Response rates and engagement

The survey was conducted over four weeks from 6 – 31 May 2019. The rainbow population count of the public service workforce from this survey is 1,191[4]. This count is greater than the number of complete responses (1,078) as some people have multiple identifiers. For example, someone may identify as both gay and transgender. For the purpose of this data analysis we have counted those with more than one identity twice.

Findings from the Workplace Dynamics Survey 2016[5] indicate that approximately 7% of the public service workforce identify as having a non-heterosexual orientation. Based on this estimate, the WeCount 2019 survey captured approximately 30% of the public service rainbow population. Given the response rate and survey methodology the following results may not always reflect the whole rainbow population.

Some agencies had conducted internal diversity and inclusion surveys, just prior to the WeCount 2019 survey. It is possible that this contributed to the low response rate. Anecdotally, we heard that some people were unclear about the purpose and intent of this data collection, causing a reluctance to participate. We also know some people have never felt able to be ‘out’ and despite assurances of anonymity were still reluctant to participate.

We took particular care to protect the anonymity of respondents. These findings are at a systems level. Very early on in the analysis of the data the decision was made to not pursue agency-level reporting for the following reasons:

  • not all agencies would have been represented due to small response numbers in some agencies and the potential to compromise respondent anonymity;
  • if some agencies were not included it could give the unintended impression that responses from those agencies, and therefore people, didn’t count; and
  • there was consistency of themes arising across all agencies in terms of levels of comfort and what helped.

The WeCount 2019 survey has generated lessons beyond the survey findings. These lessons will be helpful in any future engagement with the rainbow community as we continue to build an inclusive public service. Full technical notes on the methodology and interpretation can be found in Appendix 1.

[4] The 1,191 identities equates to 2.2% of the total headcount based on the 2019 Public Service Workforce data.

[5] Plimmer, G., Cantal, C. (2016). Workplace Dynamics in New Zealand Public Services. Wellington: Centre for Labour, Employment and Work, Victoria University of Wellington.

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