Do We Champion LGBTQ+ Business Leaders Enough?
Leeds Pride is upon us and we have just had a full month of National Pride events, it is safe to say the LGBTQ+ agenda is front and centre. With many questioning the need for Pride, recent attacks high-light that there is still inequality and abuse out there.
As a gay business man, the idea of Pride and the Rainbow flag normally gets an eye roll from me and I am not a big ‘here, queer, get used to it’ kind of person. I feel I have been lucky that prejudice in the work place and my life has been minimal. I can count on one hand the number of times I have experienced, what I consider homophobia. I also don’t believe I have been held back but I understand that this is not the same for everyone in a similar position as me.
As what has been considered the ‘norm’ is being constantly challenged, this means that in business and life we are going to have to evolve attitudes and cultures. A recent study by the Human Rights Campaign in the US found that 46% of individual in the LGBTQ+ community hid their sexuality at work. https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/06/27/half-of-lgbt-people-stay-in-the-closet-at-work-study-reveals/
The truth is, there are only negatives to making an environment non-inclusive. Reports from the likes of Stonewall find being in the closet at work:
– Depletes energy due to editing what say
– Creates stress when having to talk about out of work occasions such as weekend
– Zaps creativity
– Leads to isolation
– Significant reduction in the individuals productivity
In order for individuals to really achieve their best and the best results at work they need to feel comfortable, respected, appreciated, valued, and understood. If one massive part of a person’s life is hidden, this only leads to a lack on inclusivity, lower productivity and poorer results.
There is a lot of information and support out there on how to create a more inclusive environment for your colleagues and also to help individuals with their journey. An area where I think the community can do better is to drive aspiration and belief.
A good start to this is championing role models that have had a positive contribution to the business world.
There is still the stereotype of the jobs open to individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ – entertainment, arts, customer service, public sector etc. Whereas women, rightly, are being championed much more strongly at the senior board level, can the same be said for LGBTQ+ individuals?
I am sure there are occasions (quick Google search implies not) but when did Tim Cook, Alan Joyce or Peter Thiel last appear on the cover of Gay Times or Attitude? Are these individuals celebrated enough within our own community? Looking over the top 10 LGBTQ+ billionaires, the ones that stand out are those from fashion – Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Michael Korrs. Stein Erik Hagen or Jennifer Pritzker anyone?
To strive, create ambition and deliver outstanding results, all sections of a community need role models to aspire to and there is a case that in the LGBTQ community, we are a step behind.