Coming out at work is no small thing. A recent study found that 70% of LGBTQIA+ employees come out within their first year in a company, and that being out at work can help them feel more comfortable forming friendships with their colleagues. But unfortunately, stigma related to sexual orientation is still rife.
Long considered a "private matter," sexual orientation (especially when not heterosexual ) is becoming political. In the world of work, for example, LBGTQIA+ employees who have come out to their colleagues and employers are more likely to thrive within their company, according to a recent survey by American consulting firm, Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Conducted among 8,800 LBGTQIA+ employees in 19 countries around the world (including Australia, Brazil, China, India, France and the United States), the survey states that across all countries (except India and China), 70% of respondents disclosed their sexual orientation within the first year of starting a job.
These same employees largely say that they have formed friendships with their colleagues at work, compared to 45% of those who are still closeted. The study also shows that very few of those who did not share this information with their colleagues during their first year in a job, went on to do so later.
While a majority of participants may opt to share this information in the workplace, they still face barriers. Only 24% of LBGTQIA+ people (from all countries) believe that coming out in the workplace is an advantage professionally. Almost as many (23%) think that, on the contrary, this information can be a disadvantage.
In France, 36% of respondents consider that coming out at work can be a disadvantage that could hinder their career progression, compared to 8% who believe that being out is an advantage. Conversely, respondents in Australia (50%) and the US (43%) think that coming out in the workplace is an advantage. But the picture is far from idyllic.
72% of trans/gender-nonconforming respondents report instances of discrimination
The study reveals that strong stigma relating to sexual orientation or gender identity persists in the workplace. Internationally, 58% of LGBTQ+ people say they have experienced discrimination in the workplace (inappropriate jokes, not being taken seriously, being left out, etc.).
In the European countries featured in the study, transgender and non-binary people are particularly subject to such discrimination, with 72% reporting instances of discrimination (compared to 53% of LGBQ respondents).
In light of this data, BCG suggests 12 concrete measures to help companies develop more inclusive policies, including measures such as gender-neutral restrooms, visible role models, offering non-binary options on administrative forms or the possibility of having healthcare coverage for a same-sex spouse.
"The good news is that companies can help ensure that employees feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work from day one," said Elliot Vaughn, a BCG managing director and senior partner who co-authored the report. "The key is to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion at all stages of the employee journey. These actions signal that the company is actually 'walking the walk' when it comes to building an inclusive culture."