LGBT at Work - A Look at News and Stats
It's been a long time since I've written about LGBT issues in the workplace. I used to do so at least weekly but over the 4+ years I've owned my own business, I haven't had my finger on the pulse nearly as much. That is why this recent roundup of gays, lesbians, and trangendered folks in the workplace was of interest.
This recent Chicago Tribune article provides a great roundup of LGBT Work Stats. Here's a few that really caught my eye:
7 million: Estimated number of LGBT workers in the U.S.
48 percent: The percentage of LGBT employees who are closeted at work. A third are closeted at work but out to friends and family.
About 5 percent of LGBT employees ages 18 to 24 say they're "totally open" at work. That number is 20 percent for older LGBT workers.
What really surprised me was that first - we're still only half and half at being out at work. Leaps and bounds of what was the case twenty years ago, but still a significant percentage that still feel for whatever reason that "not telling" is the way to go. The second thing that shocked me even more was the low percentage of employees in Generation Next that were out. A mere 5 percent? Really? I thought we were headed toward more, not less openness. Perhaps the younger generation (now THAT phrase right there made me feel old) still feels the pressure from peers, parents, and the difficult job market and don't want to "rock the boat". Your thoughts on this surprising stat? Any Generation Next readers out there want to share your more personal take on this statistic?
Stats are nice but what matters most is what people really experience day in and day out. In most situations, being gay, lesbian, or transgendered does not create quite the stir it once did. On a timely note, the news of Steve Jobs' successor Tim Cook never even mentions the fact that he is a homosexual. The media has chosen to ignore that. Of course the question that comes to mind is - why should it matter? It's a double-edged sword. Visibility = more acceptance so why profile a CEO and his wife but not the new CEO and his/her same-sex partner? Is it a convenient double standard or simply the way it should be? After all just because you are LGBT does not mean that suddenly because you achieve a new level of success that you're required to be a role model for an entire community.
Some things have not changed. It is plain exhausting and difficult to lead a double life. I tried that for about a year or two early in my career (while I was still sorting out the "coming out to myself" process). I knew that wasn't going to last simply because I am too much of an authentic person. When I started my own business I didn't have any plans of hiding either. Now I don't exactly lead with the fact that I've been with my partner almost 20 years because I don't think its relevant (any more than it's relevant what my colleague's intimate personal relationships are like). Yet, it'd be pretty silly to cite authenticity as a basic principle of my work and then go making stuff up. Let's be clear that in some situations being gay can still hurt your career and in many states it remains legal to fire someone because they are gay. The way I see it though is that I don't want to work for an employer (or a client) who hates my guts. It is no way to spend my one precious life.
This Chicago Tribune article on The Cubicle and the Closet shares a young man's firsthand experience:
Openly gay since he was 18 years old, Sears started his first job out of college assuming he'd be the same at work. But three weeks after starting his position on Wall Street, his boss called someone a homophobic slur. And that was that.
"I basically realized that I had to be in the closet," said Sears, now 35. "And having not been that closeted and having to shift back and watch pronouns and make up an imaginary girlfriend and really sort of re-experience in a corporate setting what I had experienced growing up was exhausting."
Bottom line is when you're hiding you're hiding an intrinsic part of yourself and you can't possibly bring all of you to work. It'll always remain and I certainly respect personal choice and yet I wonder what would happen to this world if we all just stopped pretending? Not only about sexuality but about the very fact that we are all just human - perfectly imperfect and we are all going to die one day.
So I share this article to share a few bits of recent news but more importantly as a conversation starter. What do you think? What has been your experience? Speak up in the comments...
Paula Gregorowicz, The Intuitive Intelligence™ Coach
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