New Research Reveals Homophobia In The Workplace Still Prevalent

Kaleidoscope Trust is the organising partner of the Global LGBT Workplace Summit

The world’s largest research study into the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has just released the first ever global data comparing experiences of homophobia at work and in daily life for LGBT people living in 21 countries around the world.

Kaleidoscope is the organising partner of the Global LGBT Workplace Summit where Out Now Consulting’s new research study by will be presented on 5th July 2012.

The research includes important information about real life experiences of LGBT people in all six continents – and reveals the clearest picture yet of the prevalence of homophobia and its current impacts on the lives of many millions of lesbian and gay people globally.

Almost one in every six respondents to the LGBT2020 study from both the USA and UK (US: 15.3% and UK: 14.5%) told researchers they have personally experienced harassment from colleagues at work during the past twelve months, because of their perceived sexuality.

A key finding is that homophobic harassment and discrimination is still commonplace in many aspects of LGBT people’s lives.

Current high levels of homophobia at work stand in marked contrast to the far more positive picture portrayed by ranked corporate scores from various corporate Diversity & Inclusion indexes, published by non-government organisations in the UK, USA and elsewhere.

In recent years such indexes have tended to show strong improvements in many workplaces – with some indexes even awarding 100% scores to certain participating corporations. But the reality for many gay and lesbian people at work appears to be quite different.

According to Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now, companies need to do much better if the very laudable aims of workplace Diversity and Inclusion policies are to carry through into real improvements for all gay and lesbian staff at work.

“It is easy to become complacent in the context of upwardly trending results in the various corporate equality indexes,” Johnson said. “There is a real danger that corporations seeing the awarding of high results or 100% scores on these indexes take out the message that there is little left to do when it comes to making LGBT people at work fully integrated, feel secure, respected and able to work as valued team members. The figures we see for various countries around the world contain disturbing findings. Levels of harassment in the workplace are too high in every country we sampled, and there is not one country where all LGBT people feel able to come out at work.”

These concerns are echoed by David Chalmers, Director of The Kaleidoscope Trust.

“Quality independent research of this kind is invaluable in helping us to understand the scale of the worldwide problem of homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and to identify where best to concentrate our efforts. With levels of discrimination in the workplace remaining so high in countries like the UK and the USA, these findings show there is enormous work to do to bring about changes in attitudes towards LGBT people in the rest of the world.”

Johnson said Out Now has identified what it calls ‘The Diversity Gap’ and has called upon companies to set about closing this gap.

“We see it in responses to questions that show how reluctant people are to ask about diversity and inclusion policies for LGBT employees during job interviews – even though the LGBT2020 study shows this to be one of the most critically important factors in a new job for most respondents when they consider a potential employer. At Out Now we call this the ‘Diversity Gap’ and we feel it is imperative that companies stop focusing so much on achieving good scores in equality indexes and start putting more effort where it is most needed and will do the most good – by listening to their employees, and focusing on putting more resource into genuinely making things better at work for their LGBT staff.”

Johnson stressed his company was not against corporate indexes. “These indexes have a role to play,” said Johnson. “It is just that we think many organisations have lost their way in recent years. The imperative to score highly on such indexes risks becoming an objective in itself – and the fact that many of the organisations which grant these scores also often collect a fee from the very companies they are ranking highly makes us feel quite uncomfortable about the process at times.”

Chalmers added there were dangers in relying on high scores on corporate LGBT workplace indexes globally: “In countries where there is some form of legal protection against discrimination in the workplace ranking companies by their compliance to those rules can be helpful but in the international context, research based on indexes and rankings can actually be counter productive.”

“Corporations with operations around the world can have a somewhat schizophrenic character in that in the UK or USA they can be ranked the best employer for treatment of their LGBT employees yet when you start to look at how they treat their LGBT employees around the world the picture can be very different and vary from country to country. Kaleidoscope wants corporations at the very minimum to commit themselves to achieving global equality for all their employees regardless of their sexuality but acknowledges that there are many different stages of that journey . It would be a significant step for corporations to acknowledge their common aim to achieve global equality but be aware of the challenges ahead.

Kaleidoscope has started a consultation exercise with our business partners to ascertain how best to approach the problems they face in the workplace from an international perspective.

Kaleidoscope are the organising partner of the Global LGBT Workplace Summit taking place at the Park Plaza Hotel in London on 5 and 6 July. David Chalmers will be chairing a panel discussion which will discuss how governments, corporations and NGOs can work together to bring about change on a global basis and reduce discrimination and prejudice based on one’s sexuality.


Experience harassment at work due to being LGBT? 14.5% UK 15.3% USA

Are you out to everyone at work ? 53.2% UK 43.9% USA

Agree with: “Coming out at work will definitely/probably hurt my prospects for promotion.” 27.4% UK 35.1% USA

Data Source : Out Now Global LGBT2020 Study Year 2012


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