The State of LGBTQ+ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace in 2024

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
May 21, 2024

The case for LGBTQ+ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is clear. 

And if you’re here, you probably know how important it is to get LGBTQ+ inclusion right. But it’s almost impossible to tackle what truly matters if we don’t know where we stand today. 

In case you missed it, it’s been a tumultuous few years for DEI in the workplace and beyond. With Pride Month around the corner, it’s the perfect time to check in and dive deeper into workplace LGBTQ+ DEI in 2024.

TL;DR: We can do better.

We all know DEI strategy is nuanced. So we compiled the stats, the gaps, and the action items that give us the full picture of the state of LGBTQ+ diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace in 2024.

Table of Contents

  • LGBTQ+ diversity, equity, and inclusion statistics you need to know
  • What do the stats mean for the LGBTQ+ community in 2024?
  • What is the LGBTQ+ community telling us about DEI in the workplace? 
  • What gaps still exist in LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?
  • How can workplaces foster LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?

LGBTQ+ diversity, equity and inclusion statistics you need to know

When it comes to something that can be as sensitive as LGBTQ+ inclusion, there’s no room for bias and assumptions. 

Fortunately, we love a good data set—and the numbers never lie. So we pulled together a few important stats that shed some light on the reality of LGBTQ+ inclusion in recent years.

More than 1 in 4 Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ+

The LGBTQ+ population is growing, with 28% of Gen Z adults identifying as LGBTBQ+. While they make up a large fraction of the workforce, LGBTQ+ workers also earn significantly less than their heterosexual counterparts. LGBTQ+ workers earn on average 89 cents for every dollar earned by their peers, dropping to 70 cents for those who identify as non-binary and 60 cents for transgender women.

With Gen Z poised to make up 30% of the workforce by 2030, it’s clear that there will be a significant need for employers to prioritize inclusion in the coming years.

1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans say that discrimination has played a role in their career development

Despite the growing calls for DEI, LGBTQ Americans are still consistently facing discrimination in the workplace and beyond. According to the Center for American Progress, 31% of LGBTQ Americans reported that discrimination has played a role in their inability to get promoted or get the salary that they want.

The same report highlighted that 50% of LGBTQ+ respondents experienced some form of workplace discrimination or harassment in the last year. With that number going up to a staggering 70% for employees who identified as transgender.

1 in 3 LGBT employees has left a job due to a lack of LGBT inclusion in the workplace

LGBT employees still don’t feel comfortable at work and it has an impact on employee retention.

33.9% have looked for new jobs because their workplace did not make them feel welcome as a member of the LGBT community. And 34.2% have reported leaving a job in the past because of how they were treated.

1 in 2 LGBT workers in the US aren’t out to their supervisors

The majority of LGBT employees still don’t feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work.

In a UCLA School of Law report, 50.4% of LGBT employees reported that they weren’t out to their supervisors. A smaller, but still significant 25.8%, weren’t out to anyone in their workplace at all. 

LGBTQ+ women only make up 1.6% of managers in the US

The LGBTQ+ community is still underrepresented at the management level and above—particularly with women-identifying members of the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s estimated that 5.1% of US women identify as LGBTQ+ and 3.9% of men. Yet only 1.6% of managers in the US identify as LGBTQ+ women. The disparity grows in more senior roles, with the percentage of LGBTQ+ women holding titles of VP and above dropping below 1%. 

Men who identify as LGBTQ+ have slightly better rates of representation, floating between 2-3% at the manager to C-suite level.

Three-quarters of LGBTQ+ workers would hesitate to work in a state with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

Over 417 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across different states in the U.S. last year. While only a few of these bills have been passed, a record number of bills targeting LGBTQ+ Americans has made it a scary few years for those in the community. 

With legislation ranging from healthcare bans to limitations to discussions around gender identity, it’s unsurprising that the vast majority of LGBTQ+ employees are hesitant to work in a state that has anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

The same Indeed report found that over 50% are taking a more concrete stance, saying they would never apply for a position based in a state with anti-LGBTQ legislation.

What do the stats mean for the LGBTQ+ community in 2024?

Let’s take a step back for a second.

The reality is that most employers aren’t actively against having diverse and inclusive workplaces. In fact, as of 2021 83% of organizations were taking some form of DEI action—whether it’s establishing a policy or making other investments. 

So the question becomes: Why are these challenges and barriers still rampant in 2024?

