As a minority group, the LGBTQ+ community deal with discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere despite the growing awareness of it in society. In this article, we share some key statistics on LGBTQ+ in the workplace that you need to know in 2022.
- In 2022, 7.1% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+, and the U.S. ranks 31st most welcoming country for LGBTQ+ people.
- There are roughly 1.4 million American LGBTQ+ business owners, contributing $1.7 trillion a year to the U.S. economy.
- 46% of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. are not open about their sexuality or gender identity at work.
- 45.5% of LGBTQ+ workers have experienced unfair treatment in their careers, such as being fired or being passed over for a job opportunity or promotion, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LGBTQ+ people are affected by the ‘lavender’ ceiling that limits their representation in VP or C-suite roles: just 0.6% of women-held and 2.9% of male-held top-level roles are LGBTQ+.
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While the LGBTQ+ community is a minority group, over 7% of adult Americans identify themselves as LGBTQ+. Knowing the size of the LGBTQ+ community is crucial to formulate public policies and research topics. In the social sciences arena, the demographics of sexual orientation have been studied intensively in recent decades.
1. In 2022, 7.1% of adults in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ+.
This is up from 5.6% in 2020 and 4.5% in 2017. Estimates suggest there could be 20 million adults who identify as LGBTQ+ in the U.S. Over 20% of Generation Z identify as LGBTQ+ – greater than any previous generation.
2. Around the world, studies show an average range between 1.2 to 6.8% of adults identify as LGBTQ+.
This is likely due not to a genuine difference in the percentage of people who are LGBTQ+ but how many are open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Studies show that a country’s economy and religious orientation may affect how accepting that country is towards its LGBTQ+ community. Hence, LGBTQ+ people might not be comfortable or in a safe enough environment to disclose that they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
3. The U.S. ranks as the 31st most accepting country for the LGBTQ+ community in the world.
Canada topped the Spartacus Gay Travel Index in 2021 as the most LGBTQ+-friendly country, with Western European countries filling most of the top-ten spots. The least accepting countries are generally located in Africa and the Middle East, where the religious presence is strong. In 2021, the least accepting country for LGBTQ+ people was Chechnya.
4. Despite improved support for LGBTQ+ people’s rights, more than 300 bills of anti-LGBTQ legislation have been proposed across 28 states in 2022 so far.
There is no doubt that America has come a long way since 1962 when consensual same-sex sexual activity was illegal in all 50 states. However, in the first five months of 2022, over 300 bills have been proposed which would limit LGBTQ+ people’s rights. Many of these target transgender youth, aiming to prevent them from playing sports or accessing gender-affirming healthcare.
LGBTQ+ Representation in the Workplace Statistics
Since there are large numbers of LGBTQ+ people in the general community, it follows that there will also be a strong representation of LGBTQ+ in the workplace.
5. 88% of LGBTQ+ members are employed.
The employment rate for the general population (non-LGBTQ+) is 92%. This lower employment rate could be due to discrimination. A survey done by the Human Rights Campaign showed that during the Covid-19 pandemic alone, 17% of LGBTQ+ people lost their jobs compared to 13% of the general population.
6. Transgender people are less represented in the workplace, with up to 30% of transgender adults being unemployed.
Although most studies tend to focus on the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, there is evidence that lesbians and gays are better represented and treated than trans people in the workplace. Many employers are still ill-equipped to create policies and company culture that’s supportive of transgender people in the workplace. Even LGBTQ+-friendly companies tend to focus more on LGB people than TQ+.
LGBTQ+ Business Ownership Statistics
There were almost 28 million small businesses in the U.S. by the end of 2016, and just 909 were certified LGBT Business Enterprises, according to a National Gay and Lesbian chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) report. This means that LGBT Business Enterprises make up less than 1% of small businesses. This small number may be partly because many business owners preferred not to disclose their sexual orientation. Of these, almost 67% were owned by gay men, 30% by lesbians, 2% by transgender people, and 2.3% by bisexual people.
