Half of LGBTI workers hide identity in workplace

by L&D05 Oct 2016
New data has indicated that nearly one in two gay, lesbian or transgender Australians opt to hide their sexual identity in the workplace out of fear that being open about it could be damaging to their career.
The 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index, using data collected by ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, found that 45 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex workers choose not to disclose their sexuality or gender identity at work due to fear it would harm their professional prospects.
Though the figure is sobering, it is actually an improvement on a similar study conducted six years ago in which the vast majority of those surveyed hid their sexuality.
ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs director Dawn Hough remarked that among the most startling results from the data was the difference between the private and public sectors.
“It is the first time we have done any significant analysis between the public and the private sectors and we are really quite surprised at that,” said Hough.
“People in the public sector feel there is less support, they feel their senior management are less likely to genuinely support inclusion initiatives."
One of the reasons given for not being ‘out’ at work included not wanting to be ‘labelled’ according to their sexual identity, and what this could mean for future prospects. Others did not want to make co-workers uncomfortable in the workplace by being open about their identity, while some of those surveyed feared being the target of abuse and/or innuendo.
Significantly, all the workers surveyed are employed with organisations that have a LGBTI inclusion program in place. Sixty-five organisations from across the public and private sectors were surveyed, with 13,258 responses analysed.
“We expect that the results would be significantly worse if we surveyed employees from organisations that were not active in this space,” added Hough.
“What you've actually got is quite high levels of people who are comfortable being out.
“Five or six years ago you would not have got anywhere near that.”
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