Simply put, when organizations are faced with other problems, like economic uncertainty, DEI is usually the first to get put on the back burner. 

Hiring for DEI specialist roles was up 71% leading up to 2020. But since then, DEI roles have diminished faster than non-DEI positions, with some departments being cut altogether.

And underrepresented groups, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, are the ones paying the price.

These stats only account for a fraction of the experiences faced by the LGBTQ+ community. And even that’s enough to confirm something that we already know—we’re falling short of meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.

What is the LGBTQ+ community telling us about DEI in the workplace? 

While the data speaks for itself, we shouldn’t only rely on stats when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community. They only give us a glimpse into the gaps in the workplace.

As an organization, you need to listen to the LGBTQ+ community, hear what they need, and then make sure you take action. 

They want to see more LGBTQ+ folks in leadership roles.

“We need to see trans people [in leadership positions], to normalize the fact that we exist.”

Béatrice Robichaud is the co-founder of Panthera Dental. She’s also a transgender woman. In a conversation with the Globe and Mail, she talks about how she found very few role models when she transitioned 6 years ago. That’s why she speaks about her experience—to show others that it’s possible to be a successful trans women leader.

She noted that “Feeling better in your body makes you a better person, so, by default, a better leader.”  Highlighting the importance of making it possible for LGTQ+ employees to come to work as who they are.

They want to see work arrangements be more LGBTQ+-friendly

“When you introduce yourself to someone, what do you want them to know about you right off the bat? For me, I feel welcome to share my gender.”

LGBTQ+ folks want to feel welcome to be themselves at work. It’s one of the reasons Nikita Solber, among others who identify as LGBTQ+, prefers remote work environments. 

In a CNBC interview, they shared that it’s much easier to share pronouns when videoconferencing or on LinkedIn. 

“Being able to work remotely and having your [virtual presence] represent you by sharing your pronouns right off the bat has been a huge benefit. I’m not constantly having to introduce my pronouns.”

They want to be supported by allies in the workplace and in their careers

“We need to make LGBTQ+ people feel heard, seen, and fully accepted. Not just tolerated, but fully accepted”

As the founder and CEO of 10KC, Dave Wilkin often found himself as the only LGBTQ+ person in the room with investors and other executives. Like Béatrice, he also found himself wondering “Oh, should I be here?”

However, being surrounded by allies and mentors who actively supported diversity made him feel included in his journey as a founder.

“They helped me build the confidence to pitch top global investors and build like a global scale company.”

‍Remember: It’s important to listen to what the LGBTQ+ community has to say. But it’s not up to the LGBTQ+ community to educate you and tell you what to do. As organizational leaders, you have a responsibility to do the work and educate yourself on the barriers and challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and other underrepresented groups.

10KC DEI Solution. Get closer to your DEI goals with 10KC's all-in-one employee networking, mentoring, and development platform. Download solution overview.

What gaps still exist in LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?

It’s not all bad. In many ways, we’ve made major strides when it comes to the acceptance of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the community. 

LGTBQ+ identification has nearly doubled in the last decade—a sign that points to wider LGBTQ+ acceptance and more individuals feeling comfortable enough to embrace their sexuality and gender identity. 

But growing rates of LGBTQ+ individuals, especially young adults, means more individuals are experiencing barriers in the workplace. Meaning the DEI gaps that still exist in the workplace need to be addressed—and fast.

Looking at the stats, here are some gaps that stand out in 2024:

1. Psychologically safe workplaces

Psychological safety is when employees can feel confident being who they are and openly sharing ideas in the workplace. Without it, employees don’t feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.

The biggest sign that psychological safety isn’t up to par? That massive percentage of LGBTQ+ employees who are still hiding their sexual orientations and gender identities at work.

A McKinsey study found that LGBTQ+ women who are out of the closet are happier, view their workplace more favorably, and have more supportive managers. Let’s just say that we can safely assume that these same benefits probably extend to other folks in the LGBTQ+ community as well.

But it’s not just about your employees coming to work with smiles on their faces. (Although as an effective leader, that should matter too.) Happy employees are more productive than their unhappy counterparts—by around 20% to be exact.  Meaning fostering psychological safety is also good for business.

2. Career growth and progression

As we’ve seen, there’s a lack of representation of LGBTQ+ employees in more senior roles. And if you need more proof just 26 of the 5,670 (0.5%) board seats in the Fortune 500 were held by openly LGBTQ+ directors, as of 2022.

