• While 79% say their companies represent themselves as celebrating diversity and being inclusive of LGBTQ+ workers, only 25% believe their employers prioritize these goals.
  • Fifty-two percent of LGBTQ+ workers surveyed have heard or read anti-LGBTQ+ slurs used in the workplace, and 45% say they have experienced discrimination.
  • Seventy-one percent of workers surveyed say their employers have a zero-tolerance policy regarding anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Each June, Pride Month recognizes the history, activism and successes of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Held in commemoration of the June 1969 Stonewall uprising, which helped launch the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, Pride Month is a time to reflect on this group’s past and present struggles, including equality in the workplace. 

To learn more about LGBTQ+ employees and their workplace experiences across the U.S., Indeed surveyed 491 full-time workers. We wanted to gain insights into how they feel at work and with their employers, as well as if they’ve faced discrimination. Our findings show that, while most LGBTQ+ employees feel positively about their work lives, employers must do more to level the playing field and promote full inclusion. 

Here, we share an inside look at LGBTQ+ employees’ experiences at and concerns about work — and offer tips for how employers can better support this community. 

87% of LGBTQ+ employees feel happy at their jobs, but that’s not the whole story

75% of workers believe their employers are more concerned with appearing inclusive than with having a real-world impact.

First, the good news: 87% of LGBTQ+ employees say they feel happy at their jobs. The majority feel valued by their teams (86%) and supervisors (85%).

Now, the bad: Many employees believe their employers are more talk than action. While 79% say their companies represent themselves as celebrating diversity and being inclusive of LGBTQ+ workers, 75% believe their employers are more concerned with appearing inclusive than with having a real-world impact. In fact, only 25% say diversity, equity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ workers is a real priority for their companies. So how can they do better?

Before tackling what employers can do, let’s take a look at the experiences of LGBTQ+ workers. 

69% of these LGBTQ+ workers are out at work, but 55% say they’re treated differently

While progress has been made in such areas as marriage equality, Indeed’s new data indicates that a significant minority of LGBTQ+ employees believe being out at work could lead to unfair treatment. Although 88% of respondents report feeling safe at work, these relatively widespread concerns tell a more complex story — and the numbers are startling.

Of the people we surveyed, the majority openly identified as LGBTQ+ at work (69%) or could envision coming out in the future (another 24%). Those who are not out at work cite a variety of reasons. At the top of the list, 45% say their sexual orientations and/or gender identities aren’t their coworkers’ business or relevant to their work. However, many others worry about discrimination from their bosses (41%) or peers (37%), while 39% fear disclosure could be detrimental to their careers. Over a third (32%) worry they will be passed over for promotions.

Generally speaking, 55% of respondents say they are treated differently in the workplace than their cisgendered or straight peers. This manifests itself in a variety of striking ways. Over half have heard or read anti-LGBTQ+ slurs used in the workplace (52%) or overheard anti-LGBTQ+ remarks that were unintentionally (52%) or intentionally (50%) hurtful. Forty-five percent report experiencing discrimination from their bosses and coworkers, while 43% have faced harassment in the workplace — and 42% have been harassed by their bosses. 

86% of LGBTQ+ employees say discrimination is taken seriously at their workplaces

71% of workers say their companies have a zero tolerance policy for anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

Fortunately, most employees believe their employers have their backs. Eighty-six percent agree that discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is taken seriously at their workplaces, with 71% reporting that their employers have a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior.

As a result, many employees speak up when problems arise. Some 84% of those who experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace reported it to the appropriate  individual or entity, such as HR. And results varied: 48% say their companies responded by recommunicating their policies, while 46% report that their companies updated their policies. Nearly half the respondents who made formal complaints say their companies took a stronger stance — their aggressors were disciplined (46%) or fired (39%). 

Nonetheless, some employees remained silent despite experiencing workplace discrimination or harassment. Among those, 56% say they were afraid of being blamed for what happened. What’s more, 56% worried they would be outed at work and were unwilling to take that risk. 

66% say their employers offer LGBTQ+ inclusive benefits 

Despite clear shortcomings when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, 87% of LGBTQ+ employees say they feel happy at their jobs. The majority feel valued by their teams (86%) and supervisors (85%). 

So what are some key areas for improvement? Where can employers demonstrate that LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion are true priorities? For starters, review company benefits. While 66% of employees say their benefits packages are LGBTQ+ inclusive, many leave their families and partners without — over half (53%) cite lack of benefit extension to partners.

Companies can also show solidarity by building stronger internal resources for LGBTQ+ employees. For example, 59% of respondents say their employers have employee-led resource groups (ERG), which can offer support and networking in an inclusive environment

Our data also highlight some of the concerns among workers who do not identify within the gender binary — and ways employers can improve. For instance, over half (58%) of the respondents say their employers have gender-neutral bathrooms. Pronoun usage is another important consideration, and while some employers have taken action, survey respondents say there’s still room for improvement: 63% report that their companies avoid using gendered language in official communications, while 57% say their employers actively encourage employees to specify their pronouns in company media, email signatures and online profiles.

Finally, for employers who aren’t sure where to begin, it never hurts to ask. Anonymous surveys are a valuable tool to glean crucial information about employees’ experiences and begin internal dialogs. Among our survey respondents, 75% say their companies have a safe, anonymous platform for soliciting feedback on company culture and other potentially sensitive issues. Better yet, 75% agree that their companies use this employee feedback to make substantive changes in the workplace.

Conclusion

Diversity and inclusion are ongoing processes, and when it comes to LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace, more work remains to be done. 

Although the majority of employees Indeed surveyed are out at work or could envision this in the future, those who are not remain concerned about repercussions based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sadly, their concerns are valid; among workers we surveyed, over half say they are treated differently at work and many have experienced or witnessed discriminatory comments, behaviors and harassment. 

Employers should take these numbers as a wakeup call and embrace this opportunity to demonstrate their support for LGBTQ+ workers through action. As LGBTQ+ employees tell us, it isn’t enough for companies to simply talk about diversity and inclusion for this community and others — they need to walk the walk if they are going to create a true sense of belonging for these workers.

For 2021 Pride Month, let’s commit to doing the hard work to make inclusion a reality for LGBTQ+ workers.


Methodology:

Indeed surveyed 491 full-time employees from across the U.S. who identify as LBGTQ+.