Being comfortable at work as a member of the LGBTQ community is no small matter. When your workplace allows you to be authentic and to bring your whole self to work each day without fear that you will be treated unfairly, you are likely to be able to perform better, and feel less drained at the end of each day. LGBTQ workers, however, aren’t often able to take for granted that they will be accepted by their colleagues and managers at work.
According to a study by the Human Rights Campaign, called The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion, close to 10 percent of LGBTQ employees have given up a job at least once because of a workplace environment that was unwelcoming. In a different Harvard LGBTQ study, one in five respondents reported sensing discrimination during a job applications process.
When looking for employment, it’s important for members of the LGBTQ community to keep an eye out for potential signs of discrimination at workplaces. How do you identify an affirming employer? Here are some helpful tips on finding LGBTQ-friendly employers.
Do your research ahead of time on the companies that you apply to
Before you send out your resume to different companies, it can help to research the choices out there. Going to the website of your town’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce website, for example, can help you gather information about what companies align themselves with the LGBTQ cause. It can also help to look at information available on the internet about the different ways in which local companies focus on avoiding discrimination. Search online for information on LGBTQ initiatives that they take up, for example. Company social media accounts, publications, and articles can be rich sources of insight.
It can help to pay particular attention to statements that you may find about the initiatives that different companies take for diversity, to what they say in their value statements, and to the programs that they sponsor.
If you find, for example, that an employer sends representatives to participate in the local Pride march each year but doesn’t make a big deal of it, it could be a sign that LGBTQ inclusion, at the company, is a part of its very fabric. Sometimes, companies that make a big deal of their non-discrimination principles and Pride involvement simply choose to side with these ideas for PR purposes or to stay on the right side of the law. It’s important when you do your research on employers to do more than just look at the most prominent pages on their website. Instead, you should follow the different links that you see, look for involvement in different LGBTQ programs and events, make a note of what you find, and talk about it at the interview that you attend, to find out how important such involvement is to the company.
Make use of your network in the LGBT community
A network of professionals who are members of the LGBTQ community can be an invaluable source of information about employers in the region who offer a friendly and welcoming work environment. If you aren’t aware of someone among your network who shares your specific LGBTQ identity, you could simply talk to your LGBTQ network to ask for suggestions. You may need to talk to a few people before you find the right kind of contact, but it isn’t likely to be too hard. The more you talk to your contacts about LGBTQ-friendly employers, the better positioned you’re likely to be to narrow your search down to the right companies.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, it’s important to put yourself out there and establish contact with professional members of your community to know which companies offer the best working environments.
While networking directly with others can work well, it’s also a good idea to use a professional service like Meetup so that you can better stay in touch with your LGBTQ network. The service
offers networking opportunities for the LGBTQ community.
Consider outing yourself on your application
While there is no expectation that people applying to jobs should disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation, if you’re confident about the strength of your resume, you could consider the idea of coming out in your application. If you’re determined to work for an employer who provides a welcoming environment for LGBTQ employees, coming out can help you quickly weed out the employers that aren’t right for you. This isn’t a good idea however, if you aren’t confident that you could find a position elsewhere.
Remember interviews are a 2-way street
LGBTQ job applicants tend to face any number of discriminatory behaviors during interviews. They may be mis-gendered, told that being trans is “easy,” or be asked about whether they are likely to overreact when clients accidentally mis-gender them. Even if an employer isn’t guilty of discriminatory behavior during an interview, it can help to be alert to cues that tell you where they stand on the LGBTQ question.
- Before an interview starts, look to see if the company has gender-neutral restrooms.
- Does the office bulletin board display flyers about LGBTQ causes?
- Do employees at the company appear conservatively dressed?
- In general, does the office seem to have plenty of diversity?
During the interview, it can help to watch out for certain signs that give your employer away.
- Are there generalized assumptions made about any group of people?
- Do they use gender-inclusive language (choosing they/them/their, rather than he/him/his)?
- Do people at the company seem to make assumptions about how some jobs are better suited to people belonging to certain genders?
- At the interview, does just one person seem to have all the authority?
In general, an employer whose behavior is discriminatory during their interviews is likely to be no different during employment. You do get to make fairly accurate conclusions about what the work experience at a company might be like, by looking for clues during the hiring process.
Ask about the health and family benefits on offer
The kind of health plan that an employer provides can be of significance to employees who identify as trans. Employers who aren’t particularly welcoming of LGBTQ employees are likely to have health plans that exclude certain kinds of coverage for trans individuals. In other cases, employers may not offer equal benefits to parents who adopt, or may not provide equal parental leave in the event of the birth of a child. Putting in research about an employer’s health plan and leave policies can reveal a lot about their attitude toward their LGBTQ employees.
It can be challenging to find a truly LGBTQ-affirming employer in some industries. Using the ideas here to identify the right employers, however, may allow you a happier employment experience.