Underrepresentation often has less to do with hiring—rather it points to gaps in career development in the LGBTQ+ community.

That’s not to say that most companies can’t benefit from better DEI strategies in the talent acquisition process. But building a diverse workforce means providing equal opportunities to underrepresented groups, so they can be elevated into managerial roles and beyond. If no one is making LGBTQ+ career development a priority, there will always be a lack of representation at the top, even if you have the most inclusive talent acquisition strategy in the world. There simply won’t be diverse hires available at the senior level to fill those roles.

3. Employee benefits and healthcare benefits

Inclusion in the workplace goes beyond just the workday. Supporting LGBTQ+ employees can be shown by benefits such as healthcare, career development, and other work-related perks.

Yet, this survey found that only 23% of respondents had LGBT-specific workplace benefits.

LGBTQ+ employees often get left behind, particularly when it comes to healthcare benefits. For example:

  • This gay man stated that his company offers 16 weeks of family leave to mothers who gave birth to a child. However, only 4 weeks for parents who did not give birth. Leaving him wondering what he’ll do when he and his partner choose to adopt a child.
  • Many insurance plans cover hormone treatments for women but may not cover the same doctor-prescribed treatments for transgender patients. Similar situations have been found for fertility treatments that are only offered to same-sex couples.

The ramifications of inequality in healthcare in the workplace hit harder in countries like the U.S., where the vast majority of healthcare is paid through employer-sponsored private insurance.

4. Legal protection and policies

As new anti-LGBTQ legislations continue to unfold throughout the country, the rights and freedoms of LGTBQ+ individuals dwindle. And 28 U.S. states don’t have laws that prohibit workplace discrimination targeting LGBTQ employees, leaving LGBTQ+ employees vulnerable.

Whether organizations have a responsibility to lobby for legislative changes is a more complex conversation. But there’s no denying it has an impact on LGBTQ+ employees. It means DEI often falls squarely on the shoulders of organizations, making LGBTQ+ policies and allyship more important than ever before.

5. Education and awareness

31% of LGBTQ+ employees say they’ve faced blatant discrimination or microaggressions at work. But most people don’t think they’re being discriminatory when it happens. The underlying issue is a lack of understanding and awareness.

For example, take something like pronouns. To many folks, it feels like an innocent or simple mistake. But using the wrong pronouns can have a profound impact on the person who’s being misgendered. It ultimately creates an uncomfortable situation for LGBTQ+ employees who don’t feel accepted. 

How can workplaces foster LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?

Committing to an LGBTQ+ DEI strategy isn’t enough to create lasting change (or really any type of change.) You need to turn your words into actions—and we’re not just talking about raising a rainbow flag during Pride Month.

So let’s talk about some actionable solutions for fostering more inclusive work environments for LGBTQ+ employees.

1. Make DEI a part of everything you do

When LGBTQ+ inclusivity is a separate initiative it’s easy for it to get deprioritized. But when you make inclusive behavior an inherent part of everything you do, it becomes a part of your company culture and the change becomes much more permanent.

A good analogy is like maintaining physical health. If you want to run a marathon, take specific actions. Maybe you’ll eat well and train multiple times a week. Over time, you’ll probably get in better shape and run longer distances. 

But once you stop doing those things, your endurance will slowly fade. If you want to maintain endurance in the long run, you will commit to making those actions part of your lifestyle, and you’ll enjoy the effects much longer.

It’s the same thing for inclusion in the workplace. The work never ends. There's always going to be ways that you can learn, that you can get better, that you can develop yourself.

READ MORE:  DEI for the Workplace: A Complete Guide

2. Make allyship explicit and proactive

It sounds cliché but your LGBTQ+ employees want you to be their biggest cheerleaders. Whether it’s the organization or your leaders, be explicitly inclusive and acknowledge the LGTBQ+ employees on your team. 

Some examples of proactive and explicit allyship include:

  • Creating and supporting an LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG)
  • Having accessible and LGTBQ+-friendly facilities, such as gender-neutral restrooms
  • Promoting your company as LGBTQ+ inclusive
  • Fostering inclusive behaviors, like making pronouns a part of email signatures

It’s less about rainbow washing or giving your company a pat on the back. Rather, it’s recognizing that there are still large groups of employees hiding their sexuality or gender identity at work. They need to see tangible actions before they can feel comfortable being themselves. 

