A new study of 200 senior LGBT business figures highlights that non-inclusive workplaces have a negative impact on their employees and can damage productivity.
85% of those polled think closeted LGBT professionals waste energy pretending to be someone they’re not and 61% worry this group are less committed toward their organisation. In addition, 80% of respondents believe if people are not openly themselves at work it damages their confidence; 86% think it leaves them isolated from their colleagues and 86% believe the fear of being ‘found out’ causes anxiety.
The experience of the survey respondents, 99% of whom are ‘out’ at work, also suggests that, although daunting, being open about your sexuality at work is often a less traumatic experience than expected. 60% don’t see sexuality-based, workplace harassment as an issue and nearly three quarters (74%) don’t think being out has a negative impact on their career progression.
However, for those working further down the ladder, the view is not so bright. Just 24% of the executives polled believe middle managers have an inclusive attitude towards LGBT colleagues. This compares to 45% holding this view of executives.
In order to remedy this disconnect, almost a third LGBT executives believe there is a need for more openly LGBT executive role models (27%) and more mentoring opportunities for LGBT employees (25%). A greater level of boardroom diversity would also give those employees working in the middle of an organisation the confidence to smash through the ‘glass closet,’ according to 24% of respondents.
Suki Sandhu, CEO and founder of OUTstanding, which commissioned the survey, said: ‘Whilst we’ve taken huge strides in terms of diversity and LGBT equality in the UK, for many, the perception is that it’s safer to stay in the closet if they want to get on at work; in fact 62% of students who were out at Uni go back into the closet when they start work2. It’s vital that those in leadership positions use their influence to communicate that by being authentic and yourself at work; business professionals will be more confident, perform better and ultimately boost the business’s bottom line’.
There are big businesses which are starting to make a difference. The respondents highlighted IBM, Google and Barclays as the organisations they admire for taking the greatest steps to encourage LGBT diversity, both in the UK and abroad.
Claudia Brind-Woody, Vice President and Managing Director of Intellectual Property Licensing at IBM said: ‘At IBM, we are passionate about creating a working environment that enables employees to be themselves, so we’re delighted to be recognised for this by the wider LGBT community. Fostering an openly diverse working environment is good business, it allows us to retain the best talent, encourage innovation and empower our employees to bring their whole selves to work’.