Discrimination towards LGBTQ+ members interviewing for jobs – and how to avoid it

Lucy Kallin, MD, Noventure, discusses how companies can ensure they provide equal opportunities through recruitment.

woman at job interview

As Pride month rolls around every year, big corporations make their yearly attempt at inclusivity, acceptance and diversity. Behind the rainbow app icons that adorn our phones throughout June lies the harsh reality that in the US there are only four openly LGBTQ+ CEOs heading up corporate companies.

‘One in 5 LGBTQ+ people looking for work faced discrimination in the job search process.’

Though the world is slowly changing, and recruitment processes have been reviewed to be more inclusive of people with diverse backgrounds, it would seem those who are hired minority communities are merely ‘poster children’ for the microcosm that is the business they are joining. Instead of expressing themselves, they are expected to fulfill a stereotype imposed on them by society, a pressure that intimidates most to hide back behind the closet doors they so longed to walk through. In addition to the pressure of being a role model for those who are still facing discrimination, for simply being who they are.

Many workers face the daily struggle of bringing one version of themselves to work and another version home. Undeniably, this has an effect on one’s performance and can hinder the way they behave and are understood by other colleagues. In a recent study, it was discovered that there was a clear difference in experience for individuals who kept their sexual orientation closeted versus those who were open – the former had a worse experience. Based on that, it would seem as though the only way to be openly accepted would be to make a formal declaration of “this is me and this is who I love”. Again emphasising the need of performing one’s self over just being one’s self.

‘One in 10 didn’t get a promotion and cite their sexual orientation as a barrier, this rises to 24% for transgender people’

Transgender people are also more likely to get entry level positions rather than cisgender as recruiters, organisations and managers see their sexual orientation as a barrier, something that will affect their performance at the company – a catch 22 that only pure acceptance will solve. This discrimination has meant more LGBTQ+ people have opted to work in more informal sectors that have less of a ‘white straight male supremacy’ association, but during lockdown this has meant many of the community have been left vulnerable as they lack access to benefits such as medical insurance that are offered with more formal employment contracts.

Though it seems the road is a dead end, there is a brighter side. Recruitment policies have definitely changed over recent years as 85% of the Fortune 500 have added gender identity to their non discrimination clause. Moreover, over 680 businesses scored 100% in the Corporation Equality index in 2020. This has definitely paved the beginning of inclusion over exclusion in business, yet the road has still got a way to go. Surprisingly, some of the sectors that are the most LGBTQ+ friendly in the US are the banking and finance, law, insurance and technology sectors.

Although this shows that there has been change, the question still lies, what should interviewers really be doing during the recruitment process, what is appropriate and what is not, and how can we change what has become somewhat normalised? Though it is stated on their policy that one’s sexual identity does not have an effect on their chances of employment, there is not always a follow through to this statement. If the candidate ‘appears’ to be straight or LGBTQ+, whether this is something that is declared should be the same across the board and not dependant on the interviewer’s opinion.

Regardless of the interviewers personal thoughts, they should, instead, reflect the company’s values and culture when it comes to the interview and the interviewees chance of success. However, if this isn’t the case, it should be pointed out either directly to the interviewer or by using social media. No action means no change.

Ultimately, the ability to enforce a real equality policy is to enforce an education program. Acceptance is rooted in being educated on a community and the values that build its foundation.

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