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Inclusion Is More Than Just a Luxury for LGBTQ+ Job Seekers

Pride pin on a jacket

About 3 in 4 Generation Z job seekers who identify as LGBTQ+ expressed reservations about joining a workplace where they didn’t feel comfortable being out at work, according to a survey of 2,000 students and recent graduates from around the world.

The report, conducted by myGwork, a London-based business community for LGBTQ+ professionals, found that 36 percent of students and graduates identify as LGBTQ+. Seventy-five percent of LGBTQ+ respondents expressed reluctance to work for a company where they couldn’t be their authentic selves due to fear of:

  • Being discriminated against.
  • Facing bias.
  • Being given limited opportunities for the training or development required to progress.

“Given that Gen Z will constitute a third of the workforce by 2030, with a significant portion identifying as LGBTQ+, organizations must prioritize LGBTQ+ inclusion to attract and retain this crucial talent pool,” said Adrien Gaubert, co-founder of myGwork.

Additional findings include:

  • 80 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents believe that being LGBTQ+ will make it more challenging for them to reach senior leadership positions.
  • 80 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents said that seeing visible LGBTQ+ role models in senior positions would influence their decision to accept a job offer from that company.
  • LGBTQ+ respondents of color attach slightly higher importance to having visible LGBTQ+ role models and allies in leadership roles (8 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is low and 10 is high) compared with white LGBTQ+ respondents (7).

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Ensuring Workplace Inclusion for LGBTQ+ Employees]

It’s not just the LGBTQ+ community that values inclusion, equity and diversity (IE&D) in the workplace. Many young workers of all backgrounds are demanding a work environment that celebrates differences and foster a sense of belonging, Gaubert said.

“Employers should therefore actively work towards creating diverse teams, promoting an inclusive culture and addressing issues related to equity,” he said. “After all, a commitment to diversity and inclusion not only attracts Gen Z talent but also contributes to a more innovative and dynamic work environment.”

Nearly Half of LGBTQ+ Respondents Have Witnessed Discrimination

The survey’s findings highlighted persistent concerns about discrimination, with three-quarters expressing reluctance to join a company where they couldn’t be open about their identities.

Almost half of all LGBTQ+ students and graduates (48 percent) have witnessed discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at their place of study or work, compared with just 32 percent of students and graduates who do not identify as LGBTQ+.

Support for LGBTQ+ inclusion has reached record levels, but discrimination against this group of employees remains prevalent in U.S. workplaces. The number of LGBTQ+-based sex discrimination charges filed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission grew each year from 2017 to 2022, the last year the data was available.

Further, a 2021 survey of 935 LGBTQ+ adults by the Williams Institute, part of the UCLA School of Law, found that:

  • Nearly half of LGBTQ+ workers (46 percent) have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives.
  • LGBTQ+ employees of color were more likely to report being denied jobs and being subjected to verbal harassment.
  • Many LGBTQ+ employees reported engaging in "covering" behaviors to avoid harassment or discrimination at work.

Shawnie Hawkins, SHRM-CP, senior director of the Human Rights Campaign's workplace equality program, said inclusive corporate policies have become more common, but many LGBTQ+ workers still face biases in their workplace that prevent them from advancing in their careers.

“The possibility of a negative impact on their career keeps proud LGBTQ+ workers closeted in fear of discrimination, privacy concerns and, in certain instances, losing their jobs,” she said. “When someone has to hide who they are and don’t feel comfortable or even safe to be themselves, it’s incredibly hard to show up and do their best work.”

The Importance of LGBTQ+ Representation

Gaubert explained that HR professionals should be attuned to the factors younger LGBTQ+ individuals want from employers if they are serious about attracting diverse talent. These factors include:

  • Transparent LGBTQ+-inclusive policies.
  • Visible LGBTQ+ role models in leadership.
  • Training and development opportunities for all.
  • Gender-neutral facilities.
  • Inclusive parenting policies.

“Organizations with LGBTQ+ role models and allies in senior positions are on the right track,” Gaubert said. “Those lacking such representation need to demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity by providing training and opportunities for LGBTQ+ professionals to progress alongside relevant LGBTQ+ benefits.”

He added that companies should provide LGBTQ+-inclusion training that supports their IE&D policies. Training should go beyond a basic education on the many identities within the LGBTQ+ umbrella. It should provide practical advice on how to be mindful of unconscious biases and not make assumptions about colleagues, their partners and their family circumstances.

Training should also offer guidance on how to call out inappropriate and harmful behavior and language, harassment, slurs, and stereotypes, as well as offer advice on how to avoid misgendering and deadnaming workers, Gaubert said.

“It’s imperative for workplaces to live up to their DEI commitments,” he explained. “Workplace inclusion is crucial to not only attract but retain this generation in the long term.”


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