Younger workers more likely to stay in closet, survey finds
In what may come as a surprise to some, a survey of Australian workplaces has found younger employees who are LGBT are far less likely than older LGBT people to be ‘out’ at their place of work.
The survey conducted by workplace equality NGO Pride in Diversity involved 770 respondents from a range of companies in the public and private sectors and formed part of Pride In Diversity’s 2012 Australian Workplace Equality Index which analyses and benchmarks LGBT inclusion in the workplace.
Among LGBT respondents, 70 per cent reported being out with colleagues, only 56 per cent were out with their managers, and less than one third (28 per cent) were out with their clients or customers.
According to the survey, 38 per cent of LGBT employees do not yet feel that they can be themselves at work, 29 per cent cannot confidently say that their work environment is safe and inclusive while 12 per cent would not feel confident in reporting homophobic bullying or harassment.
The survey also found despite popular perceptions that young people these days are more comfortable with being open about their sexuality it was workers aged between 16–24 who were the least likely of any age group to be out with their colleagues, clients and customers.
Pride in Diversity director, Dawn Hough, said there are several factors which can contribute to young people staying in the closet.
“Starting work for the first time is daunting enough without the added pressure of coming out to everyone in the office,” Hough said.
“They also don’t know how people will react to working with an LGBT colleague, or what support might be available for them in terms of being themselves at work, free to engage in conversations, talk about what they did on the weekend, who their partner is; something their heterosexual counterparts take for granted.”
Distressingly, the survey also attracted a “disturbing number” of ‘hate’ comments from employees opposed to LGBT inclusion in their workplace.
“These comments come from organisations which actively promote diversity and inclusion,” Hough said.
“We suspect that data from organisations which continue to exclude LGBT initiatives from their diversity agenda would be even more alarming.”
The release of the survey comes after the Diversity Council of Australia voiced its concern over continuing discrimination in the workplace following the release last November of a US study of 3,000 LGBT employees where 48 per cent reported not being open about their sexual orientation at work.
A study by the Inner City Legal Centre of over 600 LGBTI people living in NSW released in June found that just over a quarter had reported having experienced discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace.