Some people may read the title of this article and wonder why it’s necessary to even have it. You might be thinking that all employers are LGBTQ+-friendly now, aren’t they? There’s legislation and we live in a more open-minded and welcoming society now, don’t we? Sadly, according to a recent article from the BBC, ‘LGBT tolerance is going backwards as hate crimes go up’ and they cite home office figures which showed that in 2017/18 there were 8,569 hate crimes based upon sexual orientation, in 2020/21 this rose to a staggering 17,135. (BBC, 4th Feb 2022).
Sadly, there are also still some places of employment that are less LGBTQ+ welcoming than others. This article will provide some hints and tips to use when advising young LGBTQ+ people who are seeking a job after leaving school. Before that though, it’s crucial to understand why this is important.
Most people are familiar with the saying that people are more productive when they can be themselves. But what does that mean? Imagine for a moment, trying to keep an important part of your life secret. It could be a hobby you have, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a club or group you belong to. Now imagine every day at work being asked questions about what you did at the weekend, your plans for the evening etc. It would become quite stressful trying to hold these conversations whilst keeping that ‘thing’ secret. That is what it’s like for many LGBTQ+ people every day. Unfortunately, because they are working so hard to guard their secret, they are not 100% focussed on their work and as a result their productivity will decrease. This in turn could result in being disciplined by their manager, which will affect their self-esteem and mental health. This is why it’s important that LGBTQ+ people work for an employer who accepts them for who they are and has robust policies to protect them in the workplace.
How do job seekers find these LGBTQ+-friendly employers? They’re not all flying rainbow flags out of every office window, or are they? Alongside all the usual job searching sites, there are several sites which specifically list adverts from LGBTQ+-friendly employers. These include:
Proud Employers – This site is managed by Stonewall who are the largest LGBTQ+ organisation in the country. Stonewall run campaigns, undertake research, and provide education and training. The Proud Employers site features job roles from a diverse and varied range of employers.
MyGWork – Not just a jobsite, this is also a professional networking site for ‘LGBT+ professionals, students, inclusive employers and anyone who believes in workplace equality’. Job seekers can connect with LGBTQ+ professionals, find a mentor, attend online careers events as well as search through the vast array of job adverts listed.
Vercida – This site is all about diversity and inclusion. Not only do they support the LGBTQ+ community, but they are also allies for the disabled, parents, the over 50s and many more. Within their job search pages job seekers can filter employers based upon a number of criteria with LGBTQIA+ (sexual orientation) being one of them. Within each job description, in addition to the usual information, it details any inclusive features you can benefit from with that employer.
LGBTjobs.co.uk – Finally, this jobs board advertises numerous roles from inclusive employers across the UK. Their goal is to help ‘talented LGBT+ candidates and inclusive employers find each other’.
As well as seeing where they advertise, another way of checking out an organisation’s LGBTQ-friendly credentials is by looking at their social media pages. It should become obvious quite quickly how proud they are of their involvement with LGBTQ issues. For example, did they do anything specific for LGBTQ history month in February and are they supporting Pride month in June, or have they done so in previous years? Searching through their Instagram images should reveal their commitment to the LGBTQ community, as well as their LinkedIn and Facebook posts.
LGBTQ+-friendly employers can sign up to the Stonewall UK Workplace Equality Index in addition to becoming a Stonewall Champion. Each of these require the employer to complete a series of assessments, staff surveys and provide evidence of the steps they have taken to support their LGBTQ+ employees. If successful, they get to display a logo recognising their involvement with Stonewall. Job seekers should look out for these logos on company websites, social media and email signatures as it serves as an excellent indication of the employers’ LGBT-friendliness.
Whilst researching potential employers, encourage students to try to find out if they have an LGBTQ+ staff network, Stonewall LGBT workplace role models, or if they offer a mentoring scheme. All these things should be found by undertaking a quick search on the employer’s website. Failing that, looking on their social media pages may reveal these answers.
Jobs and careers fairs are an excellent way of identifying LGBTQ-friendly employers too. Looking at the literature on the stands might reveal their friendliness, but if not, encourage students to ask the representatives their opinion of the company and its attitude towards LGBTQ+ people. This could be nerve wracking for some students to do face-to-face so, as an alternative, you could suggest they take the person’s name and then email them or message via LinkedIn after the event. Some organisations even run LGBTQ+-specific events such as the ones put on by MyGWork every year. WorkPride is a week-long global conference usually held in June. Throughout the week, participants can attend webinars, speak with employers, network, ask questions during Q&A’s and gain insights into how to help create inclusive workplaces. MyGWork’s WorkFair is ‘the largest LGBTQ+ virtual career fair to meet and interview with inclusive global employers’.
Finally, consider encouraging students to attend a local pride event. It may sound strange but whilst partying they might find their next employer. There’s often large companies and organisations represented, sponsoring the event. Encourage them to look at the gallery after the event if they can’t remember who was there or if they couldn’t attend.
It is important to remember though, everyone should have a free choice regarding what personal information they share with anyone. Disclosing your sexual orientation to any prospective employer is an entirely personal decision. You’re not legally obliged to say anything. It is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment.
Jude Hanley is an experienced Careers Adviser currently working in Higher Education. She is passionate about equality and diversity and regularly creates content for online magazines, newsletters and web sites. She is a member of the Careers Writers Association and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.