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Glassdoor Study Finds LGBTQ Harassment Pervasive in Workplace

By Glassdoor – Updated Jun 11, 2019 at 12:03PM

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Many companies are not LGBTQ-friendly.

By Emily Moore

There's no doubt that public sentiment toward LGBTQ individuals has largely improved over the past couple of decades. In just fifteen years, American support of same-sex marriage grew by 30 percentage points to 61% approval, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, transgender celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner have ushered in a new era of visibility for trans-Americans. And most recently, the Equality Act -- which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to employment, housing, and more -- passed in the House of Representatives.

A woman hugs a worried man in a workplace.

Image source: Getty Images.

But despite this progress, new data from Glassdoor shows that LGBTQ individuals still face significant discrimination in the workplace. In a Glassdoor survey conducted by The Harris Poll, more than half (53%) of LGBTQ employees reported that they have experienced or witnessed anti-LGBTQ comments by co-workers. Perhaps as a result of this prejudice, 43% of LGBTQ employees say they feel they are not fully "out" at work, with 47% of LGBTQ respondents saying that they believed being out at work could hurt their career, such as causing them to lose a job, get passed over for a promotion, or miss out on a key project.

It's no surprise, then, that LGBTQ employees prioritize supportive work environments when considering new jobs -- 70% of LGBTQ respondents said they would not apply to work at a company that does not support its LGBTQ employees. Still, 68% of LGBTQ employees say that their current companies could be doing more to support them and their allies at work.

"Still today, 26 states do not protect LGBTQ employees at work, and many of these employees believe coming out could hurt their career. This is a wake-up call to employers and lawmakers," said Jesus Suarez, Glassdoor's LGBTQ and Ally Employee group leader. "Many employers have an opportunity to build or strengthen the foundation for an inclusive culture that encourages employees to bring their full selves to work."

Fighting LGBTQ discrimination

If you encounter discrimination based on your gender identity or sexual orientation at work, you don't have to put up with it. To begin with, document all instances of harassment or discrimination that you encounter in detail, says Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting and former global corporate LGBTQ diversity manager for IBM.

If you are confident that your company is LGBTQ-friendly, you may consider bringing it up to HR. A few signs that your company might be receptive to conversations around LGBTQ issues include the following:

  • They mention sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination clause
  • They offer LGBTQ-inclusive benefits, such as covering gender confirmation surgery or fertility treatments for same-sex couples trying to have children
  • They have an employee resource group for LGBTQ employees
  • They donate to or volunteer with LGBTQ organizations

However, if you don't feel comfortable approaching your HR department, or if you do approach them and they mishandle the issue, consider reaching out to one of the following organizations:

For more tips, consult Glassdoor's Workplace Guide for LGBTQ Professionals.

Remember -- everyone deserves to be comfortable at work, so if you feel as if you can't be your authentic self, don't be afraid to take action, whether that means approaching HR, confiding in a trusted colleague, or even finding a new job at a more welcoming organization.    

Fostering an LGBTQ-friendly environment

"We're seeing a strong majority of LGBTQ employees wanting more support from their employers, and there are many ways to offer support that go beyond benefits and policies," said Suarez.

So how can you create a more welcoming work environment for LGBTQ employees? Consider the following steps:

  • Conduct anonymous, companywide surveys to determine whether or not LGBTQ employees feel a sense of inclusion and belonging, and crowdsource opinions on what you could be doing better
  • Hold companywide LGBTQ competency trainings
  • Establish an employee resource group for LGBTQ employees and allies
  • Support LGBTQ organizations: Coordinate a group for your local pride march, donate to a relevant nonprofit, or volunteer with a local charity
  • Offer LGBTQ-inclusive benefits, such as covering gender confirmation surgery or fertility treatments for same-sex couples trying to have children

For more ideas, consult Glassdoor's guide, Empowering LGBTQ Employees: How to Create an Inclusive Culture.

Creating a sense of welcoming and belonging for LGBTQ employees isn't just the right thing to do -- it's also a business imperative.

"Any employer that chooses to ignore implementing supportive working environments and policies risk missing out on hiring quality talent," said Suarez.

Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor from April 26 – May 6, 2019 among 6,104 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 515 are employed and identify as LGBTQ. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].

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Glassdoor has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool is short shares of IBM. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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