June 2024 marks 55 years since the Stonewall uprising in the US, which ignited the celebration of LGBTQI+ Pride around the world as we know it today. 

In the world of work, organisations have taken significant strides toward creating more inclusive workplaces in those five decades. But we’re only halfway there.

WM Pride leaders
WM Pride leaders

New data from Randstad’s Workmonitor Pulse Survey shows equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDI&B) initiatives and policies have gone some way to enabling LGBTQI+ workers to be themselves at work. 

While 58% of LGBTQI+ workers in the UK feel comfortable discussing their sexuality or gender identity at work, a quarter avoid it altogether. 

At the same time, we should note that 62% feel their employers have taken meaningful action to create an equitable workplace for LGBTQI+ employees. But there is a lot more to be done.

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“Understanding workers’ needs and taking authentic steps to create inclusive workplaces is not just the right thing to do. It’s also a fundamental business imperative for retaining top talent, in the face of growing complexity from a world in constant flux.

“Companies must build equitable workplaces where all workers can feel they belong.”

Sander van 't Noordende
Global CEO, Randstad
Pride career progression
Pride career progression

Pockets of progress

The global survey asked more than 2,000 members of the LGBTQI+ community in seven countries to consider how much has changed at work in the past five years — both positive and negative. It shows a mixed picture, with pockets of progress.

Nearly half (47%) of UK based respondents admitted to facing discrimination at work throughout their career. Baby Boomers have been most affected by workplace discrimination, with 63% stating that they have experienced prejudice due their sexuality or gender identity.

Only 44% said they face less discrimination than they did five years ago, while more than a quarter (27%) said discrimination had worsened over the past five years.

Four in ten (39%) of UK workers felt more isolated in the workplace than they did five years ago.

This sense of isolation is particularly felt among younger generations, with more than a third of Gen Z (37%) and 45% of Millennials saying they feel more isolated at work than five years ago, compared to 29% of Gen X.

More than half (58%) said they value allyship at work more than they did a few years ago, which rose to 63% for Gen Z respondents.

Pride world comparison
Pride world comparison

The LGBTQI+ experience at work

The Workmonitor Pulse survey findings reveal that workplace culture is having a significant impact on LGBTQI+ workers' employment decisions and career trajectories. The data shows that non-inclusive organisations are actually driving talent away. 

LGBTQ career opportunities
LGBTQ career opportunities

Feeling uncomfortable at work has caused around one in three to quit their job, while 43% think not being themselves at work impacts their motivation and productivity, which should raise a red flag for employers.

Worries about discrimination affecting career progression impacted 41% of LGBTQI+ workers in the UK, while more than a third (36%) believe their sexuality or gender identity has negatively impacted their career.

The data highlights a clear need for greater support and inclusivity in workplaces —to benefit not only LGBTQI+ individuals but also the organisations themselves, especially when labour markets are experiencing talent scarcity. 

Gen z and younger workers driving the change

While there has been progress on inclusion, the expectations of younger LGBTQI+ workers have grown over time — and today’s young leaders-in-waiting are pushing the boundaries of what progress should look like. 

Pride remote work preference
Pride remote work preference
Millennials are voting with their feet: they are almost twice as likely to work remotely if they find their workplace environment non-inclusive, with 45% saying they prefer to work from home, compared to 24% of Gen X.

43% of Millennials also feel their sexuality or gender identity has impacted their pay or career progression — 13 percentage points higher than Gen X respondents.

Gen Z is the most worried about career progression being affected by discrimination, with almost half expressing concerns (46%), compared to just 30% of Gen X.

When it comes to inauthenticity, Millennial workers in particular are more sensitive, and they’re driving the call for businesses to do more and make meaningful changes. Over half (53%) said their employer’s contribution to Pride and LGBTQI+ initiatives felt tokenistic, compared to 37% of Baby Boomers.

LGBTQI+ communities around the world

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating equitable working environments. As the survey shows variations in terms of the LGBTQI+ experience around the globe, nuanced approaches appropriate to the country’s culture are important.

Workers in Japan are the least comfortable talking about their sexuality and gender identity at work, with only a third (34%) feeling comfortable, compared to more than half of those in the UK and Australia (58% and 57%).

However, Japan has the lowest level of fear regarding job applications due to potential discrimination (17%) compared to all other countries.

More than double the percentage of LGBTQI+ workers in the US have quit their jobs due to feeling uncomfortable, compared to those in the Netherlands (41% v 16%).

Pride 5 years
Pride 5 years

The US has the highest recognition of discrimination at 51% of respondents, who said their sexuality or gender identity had exposed them to discrimination or prejudice throughout their career, compared to 47% in the UK.

Allyship appears to be strong in the Netherlands, with more than half (55%) of respondents saying there are role models and allies in the workplace and colleagues are active allies (60%). 

In both cases, these were 30 percentage points higher than Japan, which also came lowest when it comes to the perception of employers taking meaningful action, at just 35%.

Toward more inclusive workplaces

From the Workmonitor 2024 research, we know that workers favour employers whose opinions, values and worldviews reflect their own, and who actively improve equity in the workplace.

And this theme plays out in the Workmonitor Pulse survey results.

feel about leaders
feel about leaders

More than two thirds of UK workers think their employer is responsible for creating an inclusive workplace (69%) and should take a stance on LGBTQI+ issues (66%).

29% say their employer does not engage with Pride Month initiatives, while half of those with employers that do engage describe these efforts as tokenistic. 

Such tokenism can manifest as surface-level support for LGBTQI+ employees without substantive change to company culture or policies.

Indeed, two thirds of UK respondents (65%) said their company needs to introduce inclusive policies within the organisation and take a stance on LGBTQI+ issues publicly.

Businesses have a clear role to play in driving positive change, speaking up in public debates and not faltering on previous progress. 

Pride taking action
Pride taking action

Here are three tangible ways employers can foster an environment of inclusivity:

1. Empower employee-driven groups and provide visible support: 

  • ensure all initiatives are grounded in the real experience of employees. This leads to informed, targeted business actions that support and enhance workplace inclusivity. 
  • publicly demonstrate commitment to LGBTQI+ inclusion. This could involve participating in Pride events, sponsoring LGBTQI+ charities, or flying the Pride flag at the workplace. Include LGBTQI+ representation in company materials, advertisements and leadership positions to foster a sense of belonging and visibility.

2. Instil a culture of respect and empathy, through education and inclusive language and policies: 

  • recognise and respect the diverse range of experiences LGBTQI+ workers, rather than perceiving them as "other” or defining them solely by their gender or sexual orientation.
  • leaders can educate themselves and employees on LGBTQI+ identities, terminology and issues. This can help reduce bias and create a more understanding environment. Building a “culture of respect and authenticity” goes a long way in instilling openness, transparency and trust in the workplace.
  • promote the use of inclusive language that respects gender identity and expression. Update anti-discrimination policies to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity. Develop protocols for addressing instances of harassment, discrimination, or microaggressions against LGBTQI+ employees, and ensure that they feel safe reporting such incidents.
partners for inclusivity
partners for inclusivity

3. Work on authentic allyship, throughout the year, such as employee benefits:

  • while Pride Month offers an important opportunity for businesses to reflect on their LGBTQI+ inclusivity efforts, year-round awareness is essential.
  • ensure that health insurance plans offer coverage for LGBTQI+ needs, including domestic partner benefits and transgender healthcare. Provide gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms to accommodate all employees comfortably.

Discover detailed, actionable insights into today’s workforce to guide your talent strategies based on insight from 27,000 workers.

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