The Great Resignation and the LGBTQ+ Workforce
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- The Great Resignation affects workers in all demographics, including LGBTQ+ folks.
- Job seekers should find a workplace that fosters a sense of belonging.
- There are many factors to consider when seeking an employer supportive of LGBTQ+ workers.
You may have heard about the Great Resignation: Employees across the country are taking advantage of a tight labor market and record low unemployment to leave their jobs in search of better ones. This trend is visible across the workforce, including among LGBTQ+ workers.
So, what does the Great Resignation mean for LGBTQ+ employees? How can organizations create more inclusive workspaces for their LGBTQ+ workers? And how can LGBTQ+ folks who are looking to change jobs find an employer that's right for them? We explore these questions below.
Why Are People Quitting Their Jobs?
While everyone taking part in the Great Resignation has their own reasons, a few overarching themes stand out. According to the Pew Research Center, the top three reasons workers cited for quitting a job in 2021 were low pay (63% of those surveyed), limited or no opportunities for advancement (63%), and feeling disrespected at the office (57%).
For LGBTQ+ employees, all of these reasons are relevant. Chris Rollins, a leadership and executive coach who works with both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ clients who have been quitting their jobs in the Great Resignation, says "people are waking up to the fact that this is their one and only life, and they want to make it an experience worth living. Their life is now the thing they're designing their job around. Not the other way around."
Corporate America has noticed and is determined to keep pace. In fact, corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) departments have been more aware than ever of the need to ensure their workplaces are welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ employees. Many more DEI initiatives have been created at organizations in the U.S. in light of the Great Resignation.
By The Numbers: LGBTQ+ in the Workforce
According to Gallup, about 7% of Americans identified as LGBTQ+ as of 2022, making up a sizable portion of the workforce. However, this number may not accurately reflect the true number of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.
According to the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 46% of LGBTQ+ workers were closeted at work in 2018, down only slightly from 50% in 2008. Fifty-six percent of LGBTQ+ employees reported hearing derogatory jokes or remarks about LGBTQ+ people at their workplaces.
Feeling uncomfortable being open about your identity in the workplace is never a good thing, and it can negatively affect your relationship with your job and your mental health. Uncomfortable work environments can contribute to feelings of isolation and persecution.
In 2020, consulting firm McKinsey found that the LGBTQ+ community is drastically underrepresented in management roles. LGBTQ+ employees also face a disproportionate amount of isolation, derogatory comments, and workplace harassment.
With these factors in mind, it should come as no surprise that many LGBTQ+ workers are interested in taking advantage of the current labor market to seek out more welcoming workplaces where they can find a greater sense of community.
The Importance of Belonging at Work
For everyone, but especially LGBTQ+ employees, feeling included at work is crucial to productivity, professional advancement, mental health, and well-being.
The fact that 57% of those surveyed by Gallup who quit their jobs in 2021 cited feelings of disrespect at work as a major reason for quitting only underscores that point. The issue of feeling respected at work is particularly relevant for LGBTQ+ employees, who were only granted federal protection from discrimination in the workplace in the summer of 2020.
"In terms of risk, there's always a level of real or perceived risk in leaving a job you know," Rollins said. "I think the largest opportunity for LGBTQ+ folks is to realign themselves with organizations and leaders who not only acknowledge who they are, but also celebrate them."
A 2019 study from the Harvard Business Review shows that while 40% of people feel isolated at work, those who feel a sense of belonging are 50% less likely to quit.
What to Look For in a New Employer
If you're a member of the LGBTQ+ community looking to make a professional change, there are a few key things to look for as you interview for new positions. In addition to the obvious metrics, like salary, benefits, and opportunities for advancement, you will also want to look out for indicators that your potential workplace will be a welcoming environment where you can thrive.
Rollins has helped many of his clients find new and more welcoming workplaces, and he recommends LGBTQ+ job seekers "look at the organization's commitments to diversity, inclusion and belonging."
He says people can ask a few key questions: "Do they have an LGBTQ+ employee resource group? Is it well-funded and supported? Do they have any openly queer executive leaders? Do their benefits signal they prioritize inclusion in practice (e.g. covering adoption fees, extensive parental leave, gender-affirming care options, etc.)?"
Job seekers can also take advantage of HRC's Equality Index, which measures different employers' commitments to equality in hiring practices, benefits, and more. These numbers, along with more intuitive, "soft" factors, can help you make an informed decision.
"How folks respond when we do choose to signal our queerness will be telling about what kind of experience you might expect at that company," Rollins said. "To the extent you're comfortable, bring your truth."
Frequently Asked Questions About LGBTQ+ Inclusion
How do I make my workplace more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people?
If you are an employer looking to create a more inclusive workplace for your LGBTQ+ employees, consider seeing where you rank on HRC's Equality Index, and seeing where you can improve in areas where you are falling short.
This can be particularly useful when designing your employee benefits program to ensure that it is inclusive for all employees and their families. In the meantime, ask your LGBTQ+ employees, or your employees more broadly, about questions or concerns they have about company culture and inclusivity.
How do you become an LGBTQ+ ally in the workplace?
There are many different ways to be a good ally to your LGBTQ+ colleagues. Some of these are personal and can be done on an individual level — for instance, call out discriminatory remarks or "jokes" that target LGBTQ+ people you may hear at your office.
You can also be an ally by advocating for policies that impact LGBTQ+ folks on a larger scale. Promote inclusive employment practices and benefits programs and support workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. As an ally, remember to listen to concerns or suggestions from LGBTQ+ community leaders and coworkers.
Can an employer ask if you are LGBTQ+?
Legally, LGBTQ+ employees are protected from discrimination at the workplace in every state in the United States under Title IX, as of the 2020 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock vs. Clayton County. Your employer can ask you to voluntarily disclose if you are LGBTQ+, which some organizations do on job applications. However, you are not required to answer, and if you do, any discrimination you face due to your answer is illegal.
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Chris Rollins is a purpose-driven leadership and executive coach who works with leaders — especially in the LGBTQ+ community — to experience new levels of growth, success, and fulfillment. With a decade of sales, client success, and executive experience leading HR, Chris combines his unique background to help his clients step more powerfully into their roles as leaders.
He's been coaching full time for two years and has been hired by leaders and employee resource groups at some of the world's most recognizable brands like Walmart, J&J, YouTube, Verizon, Oracle, Regeneron, and more.
When living from his essence, Chris embodies compassion, intimacy, love, joy, and peace. A native New Yorker, he now lives in Tampa, Florida, with his partner and rescue pup and is proud to be a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise with the NGLCC.