7. Today, there are around 1.4 million LGBTQ+ business owners in the U.S.
According to the NGLCC, the number of jobs produced by LGBTQ+ business owners, as well as their geography and personal narratives, reflect America’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.
8. Businesses owned by LGBTQ+ people contribute $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy each year.
That’s more than some industries, such as the entire global wellness market.
LGBTQ+ Inequality in the Workplace
LGBTQ+ people regularly face abuse, inequality, and discrimination in the workplace based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Inequality occurs when LGBTQ+ people don’t have the same opportunities available to them as their cis-hetero counterparts, for example, equal wages or chances of receiving a promotion.
Discrimination, on the other hand, involves any way in which an LGBTQ+ person is treated differently from their co-workers because of their LGBTQ+ status. This can be on the part of the employer(s) and/or other employees. For example, if an employee verbally harasses an LGBTQ+ colleague.
Inequality in the workplace has serious consequences for those who work there: being a member of the LGBTQ+ community could result in difficulty earning enough money to support themselves and/or their family, which in turn might impact the person’s mental health. Furthermore, inequality is aggravated when the LGBTQ+ employees are part of other minority groups as well, as for example they are not able-bodied and/or they are non-White.
9. 45.5% of LGBTQ+ employees have experienced unfair treatment at work, including being fired or not being hired as a result of their LGBTQ+ status.
While this statistic on LGBTQ+ discrimination at work relates to the person’s entire career, the problem is far from an historical one. Over 30% of LGBTQ+ people report experiencing this unfair treatment within the last three years, and 8.9% within the last year.
10. 29.8% of LGBTQ+ employees reported experiencing employment discrimination.
That includes being fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The situation is worse for LGBTQ+ employees of color, of whom 33.2% experience employment discrimination, compared to white LGBTQ+ employees (26.3%).
11. LGBTQ+ employees earn 90 cents for every dollar their non-LGBTQ+ colleagues make.
The pay gap for transgender people in the workplace is even more pronounced – they make 32% less per year than their cisgender counterparts. 22% of the LGBTQ+ population live in poverty, compared to 16% of non-LGBTQ+ people.
12. Of women in VP or C-suite positions, only 0.6% are LGBTQ+. For men in these positions, only 2.9% are LGBTQ+.
When these figures are compared to the 7.1% of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+, it is clear that there is a lack of representation of the LGBTQ+ community in senior management positions. Companies are under increased pressure to address these limitations, termed the lavender ceiling, as part of their environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.
13. 48.8% of transgender and nonbinary employees reported being fired or missing out on a job opportunity because of their LGBTQ+ status.
Transgender and nonbinary employees are significantly more likely to experience this kind of discrimination than cisgender LGB employees (27.8%).
14. Only 1 out of 5 U.S. companies provide a paid family leave.
No laws in the U.S. specifically prohibit LGBTQ+ people from taking parental leave, but there is just one provision made for it – that’s in the Family Medical Care Act that requires companies to give 12 weeks of unpaid time off for fostering, birth, or adoption. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t provide financial support and since the LGBTQ+ community is more likely to be in poverty than the general population, taking unpaid leave isn’t a viable option for many.
LGBTQ+ Work Discrimination Statistics
According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, half of all LGBTQ+ workers have faced job discrimination in the last year. This has led to a negative impact on the employees’ mental health and well-being, which reduces job commitment and satisfaction.
15. Employment discrimination on the basis of LGBTQ+ status is prohibited by state law in 23 states, two territories and D.C., and is also illegal under federal law.
In June 2020, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made employment discrimination based on LGBTQ+ status illegal under the federal Civil Rights Act (Title VII). Furthermore, 23 states, two territories, and D.C. have state law that explicitly prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
16. In 2022, 842 U.S. companies earned a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index, earning a place on the list of 2022 Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.
