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4 Employment Barriers That Still Exist for LGBTQ Workers

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STEEX / Getty Images

Although we have made some strides towards employment equality in recent years, there is still some work to be done when it comes to ensuring an equal workplace for members of the LGBTQ community. A 2019 survey conducted by Glassdoor found that about 4 out of 10 LGBTQ workers said they aren’t fully “out” at work, with half of those surveyed saying that they feared being out would hurt their career prospects, CBS News reported. And in many cases, this fear is warranted.

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Here’s a look at some of the employment barriers that still exist for LGBTQ workers.

Last updated: June 17, 2021

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It’s More Difficult To Get Hired

Before LGBTQ workers have the chance to advance in their careers, they must first get their foot in the door — and sometimes this can be a struggle.

“Research and anecdata both show that LGBT+ people face more difficulties getting jobs,” said Kryss Shane, LGBT+ advancing columnist at MediaVillage.com. “When we break this down further, those in intersections of numerous marginalized groups experience more than most. For example, a Black transgender woman struggles more than a white gay man. Black transgender people have an extremely high unemployment rate at 26% — two times the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population.”

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Keeping Their Jobs Can Be a Struggle

“As of today, LGBTQIA Americans are not fully protected from discrimination in 29 states,” said Super Julie Braun, founder and CEO of the career coaching company Super Purposes.

As a result, some workers may lose their jobs simply due to the fact that they are members of the LGBTQ community.

“I know two people in the last week who were fired when their boss learned that they were gay,” said Michele Olivier, principal consultant at the resume writing and career advice company O&H Consulting. “Beyond that, LGBTQ+ people experience a continually high level of harassment in the workplace, which they can either endure with a smile or risk losing their job. This includes homophobic jokes, the use of derogatory terminology and the continual perpetuation of stereotypes.”

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They May Miss Out on Promotions

“LGBTQ+ people face heavy discrimination and harassment in many areas of life, including work,” said Elena Joy Thurston, executive director of the Pride and Joy Foundation, whose mission is to reduce the rate of suicide and homelessness in the LGBTQ community.

This means they are often passed over for promotions — or even get demoted when they are open about their sexuality. Thurston shared the following anecdote: “A gay man who wasn’t out at work went out to lunch with his co-workers to celebrate a well-deserved promotion. When they returned, he put a photo of himself and his partner on his desk for the first time. The next day, he was told that due to budget cuts, the promotion wasn’t actually going to happen.”

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It’s Harder To Attain Top Leadership Positions

“With only 7% of top executives in the U.S. identifying as LGB, [according to the] IBM Institute for Business Value, the community does not see themselves as part of a path towards top leadership,” said Susie Silver, senior consultant at The Diversity Movement.  “When one does not feel like they belong [and] are seen, safe and heard, how could someone feel there is a path of succession, development and leadership in their future?”

As Silver notes, these feelings can impact work performance, which can hinder a person’s path to promotion.

“When someone does not feel truly included and supported, they will not be as productive, innovative and willing to take risks,” she said.

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