LGBT rights have been receiving much more positive focus in recent years. But, there is still a long way to go. As acceptance towards LGBT improves, those who identify as such feel more comfortable being open about these issues. Therefore, there are likely to be an increased number of openly LGBT people in the workforce, particularly in large companies.
However, when we look at the top of the food chain, it's a completely different picture altogether. There is currently only one openly gay CEO in the FTSE 100, and only one in the Fortune 500. It may be that people in higher up positions still do not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality, as corporate roles have typically been dominated by white heterosexual males.
This may also be impacted by the fact that CEOs are likely to be older, as they have gained decades of experience that got them to the top. Because of the age they grew up in, older generations are still less accepting of same-sex relationships than, let's say, millennials are. Younger generations are much more open about LGBT issues and are, therefore, more likely to be openly gay. So, perhaps this underrepresentation in the top roles may improve as time goes on and as today's young adults progress up the ladder.
Whatever the reasons may be, the fact that the top CEOs are almost exclusively heterosexual means there are very few successful, professional role models for LGBT people to look up to. The fact that the top CEOs are not openly LGBT may make LGBT people just starting out their career feel like they have to hide who they really are in order to succeed.
No one wants to work in a hostile environment, one where they feel unwelcome or isolated for whatever reason. A report by Kapor Center on why employees in the tech industry leave their jobs found that LGBTQ employees were more likely to be the victim of bullying or hostility in the workplace than non-LGBTQ employees (20% and 13%, respectively).
Even in a workplace where colleagues are accepting of the LGBT community and their lifestyles, issues can still arise. Non-LGBT employees may make passing comments or jokes intended as good-spirited ribbing or passed off as "banter." Although these comments are not made with bad intentions, they may not be appreciated depending on the circumstances and the sensibilities of the person at the receiving end of the jokes. LGBT employees may still feel isolated or even hurt by these kinds of comments.
The gender wage gap has long been reported on, with men generally earning more than women despite working in the same company and job role. There are now lots of advocates for the eradication of this gap, and many companies are actively working towards offering fairer wages over time.
San Francisco recruitment firm, hired.com found that a wage gap also exists between LGBT and non-LGBT employees. In an attempt to ensure equality in the wages they offer employees, Hired analysed their own data to see where discrepancies lie. The results showed that both expected and received salary was higher for non-LGBTQ employees amongst both male and female employees.
Distribution of wages (both expected and received) occurred in the following order, from highest to lowest:
1. Non-LGBTQ men
2. LGBTQ men
3. Non-LGBTQ women
4. LGBTQ women
So, what can be done to improve the climate for LGBT people in the tech industry? First of all, consider what kind of support system you have in place in your company. It's important for all employees, whether they identify as LGBT or not, to have someone they can talk to about difficult issues. This could be a member of HR or an assigned senior representative, for example. For large tech companies, it may even be worth having a dedicated LGBT rep.
Companies need to ensure that they have anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies in place. More importantly, they need to ensure that these policies are actively enforced. All employees must be aware of these policies and the consequences they will face if the policies are violated. Appropriate repercussions must be enforced whenever bullying or discrimination are reported. It's important that employees feel able to speak out when they face such discrimination in the workplace.
Recording demographics, including sexual orientation, is also important in working towards equality. While factors such as gender, race, and sexual orientation should not be considered in the recruitment process, many companies now collect this information in an anonymous and aggregated manner in order to measure representation in their company. This data can be useful in noticing where any inequalities may exist in the workforce, helping towards correcting these issues.
Inequality is not an issue that can be instantly fixed. But, if companies make small changes towards a more inclusive workplace for all employees, then we can gradually make the right kind of progress in the tech industry and beyond.
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