You can’t just sit back and wait to address challenges or discriminatory behavior when it happens. Realistically, there are a huge number of invisible barriers that those outside the LGBTQ+ community may never see.

Being proactive about allyship means no one gets left behind.

10KC allyship learning session.

3. Offer action-focused LGBTQ+ education

From junior employees to executives, effective allyship starts with education. If you understand your privilege and your unconscious bias, you can be a better ally for those in the LGTBQ+ community.

You can always encourage your employees to do their own learning. But take it a step further by offering LGBTQ+-specific DEI education for your organization. It’s not always comfortable, it forces employees to understand the history faced by folks in the LGBTQ+ community but gives them the tools to be more effective allies.

And when it comes to people managers and leaders, LGBTQ+ education geared toward leaders can help them better support their teams and their career progression within your organization.

4. Intentionally attract LGBTQ+ talent 

You can’t have a diverse and inclusive company without inclusive hiring. When recruiting new talent, go the extra mile to intentionally include LGBTQ+ candidates in your pipeline. 

Posting open roles to LGBTQ+ job boards and attending recruiting events are critical to show candidates that you’re actively open to having more diverse talent within your organization. When candidates see you showing up as an ally, they’re more likely to apply for and accept a role at your company. 

5. Create a strategy for retaining LGBTQ+ talent 

On the other hand, diversity challenges can’t be rectified by simply hiring more LGBTQ+ employees. You have to start with the LGBTQ+ employees already within your organization. It’s important to have the initiatives in place to keep those employees, otherwise they may find themselves looking for more inclusive employment elsewhere.

In a world where many folks aren’t out in the workplace, you should strive to implement employee retention strategies that are inclusive to all LGBTQ+ employees. An EY study found that for the average Fortune 500 company, improving retention of LGBTQ+ employees by just 5% could save over $4.2 million in turnover costs alone.

6. Prioritize opportunities for LGBTQ+ mentorship and sponsorship

Employees with mentors are promoted five times more often than their non-mentored peers.

Providing opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship for LGBTQ+ employees (and other diverse groups) can set them up to be future leaders in your organization. Formal mentorship programs can help you proactively match LGBTQ+ employees with leaders in your organizations, so they have access to skills and opportunities needed to advance in their careers. AI matching algorithms, like those within 10KC, can also help you match mentees and mentors without any bias.

Nurturing your internal talent pipeline is one of the simplest and most effective solutions to improving diverse representation in senior roles at your company.

Ebook: Sponsorship Programs Decoded. Download now.

7. Put policies in place to protect and support LGBTQ+ employees

While rules and policies might feel inauthentic and like you’re forcing DEI, they can be one of the most impactful ways to help employees—and your organization—make strides in the right direction. 

Evaluating employee benefits and policies beyond a heteronormative lens is key to creating a truly LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace. Some common examples can include:

  • Access to parental leave regardless of sex, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation.
  • Transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits and insurance.
  • Explicit protection from workplace harassment.
  • Policies regarding employees’ rights to use their pronouns of choice.
  • Hiring and compensation policies that eliminate bias and discrimination.

Over time, these policies will organically make inclusive behaviors and practices a part of your workplace culture.

8. Make LGBTQ+ employee feedback a pillar of your DEI strategy

A quick Google search will tell you that there are many ways to foster LGBTQ+ inclusion. While many of the strategies out there are impactful, it’s worth asking employees what they need. 

It’s common to see organizations move forward with what leadership believes will make an impact. But not only does this run the risk of wasted efforts and resources, it can quickly deteriorate the trust of your employees as they feel like their needs aren’t being met. 

Anonymous employee surveys and anecdotal feedback from LGBTQ+ employees within your organization can help you better understand where you can improve. Even understanding why LGBTQ+ candidates in your talent pipeline choose—or don’t choose—to join your organization can be critical. 

Take the time to put LGBTQ+ employees first and action on their feedback. Otherwise, it can be difficult to make strides toward a truly LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace.

We can do better

We said it once, and we’ll say it again. 

The good news is that tackling LGBTQ+ diversity in the workplace doesn’t have to be a beast. And now that you have the insights and the tool kit to start prioritizing DEI in your workplace, you’ll be on your way to helping your LGBTQ+ employees thrive in no time.

Discover how 10KC can elevate your LGBTQ+ DEI initiative to boost employee morale, engagement, and retention. Book a demo.
Webinar

The State of LGBTQ+ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace in 2024

The case for LGBTQ+ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is clear. 

