Dionne Woo on the importance of ensuring a safe and supportive environment for SiteMinder’s LGBTQIA+ community



In the lead up to Pride Month, SiteMinder’s Chief People Officer, Dionne Woo, spoke with People Matters about SiteMinder’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace.

People Matters: The new age workforce calls for a changed method of workforce management. For years, leaders have kept away from direct dialogues with employees. But does the situation call for an employee-leader dialogue exchange for awareness creation?

Dionne Woo: Transparency and open communication between SiteMinder’s leaders and employees has long been at the very core of our culture. We pride ourselves on being direct and straight-talking people, and welcome the contribution of ideas from team members at all levels across the business.

Sankar Narayan, our CEO and Managing Director, holds a monthly virtual town hall meeting in each region where he shares key operating metrics, people news and updates on major projects with all staff, and a fundamental aspect of that regular session is the live Q&A. Employees have the opportunity to anonymously submit questions in real time, and Sankar answers them during the meeting. While these exchanges can touch on difficult or controversial topics, we believe all employee questions are worthy of respect and highly value the engagement that they represent. Attendance is consistently high, and importantly the meetings set a tone of open communication that can then snowball throughout the business.

PM: How did remote working affect the mindset of people towards LGBTQ employees? Was there any change noticed in inclusivity toward them?

DW: At SiteMinder, we are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment where all of our employees feel safe, supported and encouraged to bring their whole selves to work. And part of that is ensuring that our staff are educated on both the up and downsides that LGBTQIA+ employees can experience while working remotely.

For some within the LGBTQIA+ community, remote work can be more isolating than normal, amplifying the exclusion they feel in a traditional working environment, or highlighting their lack of home support. While for others, remote work can be a safe space to carry out a job without having to worry about the factors that intersect in a standard workplace. It can also be particularly useful when LGBTQIA+ people are transitioning, or dealing with mental health issues.

By maintaining regular education sessions with our external partner, Pride in Diversity, we seek to provide our people with all of the tools they need to be more inclusive in their day-to-day. This, alongside ensuring that our Pride Employee Resource Group is active and filled with supportive allies (including company leaders), and making our support more overt with small yet significant initiatives such as providing new meeting backgrounds to celebrate LGBTQIA+ days of significance, has meant that we’ve actually been able to lean into our LGBTQIA+ community more now than before remote working became a reality.

PM: Do you think that redrawing diversity policies and ensuring employment irrespective of sexual orientation can have a sustainable impact on employee retention in a market running short of talent?

DW: Absolutely. LGBTQIA+ employees want to work in an environment that’s free from discrimination, where they can be 100% authentic and be recognised for the work they do, and this is not only a huge driver of retention, but also attraction.

At SiteMinder, it’s been vital to create a genuinely impartial and unbiased workplace for all of our people. We offer equitable parental leave policies for women, men and LGBTQIA+ members, and ensure that our management staff are acutely aware of any individual biases they may hold.

We also deeply understand that without diversity, we rob ourselves of the creative thinking, innovative ideation and stronger bottom-line results that truly diverse teams have the capacity to deliver.

PM: Can you share a picture of the DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) vertical in the ANZ region? How are the HR professionals working towards making the work environment better for all?

DW: It’s undeniable that the workplace of today is vastly different to even the recent past, with growing evidence displaying that talent acquisition, retention and business performance are all inextricably linked to strong DEI policies. Global movements like Black Lives Matter have heightened awareness around systemic issues for minority groups and shone a light on the need to champion diversity in all areas of life, including the workplace. In fact, over four-in-five (84%) Australians say it’s important that the organisation they are applying to supports DEI initiatives, a sentiment shared in New Zealand, with three-in-four NZ employers confirming that diversity is a priority area for their organisation.

Across the ANZ region and around the world, it cannot be overlooked how disproportionately the pandemic impacted people in minority groups. This placed DEI even higher on the agenda, as companies were under the microscope as to how they responded to the crisis and supported those most vulnerable. For a number of ANZ businesses, COVID-19 accelerated the extension of DEI policies beyond umbrella measures to more targeted efforts to help level the playing field, which was an important holistic development.

PM: How is SiteMinder working towards creating an inclusive working environment for LGBTQ employees?

DW: Openness has been at the core of SiteMinder’s business for over 15 years. In fact, it is the essence of our brand. With offices in seven locations globally, the organic diversity of our team by culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion has long been openly celebrated.

For our LGBTQIA+ community specifically, an environment of inclusion has been fostered from both the top-down and bottom-up, and by partnering with external organisations like Pride in Diversity to hold events for all employees, we can raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by our LGBTQIA+ employees, both at work and in society.

We know that building LGBTQIA+ policies grounded in equality will lead to improved health and work outcomes — minimising stress and anxiety, increasing job satisfaction and allowing our LGBTQIA+ community to thrive.

As originally published in People Matters. 


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