‘Rainbow’ is a broad umbrella term that covers a diversity of sexual orientations as well as gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics. Rainbow communities make up 9.4% of the Public Service and Te Taunaki Public Service Census results show that the experience of working in the Public Service can be less positive for some people within these communities.

The data we collect provides information about gender, sex characteristics and sexual identity in the Public Service.


Gender is an individual’s internal sense of being a woman, a man, neither of these, both or somewhere along a spectrum. Gender is not fixed and is able to change. Gender information for public servants has been available since Workforce Data was first produced in 2000 but until 2018, only binary — male/female — data was available.

The latest Workforce Data for 2023 shows 62.2% of public servants are female and 37.3% are male. Results from Te Taunaki  show a similar female/male split but show a greater number of those with other genders/non-binary at 0.5% (0.4% who are another gender, 0.1% with multiple genders).

People of another gender or multiple genders:

  • make up 0.5% of all staff, but account for a smaller 0.2% of managers and leaders.
  • agree they receive learning and development support and opportunities at very similar levels to females and males.
  • have slightly higher qualification levels than males or females.


Te Taunaki asked if people were transgender; transgender or trans refers to people whose gender is different to the sex assigned at their birth. Results indicate that 0.5% of the Public Service are trans.

Stats NZ have released data for the year ending June 2021, which combines other genders with indications of a person being transgender to provide a single figure for ‘transgender and non-binary’ people. This is 0.5% of the New Zealand adult population. This is similar to the figure for Public Service staff from Te Taunaki.

LGBT+ population of Aotearoa: Year ended June 2021 | Stats NZ


Te Taunaki also asked if people had an intersex variation; intersex denotes a number of different variations in a person’s bodily characteristics that are more diverse than strict medical definitions of male or female. Having a variation of sex characteristics is often referred to as being intersex or having an intersex variation. Results indicate that 0.2% of the Public Service are intersex.

The Stats NZ 2023 Census of Populations and Dwellings collected intersex information for the first time, although results have yet to be published.  This fact sheet provides useful context about the intersex community:

2023 Census fact sheet: Variation of sex characteristics (intersex)

Sexual identity

A person’s sexual identity is how they think of their own sexuality and which terms they identify with. In Te Taunaki, 91.2% of respondents identified as heterosexual or straight, and 8.8% identified with a sexual minority (with 4.3% identifying as bisexual, 2.1% as gay, 1.5% as lesbian and 1.0% identified as another sexual identity). These sexual minorities are considerably larger than in the New Zealand adult population. The June 2021 report from Stats NZ reported that 4.1% of people identified with a sexual minority: 1.4% gay or lesbian, 2.1% bisexual, and 0.6% with another sexual identity.

LGBT+ population of Aotearoa: Year ended June 2021 | Stats NZ

Rainbow communities and working in the Public Service

Te Taunaki results indicate that the experience of working in the Public Service can vary by gender, particularly for those who are of another gender or multiple genders, by being transgender, or intersex, and by sexual identity.

For example, in the questions on inclusive workplaces:

  • 82% of staff report ‘feeling comfortable being themselves at work/with their colleagues’. This drops to 72% for intersex staff, 65% for transgender staff, and 61% for those of another gender or multiple genders. For gay and lesbian staff, this was 79%, 74% for bisexual staff, and 70% for other sexual identities.
  • 81% agreed that ‘people in their workgroup behave in an accepting manner towards people from diverse backgrounds’. For transgender staff this was 69%, the same (69%) for those of another gender or multiple genders, and 59% for intersex staff. For gay and lesbian staff this was 79%, 76% for bisexual staff, and 72% for other sexual identities.
  • The results are closer for the question on whether people ‘feel accepted as a valued member of their team’. Overall, 79% agreed with this. There was also agreement from 77% of staff of another gender or multiple genders, 73% from transgender staff, and 63% from intersex staff. There was also agreement from 79% of gay or lesbian staff, 78% from bisexual staff, and 77% from other identities.

On being gendered correctly:

  • 97.2% of Public Service staff felt that most people gendered them correctly. This is lower for people of another gender or multiple genders (52.9%), transgender people (63.8%) or intersex people (83.1%).

Intersection of rainbow and disability:

  • A higher proportion of disabled public servants in Te Taunaki identified as being part of the minority sexual identities or multiple gender/s than non-disabled public servants.

Where rainbow public servants are located:

  • The Wellington region was identified by Stats NZ in 2021 as having the highest proportion of LGBT+  people in New Zealand relative to its population, a finding that was also echoed in Te Taunaki with 58% of sexual minority public servants working in Wellington, compared to 44.3% of their straight or heterosexual colleagues.
  • Rainbow public servants who worked outside major centres faced challenges with accessing employee-led network support, and often felt more isolated.

Rainbow representation in senior leadership

Te Taunaki found that rainbow public servants were underrepresented at all levels of management: 6.2% of senior leaders (tiers 1 to 3) were part of a rainbow community, 7.6% of tier 4, and 6.6% of tier 5 (or another type of manager or team leader). All of these were lower than the overall rainbow proportion of the Public Service (9.4%). 

A driver for this underrepresentation is likely to be that rainbow public servants tended to be younger than their non-Rainbow colleagues - this is similar to what is seen in Aotearoa’s LGBT+ population overall in the Stats NZ 2020 report.

LGBT+ population of Aotearoa: Year ended June 2020 — Stats NZ

Patterns in leadership varied across the specific rainbow communities that were asked about in Te Taunaki. For example:

  • 2.6% of senior leaders (tiers 1 to 3) identified as gay, which is a slightly higher proportion than in the Public Service overall (2.1%). 
  • Bisexual public servants were the most under-represented, with 1.9% of senior leaders with this sexual identity, compared to 4.3% of public servants overall.
  • 0.5% of senior leaders were transgender, the same as the proportion of transgender people in the Public Service overall (also 0.5%)
  • Intersex public servants and public servants of another and/or multiple gender/s were represented across the leadership levels, including senior leaders, but because of small numbers and the associated privacy rules, no specific figures can be provided.

Further information

A more in-depth look at rainbow public servants in Te Taunaki is available in the deep dive reports:

Deep Dive Trans

Deep Dive Sexual Identities

Deep Dive Rainbow Gender

Deep Dive Intersex

For more data, see the Census drilldown data cubes.

Data drilldown and technical guidance

Read about the results of our 2019 WeCount survey.

Inclusion & Our Rainbow Public Service