And if you’re here, you probably know how important it is to get LGBTQ+ inclusion right. But it’s almost impossible to tackle what truly matters if we don’t know where we stand today. 

In case you missed it, it’s been a tumultuous few years for DEI in the workplace and beyond. With Pride Month around the corner, it’s the perfect time to check in and dive deeper into workplace LGBTQ+ DEI in 2024.

TL;DR: We can do better.

We all know DEI strategy is nuanced. So we compiled the stats, the gaps, and the action items that give us the full picture of the state of LGBTQ+ diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace in 2024.

Table of Contents

  • LGBTQ+ diversity, equity, and inclusion statistics you need to know
  • What do the stats mean for the LGBTQ+ community in 2024?
  • What is the LGBTQ+ community telling us about DEI in the workplace? 
  • What gaps still exist in LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?
  • How can workplaces foster LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?

LGBTQ+ diversity, equity and inclusion statistics you need to know

When it comes to something that can be as sensitive as LGBTQ+ inclusion, there’s no room for bias and assumptions. 

Fortunately, we love a good data set—and the numbers never lie. So we pulled together a few important stats that shed some light on the reality of LGBTQ+ inclusion in recent years.

More than 1 in 4 Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ+

The LGBTQ+ population is growing, with 28% of Gen Z adults identifying as LGBTBQ+. While they make up a large fraction of the workforce, LGBTQ+ workers also earn significantly less than their heterosexual counterparts. LGBTQ+ workers earn on average 89 cents for every dollar earned by their peers, dropping to 70 cents for those who identify as non-binary and 60 cents for transgender women.

With Gen Z poised to make up 30% of the workforce by 2030, it’s clear that there will be a significant need for employers to prioritize inclusion in the coming years.

1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans say that discrimination has played a role in their career development

Despite the growing calls for DEI, LGBTQ Americans are still consistently facing discrimination in the workplace and beyond. According to the Center for American Progress, 31% of LGBTQ Americans reported that discrimination has played a role in their inability to get promoted or get the salary that they want.

The same report highlighted that 50% of LGBTQ+ respondents experienced some form of workplace discrimination or harassment in the last year. With that number going up to a staggering 70% for employees who identified as transgender.

1 in 3 LGBT employees has left a job due to a lack of LGBT inclusion in the workplace

LGBT employees still don’t feel comfortable at work and it has an impact on employee retention.

33.9% have looked for new jobs because their workplace did not make them feel welcome as a member of the LGBT community. And 34.2% have reported leaving a job in the past because of how they were treated.

1 in 2 LGBT workers in the US aren’t out to their supervisors

The majority of LGBT employees still don’t feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work.

In a UCLA School of Law report, 50.4% of LGBT employees reported that they weren’t out to their supervisors. A smaller, but still significant 25.8%, weren’t out to anyone in their workplace at all. 

LGBTQ+ women only make up 1.6% of managers in the US

The LGBTQ+ community is still underrepresented at the management level and above—particularly with women-identifying members of the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s estimated that 5.1% of US women identify as LGBTQ+ and 3.9% of men. Yet only 1.6% of managers in the US identify as LGBTQ+ women. The disparity grows in more senior roles, with the percentage of LGBTQ+ women holding titles of VP and above dropping below 1%. 

Men who identify as LGBTQ+ have slightly better rates of representation, floating between 2-3% at the manager to C-suite level.

Three-quarters of LGBTQ+ workers would hesitate to work in a state with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

Over 417 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across different states in the U.S. last year. While only a few of these bills have been passed, a record number of bills targeting LGBTQ+ Americans has made it a scary few years for those in the community. 

With legislation ranging from healthcare bans to limitations to discussions around gender identity, it’s unsurprising that the vast majority of LGBTQ+ employees are hesitant to work in a state that has anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

The same Indeed report found that over 50% are taking a more concrete stance, saying they would never apply for a position based in a state with anti-LGBTQ legislation.

What do the stats mean for the LGBTQ+ community in 2024?

Let’s take a step back for a second.

The reality is that most employers aren’t actively against having diverse and inclusive workplaces. In fact, as of 2021 83% of organizations were taking some form of DEI action—whether it’s establishing a policy or making other investments. 

So the question becomes: Why are these challenges and barriers still rampant in 2024?

