As Diversity and Inclusion become more central to the values and DNA of organisations worldwide, I wanted to look at what it looks like to be LGBT in the workplace in 2018.
We have certainly come a long way and as a recruiter, I see first-hand how important diversity is for employers, with many now asking for more diverse shortlists. In addition, following the Equality Act 2010, businesses are legally obliged to make sure they promote fairness, improve equal job opportunities and prevent discrimination at work.
Various studies have proven time and time again that a more diverse and inclusive workforce leads to increased productivity and therefore more successful organisations, the line of thought being that people from different backgrounds can share different ideas and work together in more creative ways. Inclusion is about feeling accepted at work and people tend to perform better when they can be themselves.
It is therefore surprising that new research by Stonewall, Britain’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality, highlight that more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination and nearly two in five bi people (38%) aren’t out to anyone at work.1
Why is this? I am lucky enough to have worked in environments where you are treated the same regardless of your sexuality. But many are not so lucky. According to the report, workplace bullying is cited as a serious problem with almost one in five having been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they are LGBT. The issue is exacerbated for LGBT staff who are black, Asian, minority ethnic, trans or disabled.
Nearly one in four trans people (24%) said they did not get a promotion they were up for at work because they were trans, compared to seven per cent of lesbian, gay and bi people who aren’t trans.
In addition to workplace bullying, I believe there is another reason people are choosing to hide their sexuality and it is linked to one of the reasons we see less women in senior positions – heterosexual male dominance. For years, we have been socialised to believe that only if you are a heterosexual male can you become successful and take command of organisations. As such, there are many people that choose not to come out at work as they feel that in doing so, this will decrease their chances of climbing the corporate ladder. It might sound simple but in order to tackle this, we need to talk more. We need those currently in senior positions to make it known that being LGBT in the workplace is OK. It is not enough to stay silent on the matter and hope that people assume that this is the case, because people are cautious and if they think there is the slightest chance that being gay, bi or trans will affect their chance of promotion against their heterosexual counterparts, they will keep it a secret.
Individuals such as Antonio Simoes (CEO at HSBC), Claudia Brind-Woody (Vice President and Managing Director at IBM) and David Hynam (CEO at Bupa UK) are certainly playing their part in empowering individuals from the top down. Indeed at Investigo, we have an openly out Executive Director who is a great role model for not only LGBT individuals in the business, but everybody in the business. As in many businesses it is often non-LGBT employees whose attitudes need to be shifted and benefit from seeing somebody from a different background in a senior position.
As Pride 2018 approaches, I wanted to think about what is next for the LGBT community in the workplace and what would make me proud.
A good starting place would be to look at some of the organisations featured in Stonewall’s top 100 employers for LGBT equality.