Despite increasing focus and action on LGBTQ+ inclusion there are still risks associated with being openly queer at work. It’s no surprise, therefore, that half (50%) of LGBTQ+ people haven’t come out to their supervisor and over a quarter (26%) haven’t come out to anyone at work. More worrying is that over a third have left a job because of the way their employer treated them, and a quarter (25%) of young workers actually go back into the closet when they start work. That’s a lot of people who are unable to feel comfortable at work or fully contribute to company culture.
LHH is part of the Adecco Group, and as an organization we are striving for change through a program of conscious allyship. As one of the Adecco Group’s global business units, we want to highlight the importance of allyship for inclusion and the ways that allies can show up for their LGBTQ+ colleagues to create a more inclusive culture. But the true root of our journey to full inclusion is our LGBTQ+ colleagues and their stories.
Marcus Maschmedt is LHH’s Global Sales Enablement Manager and has always been a proud gay man. He first came out at the age of 6 but was quickly dismissed – it was just a phase, he was told. At 15 years old, he moved away from home, stood up and said it was not a phase - “this is me,” he proudly declared. In doing so, he faced discrimination and rejection from his father but found comfort and community in his allies at work, first during his time in the US Army and now at LHH. He has agreed to share his story to demonstrate that, when LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace is done right, everyone succeeds together.
Risks where there shouldn’t be any
Being out and queer at work still carries risks. Just 81 countries provide legislative protection for LGBTQ+ workers and specifically prohibit discrimination – but that doesn’t always translate into acceptance. In the EU, one in five (21%) LGBTQ+ people experience discrimination at work while Canadian LGBTQ+ workers are twice as likely as straight employees (44% compared to 22%) to experience inappropriate behaviors in the workplace. Almost a quarter (23.7%) of LGBTQ+ Americans experience discrimination when applying for jobs, and a staggering 67% have heard slurs, jokes or negative comments about LGBTQ+ people at work.
Marcus has experienced little overt discrimination at work but has still experienced discrimination “indirectly” for being “a loud voice” in the workplace; for example, by not being included in meeting invites so that people didn’t have to hear him and his LGBTQ+ advocacy. Marcus now feels fortunate to work in “a place where diversity and inclusion aren’t just a box to check but a fact of our workplace”.
Overlapping understanding is essential
Discrimination is compounded at the intersections of vulnerable or marginalized experiences. Take salary as an example: in the US, LGBTQ+ workers earn 90% of the average salary, but some are better off than others. White LGBTQ+ workers make 97 cents for every dollar the typical worker earns; black workers make 80 cents; and Native Americans make 70 cents. LGBTQ+ men make 96 cents; non-binary and gender fluid workers make 70 cents; and trans women make just 60 cents for every dollar the average worker earns.
This pattern is reflected in other forms of discrimination and in the different experiences of diverse workforces. LGBTQ+ men are much more likely (80%) to be out at work than LGBTQ+ women (58%), while queer leaders are more likely (8%) to be out than junior employees (32%). Being a true ally and working for LGBTQ+ inclusion means recognizing that different people experience different forms of discrimination of varying severity.
Marcus family is from different cultures and as a gay man for him it is clear that this does not hold him back. “My identity has not hindered my ability to speak out and be open. As a leader with different cultural backgrounds, it is my duty to raise my voice and be heard for those whose voices have not yet arrived”.
Allies help empower lasting change
We have found that a culture of belonging is just as important as salary when it comes to employee retention and wellbeing, and the presence of allies is an essential part of such a culture. “Being an ally to our LGBTQ+ colleagues means that we are responsible for ensuring that every voice is heard, and every individual is respected and valued,” says Gaelle de la Fosse, President of LHH. “Together, we can create an environment that encourages understanding and unity. This is not only the foundation of a more diverse, innovative, and dynamic company, but also a reflection of our shared human values.”
Marcus acknowledges that he would not have made it to where he is today if not for the inclusive culture at LHH - in some instances, the support of allies has helped him create permanent change for the better. While enrolling himself and his spouse for health benefits, Marcus was asked whether his spouse was same-sex and questioned why that information was required. After raising it with his superior (who fully agreed with his concern), the matter was escalated until he received a call from the Vice President of Human Resources at the Adecco Group to reassure Marcus that his voice was heard and respected. “The fact that someone of his level would call to tell me my opinion matters, my voice matters, and to then find out that the policy was changed on a company-wide level: that was amazing”.
Time to make the future work for everyone
Working for true inclusion of LGBTQ+ people isn’t just vital for employee wellbeing; it’s also good for businesses. Studies suggest that economic development and LGBTQ+ inclusion are mutually reinforcing at the national level while businesses with LGBTQ+-friendly policies are more profitable than those without. Including LGBTQ+ people in the workplace isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a crucial aspect of activating the entire workforce.
Our commitment to EDI sits at our very core. We believe that to do better, we must push ourselves further by keeping ourselves and each other accountable to our values and that actions speak louder than words.
“What companies can do to make things better in the future is to continue to educate," says Marcus. “Not just to tick the box during Pride Month, Black History Month or International Women’s Day. Change will come if you’re willing to continue working on it every day from the very top level to the bottom.”
Whether you’re an organization looking to boost your DE&I or a candidate looking for your next job in an inclusive company, we can help. Get in touch with an LHH expert today.