Simply put, when organizations are faced with other problems, like economic uncertainty, DEI is usually the first to get put on the back burner. 

Hiring for DEI specialist roles was up 71% leading up to 2020. But since then, DEI roles have diminished faster than non-DEI positions, with some departments being cut altogether.

And underrepresented groups, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, are the ones paying the price.

These stats only account for a fraction of the experiences faced by the LGBTQ+ community. And even that’s enough to confirm something that we already know—we’re falling short of meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.

What is the LGBTQ+ community telling us about DEI in the workplace? 

While the data speaks for itself, we shouldn’t only rely on stats when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community. They only give us a glimpse into the gaps in the workplace.

As an organization, you need to listen to the LGBTQ+ community, hear what they need, and then make sure you take action. 

They want to see more LGBTQ+ folks in leadership roles.

“We need to see trans people [in leadership positions], to normalize the fact that we exist.”

Béatrice Robichaud is the co-founder of Panthera Dental. She’s also a transgender woman. In a conversation with the Globe and Mail, she talks about how she found very few role models when she transitioned 6 years ago. That’s why she speaks about her experience—to show others that it’s possible to be a successful trans women leader.

She noted that “Feeling better in your body makes you a better person, so, by default, a better leader.”  Highlighting the importance of making it possible for LGTQ+ employees to come to work as who they are.

They want to see work arrangements be more LGBTQ+-friendly

“When you introduce yourself to someone, what do you want them to know about you right off the bat? For me, I feel welcome to share my gender.”

LGBTQ+ folks want to feel welcome to be themselves at work. It’s one of the reasons Nikita Solber, among others who identify as LGBTQ+, prefers remote work environments. 

In a CNBC interview, they shared that it’s much easier to share pronouns when videoconferencing or on LinkedIn. 

“Being able to work remotely and having your [virtual presence] represent you by sharing your pronouns right off the bat has been a huge benefit. I’m not constantly having to introduce my pronouns.”

They want to be supported by allies in the workplace and in their careers

“We need to make LGBTQ+ people feel heard, seen, and fully accepted. Not just tolerated, but fully accepted”

As the founder and CEO of 10KC, Dave Wilkin often found himself as the only LGBTQ+ person in the room with investors and other executives. Like Béatrice, he also found himself wondering “Oh, should I be here?”

However, being surrounded by allies and mentors who actively supported diversity made him feel included in his journey as a founder.

“They helped me build the confidence to pitch top global investors and build like a global scale company.”

‍Remember: It’s important to listen to what the LGBTQ+ community has to say. But it’s not up to the LGBTQ+ community to educate you and tell you what to do. As organizational leaders, you have a responsibility to do the work and educate yourself on the barriers and challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and other underrepresented groups.

10KC DEI Solution. Get closer to your DEI goals with 10KC's all-in-one employee networking, mentoring, and development platform. Download solution overview.

What gaps still exist in LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?

It’s not all bad. In many ways, we’ve made major strides when it comes to the acceptance of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the community. 

LGTBQ+ identification has nearly doubled in the last decade—a sign that points to wider LGBTQ+ acceptance and more individuals feeling comfortable enough to embrace their sexuality and gender identity. 

But growing rates of LGBTQ+ individuals, especially young adults, means more individuals are experiencing barriers in the workplace. Meaning the DEI gaps that still exist in the workplace need to be addressed—and fast.

Looking at the stats, here are some gaps that stand out in 2024:

1. Psychologically safe workplaces

Psychological safety is when employees can feel confident being who they are and openly sharing ideas in the workplace. Without it, employees don’t feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.

The biggest sign that psychological safety isn’t up to par? That massive percentage of LGBTQ+ employees who are still hiding their sexual orientations and gender identities at work.

A McKinsey study found that LGBTQ+ women who are out of the closet are happier, view their workplace more favorably, and have more supportive managers. Let’s just say that we can safely assume that these same benefits probably extend to other folks in the LGBTQ+ community as well.

But it’s not just about your employees coming to work with smiles on their faces. (Although as an effective leader, that should matter too.) Happy employees are more productive than their unhappy counterparts—by around 20% to be exact.  Meaning fostering psychological safety is also good for business.

2. Career growth and progression

As we’ve seen, there’s a lack of representation of LGBTQ+ employees in more senior roles. And if you need more proof just 26 of the 5,670 (0.5%) board seats in the Fortune 500 were held by openly LGBTQ+ directors, as of 2022.

