaign in such a physical way for two reasons, according to Blanche.
“One, is we talk a lot about allyship or about helping your teammates around you feel included and feel like they belong. And so while we coach that for our employees internally, it’s also important that we as a company act as allies, both to our Outlassians, as we call them internally, but also to the broader community. We, Atlassian the company, believe that we’re acting as allies to LGBTI Australians by sharing our voice,” she says.
“The other reason is because, especially nowadays, people want to work with companies that share their values and recognise that if people want to build a new society. We did some research about diversity and inclusion in the tech industry earlier this year, and overwhelmingly, people said that it’s individuals and companies that were really gonna take the lead to create more inclusion in society, and we take that responsibility seriously and we’re very proud to advocate for this.”
Atlassian is a leader in diversity and inclusion in the tech sector. Now, they see that as leverage to get other on board too.
“It’s important is because we want to see ourselves as leaders… and we think that by joining with a lot of other companies to say that “This is great,” we can actually push forward that cause of equality far beyond specifically the walls of Atlassian. But to build a more inclusive version of the tech industry and the business community.
Creating a culture of acceptance
But it’s not all about the grand gestures. Blanches says it’s the day-to-day things that are equally important and makes a difference to people.
“What’s also important is to understand…is what it feels like day-to-day, [which] matters too,” she says.
“It’s not just the PR. It’s also what people feel like day-to-day on our teams. And I can speak from my personal experience, how much easier life is when you’re talking to your boss and you don’t have to worry about whether mentioning your partner is gonna be a career liability. When I come to work every day, I don’t worry about whether I mention my wife and whether someone is gonna look at me strangely. It’s just a normal part of my existence, and it’s one of the reasons that I love Atlassian because I can be fully and authentic with myself.
“That’s a piece of advice that I think every corporate should be thinking about. It’s not just what you say in the big moments, but also what does it feel like in the small ones day to day for your LGBTI employees.”
Overall, Blanche and Atlassian are optimistic about the postal survey for same-sex marriage and so are encouraging all their Australian employees — no matter their position on the issue — to vote.
“We urge all of our employees to participate in the vote, regardless of their view,” she says.
“I think the thing that we say is that people should be able to be open about their views and their viewpoints but that any discussion that’s happening around these topics has to be done in a way that respects the dignity of all of your colleagues. And so as long as you’re discussing your point of view and your position in a way that is respectful, while it’s being open, then that’s good because dialogue is important.”
Here’s a look at what the office will look like this week.