The rating includes nondiscrimination policies, equitable benefits for workers and their families, supporting LGBTQ+ diversity at work, and corporate social responsibility.
17. 37.7% of LGBTQ+ employees have been harassed at work because of their LGBTQ+ status.
This set of LGBT!+ work discrimination statistics includes physical harassment, such as being punched or beaten up (20.8%), verbal harassment (30.7%), and sexual harassment (25.9%). Verbal harassment occurs more often towards LGBTQ+ people of color (35.6% compared to 25.9%) and transgender people in the workplace (43.8% compared to 29.3%).
18. 20% of LGBTQ+ workers have had coworkers tell them or imply that they should dress more feminine or masculine.
In contrast, only 4% of non-LGBTQ+ workers have experienced these comments from a colleague.
19. 67.5% of LGBTQ+ employees have heard negative comments, slurs, or jokes about the LGBTQ+ community at work.
This is higher than the 37% of non-LGBTQ+ workers who report hearing these jokes in the workplace.
20. 34.2% of LGBTQ+ workers have left a job where the environment was not accepting of LGBTQ+ people.
An additional 13% are worried they may be fired because their workplace is not accepting of LGBTQ+ people. An unwelcoming environment leads to distraction from work (25%), exhaustion from hiding sexual orientation or gender identity (27% and 13%), and depression (31%) amongst LGBTQ+ employees, all of which contributes to reduced productivity.
LGBTQ+ Coming Out at Work Statistics
Although society has made great strides in recent years in queer acceptance and awareness, coming out in the workplace remains a risky undertaking. There is still the risk of workplace stigma and potential repercussions.
21. Around 46% of American LGBTQ+ employees are still in the closet at work.
The Workplace Divided 2018 report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation showed that 46% of LGBTQ+ employees were not out to their colleagues. This is a slight improvement on the 2008 figure of 50%. This means there is probably more LGBTQ+ diversity at work than many coworkers realize.
22. LGBTQ+ men are more likely to be out to their colleagues and supervisors (80%) than LGBTQ+ women (58%).
One reason for this is existing gender discrimination. In a McKinsey survey in 2020, LGBTQ+ women explained that they were under pressure to perform perfectly at all times, as a woman. “Why add anything else to make it more difficult?” 40% of LGBTQ+ women surveyed said they needed to provide extra evidence of their competence.
23. LGBTQ+ people in senior positions are more likely to be out to their colleagues (80%) than those in junior positions (32%)
Many LGBTQ+ workers earlier in their careers are concerned that their career progression will be more difficult if their colleagues know about their LGBTQ+ status. One respondent to the McKinsey survey stated: “Being authentic once you’ve made it is easier than being authentic when you haven’t.” Of those senior workers who are out, 25% notice their colleagues are uncomfortable if they mention a partner, spouse or other aspect of their lives connected to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
24. About two in five (40.7%) of LGBTQ+ employees are covering at their current jobs in an attempt to avoid discrimination.
“Covering” means taking steps to avoid LGBTQ+ discrimination, such as avoiding talking about personal lives, changing when/where you use the bathroom, and changing physical appearance. The reasons for covering at work include avoiding being stereotyped, fear of losing connections with coworkers, and avoiding making colleagues feel uncomfortable or worry that the person may be attracted to them simply because of their LGBTQ+ status. Transgender employees are more likely to cover (57.7%) compared to cisgender LGB workers (39.0%).
25. Most non-LGBTQ+ workers agree that LGBTQ+ people should not have to hide their identity at work (80%), but many think it’s unprofessional to talk about sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace (59%).
At the same time, workers across the board report common non-work-related conversation topics in the workplace include social life (81%), relationships or dating (64%), and sex (22-34%), which would inevitably include reference to one’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
What is LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace?
LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace is any kind of unfair treatment of an individual or individuals solely because of their sexual orientation. Examples of this vary – typically they include being harassed at work, being excluded from company events, etc. When it extends to not being hired or promoted, or being offered lower wages than their colleagues, this discrimination can turn into LGBTQ+ inequality in the workplace.