Underrepresentation often has less to do with hiring—rather it points to gaps in career development in the LGBTQ+ community.

That’s not to say that most companies can’t benefit from better DEI strategies in the talent acquisition process. But building a diverse workforce means providing equal opportunities to underrepresented groups, so they can be elevated into managerial roles and beyond. If no one is making LGBTQ+ career development a priority, there will always be a lack of representation at the top, even if you have the most inclusive talent acquisition strategy in the world. There simply won’t be diverse hires available at the senior level to fill those roles.

3. Employee benefits and healthcare benefits

Inclusion in the workplace goes beyond just the workday. Supporting LGBTQ+ employees can be shown by benefits such as healthcare, career development, and other work-related perks.

Yet, this survey found that only 23% of respondents had LGBT-specific workplace benefits.

LGBTQ+ employees often get left behind, particularly when it comes to healthcare benefits. For example:

  • This gay man stated that his company offers 16 weeks of family leave to mothers who gave birth to a child. However, only 4 weeks for parents who did not give birth. Leaving him wondering what he’ll do when he and his partner choose to adopt a child.
  • Many insurance plans cover hormone treatments for women but may not cover the same doctor-prescribed treatments for transgender patients. Similar situations have been found for fertility treatments that are only offered to same-sex couples.

The ramifications of inequality in healthcare in the workplace hit harder in countries like the U.S., where the vast majority of healthcare is paid through employer-sponsored private insurance.

4. Legal protection and policies

As new anti-LGBTQ legislations continue to unfold throughout the country, the rights and freedoms of LGTBQ+ individuals dwindle. And 28 U.S. states don’t have laws that prohibit workplace discrimination targeting LGBTQ employees, leaving LGBTQ+ employees vulnerable.

Whether organizations have a responsibility to lobby for legislative changes is a more complex conversation. But there’s no denying it has an impact on LGBTQ+ employees. It means DEI often falls squarely on the shoulders of organizations, making LGBTQ+ policies and allyship more important than ever before.

5. Education and awareness

31% of LGBTQ+ employees say they’ve faced blatant discrimination or microaggressions at work. But most people don’t think they’re being discriminatory when it happens. The underlying issue is a lack of understanding and awareness.

For example, take something like pronouns. To many folks, it feels like an innocent or simple mistake. But using the wrong pronouns can have a profound impact on the person who’s being misgendered. It ultimately creates an uncomfortable situation for LGBTQ+ employees who don’t feel accepted. 

How can workplaces foster LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?

Committing to an LGBTQ+ DEI strategy isn’t enough to create lasting change (or really any type of change.) You need to turn your words into actions—and we’re not just talking about raising a rainbow flag during Pride Month.

So let’s talk about some actionable solutions for fostering more inclusive work environments for LGBTQ+ employees.

1. Make DEI a part of everything you do

When LGBTQ+ inclusivity is a separate initiative it’s easy for it to get deprioritized. But when you make inclusive behavior an inherent part of everything you do, it becomes a part of your company culture and the change becomes much more permanent.

A good analogy is like maintaining physical health. If you want to run a marathon, take specific actions. Maybe you’ll eat well and train multiple times a week. Over time, you’ll probably get in better shape and run longer distances. 

But once you stop doing those things, your endurance will slowly fade. If you want to maintain endurance in the long run, you will commit to making those actions part of your lifestyle, and you’ll enjoy the effects much longer.

It’s the same thing for inclusion in the workplace. The work never ends. There's always going to be ways that you can learn, that you can get better, that you can develop yourself.

READ MORE:  DEI for the Workplace: A Complete Guide

2. Make allyship explicit and proactive

It sounds cliché but your LGBTQ+ employees want you to be their biggest cheerleaders. Whether it’s the organization or your leaders, be explicitly inclusive and acknowledge the LGTBQ+ employees on your team. 

Some examples of proactive and explicit allyship include:

  • Creating and supporting an LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG)
  • Having accessible and LGTBQ+-friendly facilities, such as gender-neutral restrooms
  • Promoting your company as LGBTQ+ inclusive
  • Fostering inclusive behaviors, like making pronouns a part of email signatures

It’s less about rainbow washing or giving your company a pat on the back. Rather, it’s recognizing that there are still large groups of employees hiding their sexuality or gender identity at work. They need to see tangible actions before they can feel comfortable being themselves. 

