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Almost half of LGBT workers remain closeted, unmoved by diversity efforts

Almost half of LGBT workers claimed that they are not comfortable being out at work, according to a study released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). This calls into question how well many big companies’ diversity initiatives are working (or – in this case – not working).

No, it still isn’t getting better for all.

A study done by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) found that almost half of LGBT employees remained closeted in their workplaces. This is roughly the same number as a decade ago, and it calls into question how well many big companies’ diversity initiatives are working (or – in this case – not working).

In “A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ Workers Nationwide”, HRC Foundation sought to uncover the prevalence of LGBTQ workers feeling pressure to hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity on the job and the cost of that hiding both to individuals and employers. HRC Foundation also researched the benefits to employers and workers when workplace climates are more welcoming of LGBTQ people.

In total, 1,615 workers both gay and straight were included, with many LGBT employees saying they don’t come out because they are afraid of being stereotyped, damaging relationships with co-workers or making people feel uncomfortable.

Among the straight respondents, about half said that there aren’t any openly gay employees where they work.

Other findings included:

  • 46% of LGBTQ workers say they are closeted at work, compared to 50% in HRCF’s 2008 “Degrees of Equality” report;
  • 1-in-5 LGBTQ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner;
  • 53% of LGBTQ workers report hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people at least once in a while;
  • 31% of LGBTQ workers say they have felt unhappy or depressed at work;
  • and the top reason LGBTQ workers don’t report negative comments they hear about LGBTQ people to a supervisor or human resources is because “they don’t think anything would be done about it — and they don’t want to hurt their relationships with coworkers”.

The survey also showed that 45% of LGBTQ workers agreed that the enforcement of any nondiscrimination policy depends on their supervisor’s personal inclinations toward LGBTQ people, with 13% of LGBTQ workers expressing that they feel they would be terminated due to their workplace’s lack of tolerance toward LGBTQ people.

“While LGBTQ-inclusive corporate policies are becoming the norm, LGBTQ workers too often face a climate of bias in their workplace,” Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, said in a statement.

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