DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a professional. Please refer to sources and links throughout the piece for more accurate and detailed information.

Just the facts (From Catalyst.org):

  • 4.5% of the U.S. population is LGBTQ+
  • 77 countries prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.
  • As of 2020, 93% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation
    • 91% have non-discrimination policies that include gender identity
    • 53% include domestic partner benefits
    • 65% include transgender-inclusive benefits
    • Fewer than 0.3% of Fortune 500 board members were LGBTQI in 2020
  • 59% of non-LGBTQ employees believe it is “unprofessional” to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace
  • 46% of LGBTQ employees in the U.S. are closeted in the workplace
  • 1/5 of LGBTQ Americans have experience discrimination based on sexual orientation or gdner identity when applying for jobs

Let’s make it clear that with the straight numbers, workplace equality for LGBTQ+ individuals is lacking in some respects. This week, we dive into how LGBTQ folks can survive and succeed in the workplace. Whether it be in current employment or for career seekers, there are ways to be seen by companies of any size.


In 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 6-3 in favor of upholding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include LGBTQ individuals to be protected from discrimination in the workplace. 

However, it still lacks a few details that could mean just that for LGBTQ folks. 

It doesn’t protect businesses with fewer than 15 workers; it doesn’t include anything regarding trans- and nonbinary-inclusive bathrooms; and it still leaves in the air if employers can fire LGBTQ employees for religious reasons. 

And furthermore, among these legal scares, there may be issues in the local scheme. One of which is tokenism, which “refers to the performance pressures, social isolation and role encapsulation that individuals from social minorities face in organizations in which they are underrepresented numerically,” according to a frontiersin.org article

This includes the pressures that females and other nonbinary folks experience when being held accountable for something they may not be qualified to do based on how the employer perceives their gender and skill level. 

Dennis Velco, Chief Queer Officer of OutBüro, said that workplace inequalities are oftentimes local rather than in a corporate setting.

“It goes down to the individual management level because you’re dealing with individual people,” he said. 

OutBüro is the first and only site focused on the professional side of the LGBTQ community, Velco said. Users are able to leave anonymous reviews of recent employers about their inclusivity. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “the top reason LGBTQ workers don’t tell a supervisor or Human Resources about negative comments about LGBTQ people is because they don’t think anything would be done about it and because they don’t want to hurt their relationships with coworkers.”

In the same study, “A Workplace Divided,” 53% of LGBTQ individuals have heard lesbian and gay jokes in the workplace, versus 37% of non-LGBTQ employees. 

Furthermore,

  • 37% of LGBTQ employees heard bisexual jokes in the worplace
  • 41% of LGBTQ employees heard transgender jokes in the workplace
  • 1 in 5 LGBTQ workers avoided a special event at work, such as lunch, happy hour or a holiday party
  • 1 in 4 LGBTQ workers avoid certain people at work
  • 1 in 10 LGBTQ workers have left a job because the environment was not accepting of LGBTQ people

Celia Sandhya Daniels, a transgender woman and Executive Board Member of Trans Can Work, said that there still lies some bias in corporations and other businesses. 

“They’re OK with hiring L, G and B folks — they’re not ready for trans and gender nonbinary people yet,” she said. 

She explained that when she was applying for jobs, she got several more calls and interviews with her deadname than with Celia. 

And one time, an employer told her that she was passing “just fine.” 

“That itself is very insulting to me,” Sandhya Daniels said. “I don’t want to pass. If I pass, I am not standing for that privilege — I need to create a pathway for trans people. … Even if a trans person is qualified and is capable, they are still being marginalized.”

And in creating that path,  Sandhya Daniels said that accountability needs to be held by the employer, because after all, they are part of the community.

“A company is nothing but a combination of your employees who live in a community. You want to take that community culture and also implement it within your company,” she said.

Sandhya Daniels said that some companies owned and operated over 40 years have a hard time establishing diversity and inclusion.

“If you don’t have a diverse work culture and you don’t have diversity in this company, you cannot bring diversity at all,” she explained. 

On the other hand, she said she’s seen startups and younger companies doing OK with their diversity and inclusion. 

Sandhya Daniels said she goes by an acronym that companies and individuals should remember when considering diversity and inclusion:

Acknowledge and accept
Listen to the people in the community
Learn to unlearn certain things your company has been following
Instigate conversation about rules and policies
Educate your company
Support and be active in the community

For individuals, Velco said that LGBTQ folks should stay true to oneself. 

“Depending on what industry you’re in, sometimes there are people who do still hide who they are,” he said. “Be true to yourself, also in your passion. You’re the only one who has control of you; you have control over your career.” 

And even more so, Velco said to make sure you’re working to make your dream job come true. 

“Don’t wait for people to hand you anything. Get off your ass and go for it,” he said. “Work your butt off — learn everything you can learn, get every certification out there that you can get in your industry. Constantly learn, create a path, network, get mentors, be a mentor and don’t be passive.”

Sandhya Daniels said that though identity is important, employers look for skills and technicalities that set you apart from other applicants.

“That’s what I’ve learned with trans people: I tell them that if you’re transgender, that’s not your identity,” she said. “You are a professional. Once [companies] start doing that, identity is not an issue. People will hire you.”


Editor’s note: This article was originally posted February 23, 2021.

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