We Count

We Count

The results of a survey of rainbow public servants suggest a significant proportion still don’t feel comfortable being out in their workplaces.

More than 30% of lesbian, gay and bisexual public service workers who responded to the State Service Commission’s We Count Survey last year reported being uncomfortable being open or out at work.

While only a small number of  gender diverse/transgender and intersex workers responded to the survey, more than half of those that did also felt uncomfortable being out at work.

While more than 1000 workers responded to the survey, the SSC says the findings can’t be applied to the general rainbow population as it was a self-selected sample.


However, Out&psa Convenor Caleb Gordon says the results are not surprising.

“It puts some data behind what a lot of us know to be true. We have members coming to us with clearcut cases of homophobia from colleagues. Bullying can also extend outside the workplace and onto social media.”

The SSC We Count survey follows a survey for the PSA in 2013 which found 2.9% of respondents had been discriminated against due to sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, about a third of the 377 complaints the Human Rights Commission received about alleged discrimination due to sexual orientation between 2008 and 2019 were in the area of employment.

Caleb says those figures are likely to just be the tip of the iceberg.

“People often just leave. They don’t report their experiences because if they do they have to out themselves.”

Respondents to the We Count survey also spoke of the risk to their career aspirations if they were open about who they are and of self-limiting their aspirations in order to ‘not come out’.

A quarter of all respondents said none of their colleagues gendered them correctly by using correct names and pronouns.


Wellington International Pride Parade


The SSC says the findings show we have come some way, but more needs to be done to ensure everyone is comfortable.

It’s identified the need to deal with judgemental behaviour, ensure no one feels vulnerable or intimidated, and improve recruitment practices.

The SSC says chief executives will increasingly be accountable for diversity and inclusion. It’s also working on inclusive leadership, addressing bias, creating tools for using inclusive language and promoting employee-led networks.

Caleb says the SSC is on the right track but sometimes it feels like it’s not a priority.

“Agencies need to listen to staff members, challenge inappropriate behaviours and make people feel like their comfort is important to them.

“There needs to be a cultural shift so people feel they can bring their whole selves to work.

Caleb says small signs are important such as establishing visible and accessible rainbow networks in workplaces, and providing unisex toilets.


Out@psa is also working to become more visible so members know they can turn to it if they have issues.

The network is working to educate people outside the rainbow community about how they can they can help build a more diverse culture.

Caleb urges everyone to stand up for their rainbow colleagues by calling out harmful comments and behaviours.

For more information or support on these issues contact out@psa.org.nz 


An out@psa member says discrimination is just under the surface in her workplace.

The lesbian public service worker recalls a colleague commenting that an intranet story about Pride events wasn’t an appropriate use of their website.

“I was really surprised it came from that person. It made me want to be invisible.”

The woman says she fears her career prospects could be harmed if she was completely open about her sexuality.

“I’m very careful about how out I am and who I am out to. We are not welcoming for anyone who is not white and straight.

“If you are a woman you need to be a heterosexual woman, you need to play the game.”

The member says managers have attended unconscious bias training and a rainbow network has been set up in her organisation but she has yet to see real change on the ground.

She says the work of out@psa is valuable for rainbow members.



Also in this issue:

‘We thank you for your brave stand’

As forty or so people gathered in the blazing Wairarapa sun, only two had ever joined a protest before in their lives. Within twenty minutes, they were leading their own chants and you could hear them for miles.

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“Remember the loss but also remember the hope”

PSA delegate Benjamin Gresham says the Christchurch Invitation is a call to spread peace, reconnect, and feed the hungry - which draws on the teachings of the Muslim tradition.

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Leading the charge on contractor rights

The PSA made a change to its rules in 2018 by enabling contractors and labour hire workers to become members.

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Make it Real

Their work often goes unnoticed - but they’re the ones that keep organisations running smoothly, the ones you turn to when things go wrong, the ones that are first to greet the public.

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Mana Wahine Claim goes to Waitangi

The stall gave us an opportunity to kōrero kanohi ki te kanohi with the wider community about the kaupapa of Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina’s Waitangi Tribunal claim.

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Opportunities and issues with new bill

The PSA welcomes most aspects of the bill - but there are issues it does not address and we drew these to the attention of the select committee.

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"We have come too far to not go further"

The Public Service in its current form is failing Māori. This is abundantly clear as Māori are over-represented in all negative social statistics. We need a public service that delivers for Māori.

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The PSA’s greatest victory?

On 29 March 1974 more than 600 uniformed school dental nurses proceeded silently down Wellington’s Lambton Quay. It was, as one observer noted, “almost certainly the largest demonstration of women since the days of the suffragettes”.

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Maranga Mai

The guiding purpose of Maranga mai o ngā whakangungu ā rohe is to enable Māori delegates to use their perspective and experience to advocate for Te Tiriti o Waitangi in their workplaces.

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Pacific organisers speak of challenges and triumphs

The organisers from Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Australia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands were attending the International Trade Union Confederation-Asia Pacific workshop in Nadi in November.

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Climate Talk

Tried talking to your Dad about the bushfires in Australia only to discover he’s a climate change denier?

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Holiday Home Snaps

The snaps from holiday home stays around the country show just how much fun and relaxation our PSA accommodation has to offer .

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The Marlene Pitman Award

This award was originally created in honour of Marlene Pitman, who passed away on 16th January 2010, to recognise her membership and service of 25 years. As an activist at Child Youth and Family, she was convenor of the Social Services sector committee and an executive board member for 2 years, a delegate for 23 years and a hardworking member of Te Komiti o Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina.

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Radio NZ

A groundswell of public and political opposition to that plan soon led to a backdown from the RNZ Board and management.

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Book Review: Pay Packets and Stone Walls

At the beginning of her memoir Elizabeth Orr pledges to tell the truth about the fight for pay equity for women, her reasoning being that it has lessons for the future.

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New CTU Secretary Looks to the Future

“I had completed a conjoint arts and law degree so the position tapped into my passion for drama and the arts as well as my knowledge of employment law and policy,” the 31 year-old recalls.

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Leading the Way

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On the Job

“I can help with mental and physical health problems. I want to provide a service where they don’t need to see lots of people.

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Te Reo o te Tari

*Good morning.* Mōrena/Ata mārie. *Welcome to (workplace).* Nau mai ki . *Are you busy?* He nui ō mahi? *I am very busy!* He tino nui aku mahi! *No. I am not very busy. Kāo.* Kāore i nui aku mahi. Kei te aha koe? *What are you doing? *Kei te tuhituhi au. *I am writing. *Kei te mahi au.* I am working.*

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