You can’t just sit back and wait to address challenges or discriminatory behavior when it happens. Realistically, there are a huge number of invisible barriers that those outside the LGBTQ+ community may never see.

Being proactive about allyship means no one gets left behind.

10KC allyship learning session.

3. Offer action-focused LGBTQ+ education

From junior employees to executives, effective allyship starts with education. If you understand your privilege and your unconscious bias, you can be a better ally for those in the LGTBQ+ community.

You can always encourage your employees to do their own learning. But take it a step further by offering LGBTQ+-specific DEI education for your organization. It’s not always comfortable, it forces employees to understand the history faced by folks in the LGBTQ+ community but gives them the tools to be more effective allies.

And when it comes to people managers and leaders, LGBTQ+ education geared toward leaders can help them better support their teams and their career progression within your organization.

4. Intentionally attract LGBTQ+ talent 

You can’t have a diverse and inclusive company without inclusive hiring. When recruiting new talent, go the extra mile to intentionally include LGBTQ+ candidates in your pipeline. 

Posting open roles to LGBTQ+ job boards and attending recruiting events are critical to show candidates that you’re actively open to having more diverse talent within your organization. When candidates see you showing up as an ally, they’re more likely to apply for and accept a role at your company. 

5. Create a strategy for retaining LGBTQ+ talent 

On the other hand, diversity challenges can’t be rectified by simply hiring more LGBTQ+ employees. You have to start with the LGBTQ+ employees already within your organization. It’s important to have the initiatives in place to keep those employees, otherwise they may find themselves looking for more inclusive employment elsewhere.

In a world where many folks aren’t out in the workplace, you should strive to implement employee retention strategies that are inclusive to all LGBTQ+ employees. An EY study found that for the average Fortune 500 company, improving retention of LGBTQ+ employees by just 5% could save over $4.2 million in turnover costs alone.

6. Prioritize opportunities for LGBTQ+ mentorship and sponsorship

Employees with mentors are promoted five times more often than their non-mentored peers.

Providing opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship for LGBTQ+ employees (and other diverse groups) can set them up to be future leaders in your organization. Formal mentorship programs can help you proactively match LGBTQ+ employees with leaders in your organizations, so they have access to skills and opportunities needed to advance in their careers. AI matching algorithms, like those within 10KC, can also help you match mentees and mentors without any bias.

Nurturing your internal talent pipeline is one of the simplest and most effective solutions to improving diverse representation in senior roles at your company.

Ebook: Sponsorship Programs Decoded. Download now.

7. Put policies in place to protect and support LGBTQ+ employees

While rules and policies might feel inauthentic and like you’re forcing DEI, they can be one of the most impactful ways to help employees—and your organization—make strides in the right direction. 

Evaluating employee benefits and policies beyond a heteronormative lens is key to creating a truly LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace. Some common examples can include:

  • Access to parental leave regardless of sex, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation.
  • Transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits and insurance.
  • Explicit protection from workplace harassment.
  • Policies regarding employees’ rights to use their pronouns of choice.
  • Hiring and compensation policies that eliminate bias and discrimination.

Over time, these policies will organically make inclusive behaviors and practices a part of your workplace culture.

8. Make LGBTQ+ employee feedback a pillar of your DEI strategy

A quick Google search will tell you that there are many ways to foster LGBTQ+ inclusion. While many of the strategies out there are impactful, it’s worth asking employees what they need. 

It’s common to see organizations move forward with what leadership believes will make an impact. But not only does this run the risk of wasted efforts and resources, it can quickly deteriorate the trust of your employees as they feel like their needs aren’t being met. 

Anonymous employee surveys and anecdotal feedback from LGBTQ+ employees within your organization can help you better understand where you can improve. Even understanding why LGBTQ+ candidates in your talent pipeline choose—or don’t choose—to join your organization can be critical. 

Take the time to put LGBTQ+ employees first and action on their feedback. Otherwise, it can be difficult to make strides toward a truly LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace.

We can do better

We said it once, and we’ll say it again. 

The good news is that tackling LGBTQ+ diversity in the workplace doesn’t have to be a beast. And now that you have the insights and the tool kit to start prioritizing DEI in your workplace, you’ll be on your way to helping your LGBTQ+ employees thrive in no time.

Discover how 10KC can elevate your LGBTQ+ DEI initiative to boost employee morale, engagement, and retention. Book a demo.

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