The South African LGBT+ Management Forum, a registered non-profit, in collaboration with supporting large corporate companies, including Procter & Gamble, EY, Absa, Shell and Norton Rose Fulbright, launched the initiative this week.
Companies are invited to participate, free of charge, by completing a set of questions online about LGBT+ equality and inclusion in their company.
They may opt to do so anonymously, or have their contribution to a fairer, more inclusive workplace publicly available.
The index will showcase and celebrate the most LGBT+ inclusive employers in South Africa.
SAWEI is the flagship project of the South African LGBT+ Management Forum.
The forum’s Farai Mo- robane said: “The SAWEI is preceded by similar successful indices in the UK, US, Hong Kong, Canada and other places.
"These overseas predecessors have had a major impact on promoting more inclusive workplaces in their respective countries.
"The South African LGBT+ Management Forum wanted to bring this concept to South Africa, but with a localised flavour, to support companies in identifying opportunities for creating a more inclusive and accepting workplace."
The Forum’s chairperson, Dylan van Vuuren, said South Africa could be proud of the strides the country was making in recognising the importance of inclusion in the workplace.
“A generation ago, such an index would not have been possible, and this launch is indeed a historic moment for all South Africans.
"Similar benchmarks have been highly successful in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong, and are a powerful tool to help companies benchmark themselves against peers and to identify areas of improvement. South Africa is maintaining its status as one of the LGBT+ rights' trailblazers,” he said.
Companies will be tiered rather than scored or ranked and will receive feedback on how they scored in each section relative to their peers.
Keval Harie, director of the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action Trust and a member of the independent SAWEI advisory panel, which guides and ensures the independent nature of the survey questions and results, said: “The launch of the index is a watershed moment.
"It allows us the opportunity, firstly, to measure our workplaces against our constitution and our progressive labour laws in ensuring that meaningful transformation is realised and, secondly, to provide employers and employees alike with valuable insight into ways of creating diverse and safe work spaces," Harie said.