A new report from the Human Right Campaign reveals that nearly half of all LGBTQ employees in the United States are not out at work.
A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ Workers Nationwide is the third such report from HRC. The two prior reports had closeted employees above 50%, showing there has been progress — but not much.
‘While LGBTQ-inclusive corporate policies are becoming the norm, LGBTQ workers too often face a climate of bias in their workplace,’ said Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program.
‘LGBTQ employees are still avoiding making personal and professional connections at work because they fear coming out — and that hurts not only that employee, but the company as a whole. Even the best-of-the-best private sector employers with top-rated policies and practices must do more to nurture a climate of inclusion for all.’
HRC conducted the survey in February and March of 2018. They spoke to 804 LGBTQ employees and 811 non-LGBTQ employees.
What are some of the reasons for not being out?
Of the LGBTQ employees who are not out, they gave several reasons.
38% said it was due to the possibility of being stereotyped. This is seen in another result of the survey. 1 in 4 LGBTQ workers said co-workers have told them or implied they need to dress more feminine or masculine. Only 1 in 24 non-LGBTQ workers have experienced this.
Another 36% said it was because of them possibly making others uncomfortable, while 31% responded they didn’t want to lose connections with co-workers.
A final 27% agreed with this: ‘People might think I’m attracted to them just because I’m LGBTQ.’
Half of all non-LGBTQ employees don’t think they have any LGBTQ co-workers.
Double standards prevalent
A majority of non-LGBTQ workers, 80%, agree that LGBTQ employees shouldn’t have to hide who they are.
However, 59% of the non-LGBTQ employees think it’s unprofessional to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity at work. Another 36% feel uncomfortable talking to LGBTQ colleagues about dating. Both of these numbers are down from a past report in 2012, but they are still telling.
Another 54% said they would be ‘very comfortable’ working with an LGBTQ colleague. Of those that didn’t, a majority said they didn’t want to hear about their sex lives.
Feelings of alienation
There are negative side effects to working in an unwelcoming environment.
25% of LGBTQ workers say they feel distracted at work, another 31% feel depressed or unhappy. Furthermore, 28% report lying about their personal life (down from 42% in 2008) and 17% feel ‘exhausted’ from hiding their identity.
It also leads to them feeling alienated and unable to participate.
1 in 5 LGBTQ workers avoid work functions and another 1/4 avoid certain people.
1 in 10 have left jobs because of negative environments and another 1 in 5 have searched for other jobs.
While the HRC’s report did not adress specific identities, it is interesting to compare to a recent and similar survey conducted in the UK.
Stonewall UK’s report revealed that a majority of gay and lesbian people are out at work, and it’s bisexual who hide their sexuality more. From this survey, only 7% of gay men and 4% of lesbians are not out at work.