Only half-way there: LGBT still uncomfortable at work

by HCA10 Nov 2011

While Australia has come a long way in recognising the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) has reported that many still face prejudice at work.

Nareen Young, CEO DCA, has urged employers to do more to foster understanding and acceptance in the workplace. In a DCA research paper Working for the Future, they found 16% of LGBT people felt discriminated at work.

Additionally, in a US survey of Fortune 500 companies by the Centre for Work-Life Policy research, it was found that 85% of organisations had policies in place to protect sexual orientation, but 48% of LBGT employees (3,000 surveyed) remained uncomfortable about disclosing their sexuality to colleagues.

The study found that broadly, those who are open about their sexual orientation feel more content and comfortable at work, while those who are closeted often languish, and are more likely to leave and organisation.

Further, it was found:

  • LGBT employees who are not out reported significantly greater feelings of being stalled in their careers and greater dissatisfaction with their rates of promotion and advancement.
  • LGBT employees who are not out are 40% less likely to trust their employer than those who are out.
  • Employees who remain closeted and isolated are 73% more likely to leave their companies within the next three years.

The researchers also identified anxiety among closeted LGBT employees about how colleagues and managers may judge them, and expend enormous effort concealing their orientation, which leaves them less energy for actual work.

Young said that feeling closeted or uncomfortable would have negative flow-on effects for businesses, and called for greater implementation of diversity policies.

The Pride in Diversity program was designed in 2010 by DCA and Stonewall UK, and is specifically assists Australian employers to introduce HR diversity policies that specifically support LGBT employees.

Young said that it’s paramount to create a workforce culture that embraces diversity: “There’s much to be gained in terms of reputation, recruitment, retention, productivity and market share from ensuring your workplace is welcoming and inclusive of LGBT employees.”


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