Many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace, and evidence suggests this is still ongoing. Recently, with the pandemic surging, it has been harder for LGBTQ+ members to get into recruitment, which is another example of LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace.
What percent of LGBTQ+ people have faced workplace discrimination?
46% of LGBTQ+ workers have reported receiving unfair treatment in their workplace because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. There is an estimated 9% of the LGBTQ+ individuals who have reported being denied a job even with full competency and experience of being laid off.
25.9% of LGBTQ+ employees said that they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace at some point in their careers. 20.8%, however, have reported having experiences of physical harassment such as being beaten up. 36% also have experienced verbal abuse in their careers also because of their gender identity.
How many states protect LGBTQ+ in the workplace?
As the public attitude towards LGBTQ+ people continues to be more favorable, states have offered laws in order to protect the welfare of the LGBTQ+ members. California, Colorado, and Washington D.C have laws that combat bullying and any types of discrimination against LGBTQ+ identities. They also address problems like LGBTQ+ youth homelessness and as well as inclusive sex education for the youth.
The U.S. is currently looking at six laws or policies that could possibly put an end to or lessen the problems of the LGTBQ+ community. Some of these laws are anti-discrimination laws and others focus on anti-transgender or anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes. California and Colorado have passed 6 of these laws while Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and New York have passed 5.
Why is LGBTQ+ inclusion important in the workplace?
LGBTQ+ inclusion is very important in a workplace because it makes every worker feel welcomed and included. It creates a safe space for employees and ensures their rights as human beings. An LGBTQ+-friendly workplace reduces stress and improves the overall health of employees, whether it’s physical or mental. It increases job satisfaction, which may improve employees’ productivity at work. Above all, it promotes a positive and healthy relationship with coworkers.
How can I be an LGBTQ+ ally in the workplace?
Remember that even if none of your colleagues are open about their sexuality or gender identity at work, that doesn’t mean your team doesn’t have LGBTQ+ members. Educate yourself on inclusive language and consciously use this language in your day-to-day interactions with your colleagues.
Identify habits within your workplace which could be excluding to your LGBTQ+ colleagues, or any other minority groups, as a result of unconscious biases. You could also ask your manager to run a session on inclusivity and experiences of unconscious bias in the workplace.
If you have colleagues who have told you their LGBTQ+ status, respect their choices. If they ask you to use certain pronouns, get used to using the pronouns they prefer. Don’t talk to other people about your colleague’s LGBTQ+ status, but report any discriminatory behavior to your supervisor or human resources department.
How can we reduce LGBTQ+ inequality at work?
The first step to reducing LGBTQ+ inequality in the workplace is to recognize where the organization’s policies or culture fall short of inclusion. External partners can help revise policies to ensure LGBTQ+ inclusion, and reviewing internal figures for pay gap and demographic distribution in senior management positions can help identify existing inequality.
It is important for senior management to be aware that discrimination at a cultural level within the organization can lead to inequality. For example, if feedback from a team suggests they do not like a particular supervisor’s management style, that individual may be looked over for promotion based on perceived performance. However, it’s important to recognize that there may be conscious or unconscious biases, such as homo-bi-trans-phobia, affecting the team’s assessment of that supervisor.
Changing a workplace culture takes time and decisive action from senior management, such as a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination. Consider implementing blind screenings, where recruitment and promotion are based on reports of skills and experience that have had all identifying or demographic information removed. Even small steps, such as choosing to support LGBTQ+ owned businesses as suppliers or subcontractors for your company, sends a strong message of support.
The LGBTQ+ community is today still fighting for equal rights. While the world is slowly becoming a more inclusive space for them, there is still much work to do. The LGTBQ+ community is a strong community that contributes to society both financially and culturally. Progress in this area starts with one individual at a time.
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