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LGBTI students increasingly worried about workplace discrimination

'Is it easier for me just to not say anything?'

LGBTI students increasingly worried about workplace discrimination
Image by @LGBTLeaders via Twitter
Women in Business panel at LGBT Leaders conference in London

In a sea of business suits, Tam Guobadia stands out from the crowd.

Dressed in a purple jumpsuit and black turtleneck, Tam walks confidently and ‘unabashedly queer’ into the conference room.

‘I didn’t particularly care what people at work thought about me,’ he says.

‘I prefer to live authentically and have some opportunities closed to me than live in any sort of reserved manner in the workplace,’ Tam says.

But this is not always the case for some LGBTI people.

Francesca Vernon, a 20 year old student, is nervous about what will happen when she enters the workforce after graduating university: ‘I have had instances of feeling uncomfortable just because I don’t know what people are assuming about me and I don’t know how they’ll react.’

And she’s not alone.

The latest research from YouGov shows that 23 percent of LGBTI students are worried about workplace discrimination after graduating university, spiking from 11 percent since last year.

Cai Wilshaw, Founder of the LGBT Leaders conference held in London today, believes this is due to a number of reasons, from Orlando to Brexit: ‘I would say that last year has been a very difficult one for LGBTI people and political rhetoric has played a big part in that.’

‘You can never tell until you’re in a new job what kind of environment it will be and what the people will be like so I think this jump is likely to be a result of insecurity and lack of confidence in general in this fear of hate crime,’ he said.

Francesca is thinking about taking up a Christmas job later this year.

‘It is a question about whether I make an effort to specifically be out or if it’s easier for me to just not say anything,’ she said.

But Tam believes being out at work has made him a better work mate: ‘I think I’m more fun, I’m entirely open and it has, if anything, been a positive.’

‘I think that being able to operate at work in a manner that is completely and unashamedly open does impact on my work in entirely positive ways,’ he said.

Wilshaw agrees, offering advice to students questioning whether they’ll go back into the closet after graduating: ‘Have a look at what their policies are and don’t be afraid to let that be a factor in your decision making.’

‘If you don’t bring your authentic self to work, then you’re going to be hiding a part of yourself but perhaps not giving 100 percent to the job at hand,’ he said.

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