Less than half of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people are out at work, according to a new survey

This is a stylised image of a woman speaking to her colleagues at work. Her image is emphasized over a red an orange background

A new study has shown that less than half of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people are out at work.

The research, published by myGwork, indicates that high rates of discrimination towards LGBTQ+ and non-binary professionals are preventing many from coming out in a professional environment, with just 44 per cent of LGBTQ+ women reporting that they are out at work.

The number of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people who are out at work includes the 23 per cent who reported being out and proud in all aspects of their professional and personal lives, and the 21 per cent who say they are only out in the workplace.

The results of the survey of more than 2000 LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people has been published to coincide with Lesbian Visibility Week – a time to reflect on the progress made for LGBTQ+ women and also to acknowledge the need for further visibility for LGBTQ+ women, including in their professional lives.

Within wider society, the report reveals that less than 25 per cent of respondents are completely out and proud, and 46 per cent of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people are only out to their friends and family members.

The report confirms that 70 per cent of respondents still encounter discrimination while they are at work – and for people of colour, marginalised communities and those from ethnic minority groups, the figures are even higher. 

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Gender non-conforming and queer people experience the highest rate of discrimination at work, followed by cis-gender women, gender fluid, intersex, trans women and non-binary people.

This discrimination at work is playing a factor in many lesbian and queer women believing that their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is hindering their career progression.

In fact, nearly 80 per cent of respondents across all age groups say that it’s tougher for LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people to smash through glass ceilings than straight cis-gender women. This figure is much higher for those with intersectional experiences who belong to other marginalised communities.

Marginalised groups aren’t climbing the corporate ladder

Those in ethnic minority groups say that they find it much harder to progress higher up the career ladder than their white colleagues. For example, those with Latinx (86 per cent), South Asian (85 per cent) and Middle Eastern (85 per cent) backgrounds found it the most difficult, followed by East Asian (83 per cent) and Black/African communities (81 per cent).

This is in comparison to 76 per cent of their white colleagues. These staggering data points are in despite of high rates of allyship from both men and cis-gender straight women and even more visible LGBTQ+ role models at work. 

While there are a handful of notable queer women in the boardroom, the research also confirms that very few LGBTQ+ women and non-binary professionals occupy top C-suite leadership roles. Only nine per cent hold leadership roles, and only three per cent are CEOs or founders.  

The report from myGwork also uncovers insights such as how the community perceives the term ‘lesbian,’ with 61 per cent of women happy to be called a lesbian, but 20 per cent saying that they are uncomfortable with that label. Additionally, an overwhelming 78 per cent would like their employers to provide menstrual leave. 

This is an image of two Black women having a conversation at work. They are both looking down at a tablet. There is a red and orange stylised background.
The report also confirmed that LGBTQ+ women from marginalised groups are not climbing the corporate ladder compared to their White cishet colleagues. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

Business leaders need to embrace diversity and champion inclusivity

The research also provides advice on the steps organisations need to take to make the workplace more inclusive and stamp out discrimination.

Over 65 per cent say that LGBTQ+ education and training are needed within work so LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people feel safe enough to come out, stay out and work with pride. 

“To create a workplace that is truly inclusive and supportive, businesses need to actively listen to and learn from their employees,” says Michelle ‘Michi’ Raymond, business development director at myGwork. “By embracing diversity and championing inclusivity, we can create a work environment that not only accepts but celebrates all identities.”

Given the fact that over 50 per cent of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary professionals are currently job hunting, the report shares tips on how to attract and retain this highly talented group of people.

73 per cent say that they would leave an employer for not providing an inclusive working environment or not doing enough to achieve proper gender equality. Offering training, being transparent about the gender pay gap and offering up employee resource groups are all ways to keep LGBTQ+ women in their current roles.

Wrapping up the report, around 33 per cent say that celebrating key awareness dates like Lesbian Visibility Week is vital.

Organisations that have more visible allies and improved inclusion policies will retain and support their valuable LGBTQ+ women and non-binary employees. These employees will be more likely to rise up the corporate ladder and be visible, out, and proud role models.

To celebrate Lesbian Visibility Week, the PinkNews Business Community will be hosting a special one-hour virtual chat with Raga D’Silva on Wednesday 26 April at 8:30am BST. Raga will talk about the importance of intersectionality, representation and the freedom to be yourself. Registration for this virtual breakfast session is open to everyone and is free. Sign up here!