Gen Z LGBTQ+ staff say they don’t feel included at work – employers could lose millions as a result

This is an image of a person working at a computer. They present genderqueer. They have large gauge earrings and are wearing a yellow jumper.

New data shows that while Gen Z employees are more likely than older colleagues to identify as queer, they are also three times more likely to be unconvinced by their employer’s LGBTQ+ initiatives.

EY’s 2024 Workplace Barometer survey found that employers’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives only won a C+ grade from the younger group of employees, compared with a B given, on average, by other generations.

The Gen Z US cohort – those born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s – identify as LGBTQ+ at nearly six times the rate of Gen X, who were children in the 70s and 80s.

In fact, more Gen Z people in America identify as queer than as Republican.

Gen Z, or zoomers, are expected to make up 30 per cent of the total US workforce by 2030. Millennials (those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s) continue to view DEI as a priority, with 76 per cent saying they would quit their job if initiatives were not on offer.

“Feeling safe to be your authentic self is something that everyone should be entitled to, but we know reality is often more complex than that,” says Mitch Berlin, EY Americas vice-chairman of strategy and transactions, and executive sponsor of Unity, the EY LGBTQ+ employee resource group.

“Company leaders should remain steadfast in their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, cultivate an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves and offer the right resources so employees can thrive,” he adds.

Ignoring inclusion has a price tag

Only 38 per cent of LGBTQ+ workers who rate their workplace experiences poorly in EY’s report – which surveyed 500 LGBTQ+ full-time workers in the US who hold corporate roles at mid and large-size organisations – expected to stay with their employer for the next year.

The financial stakes are high as a revolving door of staff can send costs soaring for companies. For the average Fortune 500 company, which has about 62,000 employees, improving retention of LGBTQ+ employees by a mere five per cent could result in annual savings of nearly $4.2 million (approximately £3.3 million) in turnover costs alone, the report records.

“There are millions of dollars on the line, and as the LGBTQ+ population grows, organisations that prioritise inclusiveness will differentiate themselves among top talent,” Berlin says.

This is an image of a Black person working at a computer. They are wearing a white tank top.
Racially and ethnically diverse Gen Z LGBTQ+ American are more likely to experience micro-agressions at work. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

Addressing an uneven landscape

To truly understand the needs of the Gen Z LGBTQ+ workforce, the report advises organisations to recognise the intersectional identities within the community.

The survey reveals a stark disparity faced by racially and ethnically diverse LGBTQ+ employees, who are about twice as likely as their white queer colleagues to have been on the receiving end of harassment at a previous job and more likely to experience micro-aggressions at work.

Leslie Patterson, EY Americas and US diversity, equity and inclusiveness leader, underscores the role of leadership in fostering a culture of belonging. 

“Building and sustaining a culture where people feel seen and valued starts with leadership setting the tone at the top,” she says. “Through listening, learning, offering support and taking action, leaders will build trust and credibility, which can help their organisations stand out with a powerful, and growing, segment of the population.”

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