A new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, featured in the July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review, quantifies the loss to individuals and to the bottom line when organizations fail to create a workplace hospitable to their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees.
The data, based on a survey of 2,952 respondents, show the consequences when LGBT employees are forced to keep their lives and loved ones a secret from colleagues.
Among the findings:
- This is a highly desirable labor pool: ambitious (71%), committed (88% are willing to go the extra mile for employers) and better educated (48% of LGBT respondents have graduate degrees versus 40% of their straight counterparts).
- Despite a rise in anti-discrimination protections for LGBT employees, 48% of LGBT survey respondents reported being closeted at work. Staying in the closet has huge consequences.
- Those who are out flourish at work, while those who are in the closet languish or leave.
- LGBT employees who are not out reported significantly greater feelings of being stalled in their careers and greater dissatisfaction with their rates of promotion and advancement.
- LGBT employees who are not out are 40% less likely to trust their employer than those who are out.
- Employees who remain closeted and isolated are 73%t more likely to leave their companies within the next three years.
According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding President of the Center for Work-Life Policy and a co-author of the study, “Organizations that encourage all of their employees to bring their whole selves to work have the greatest opportunity for innovation and growth.”
“Being ‘out’ on Wall Street has gone from unimaginable thirty years ago to being widely accepted today with Wall Street helping lead this change,” said Todd Sears, an advisor to the study and founder of ‘Out on the Street,’ the LGBT Wall Street leadership consortium, which held its first event on March 30, 2011.
Sears continued, “This study clearly shows that there is still a tremendous gap between implementation of LGBT-friendly policies and the ability and decision of employees to come out at work. For us to move forward, it is going to take gay leaders sharing their coming out stories and straight leaders going beyond statements of support to action, to put real faces to the discussion. Only then will companies truly get the best out of their LGBT employees and win the support of the LGBT community and marketplace.”
The study was sponsored by American Express, Boehringer Ingelheim USA, Cisco, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, and Google. Research for the study was comprised of focus groups, Virtual Strategy Sessions, one-on-one interviews, and a U.S. national survey. The study was conducted by Knowledge Networks under the auspices of the Center for Work-Life Policy, a nonprofit research organization.