Over two-fifths of LGBT+ graduates are out by the time they get into employment, according to new research that looks at LGBT+ identities and experiences in higher education and employment.
The research, which is the largest of its kind and polled over 4,000 students and graduates, was commissioned by Clifford Chance, Deutsche Bank, the University of York and National Student Pride (NSP) to coincide with National Coming Out Day.
Despite the long-held belief that people are more likely to come out during university, 42% of LGBT+ graduates are out by the time they get into employment, compared to only 38% of LGBT+ students who are out at university.
Despite these positive findings, almost twice as many non-LGBT+ graduates (80%) and students (93%) were open about their sexuality.
There is a clear correlation between being open about one’s sexuality and wellbeing in the workplace.
39% of LGBT+ graduates who shared their gender identity and sexuality with everyone said that their wellbeing had improved, compared to 25% who said that their well-being got better despite not sharing their gender identity and sexuality with everyone.
The inverse is also true with 11% more LGBT+ graduates reporting that their well-being got worse if they didn’t share their gender identity and sexuality with everyone (38%), compared to those that did (27%).
All Employees Value Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
This increase in wellbeing can be attributed to more diverse and inclusive workplace environments, with two in three students (66%) and one in two graduates (48%) saying that ‘diverse and inclusive’ environments were important when applying to current or future workplaces.
Unsurprisingly, this was of more importance to LGBT+ people, with 73% of LGBT+ students and 54% of LGBT+ graduates placing importance on inclusivity in the workplace.
A majority of LGBT+ (50%) and non-LGBT+ (46%) people thought that creating and promoting internal support networks was the most effective way that an employer could demonstrate a commitment to developing a diverse and inclusive environment.
Clifford Chance’s Global Head of Inclusion, Tiernan Brady, comments: “The research clearly shows that when LGBT+ people feel safe and confident enough to be open about themselves they have better outcomes.
“Sadly, it also tells us that only half of our LGBT+ colleagues feel they can do so and that unacceptably high levels of verbal abuse are still the reality for LGBT+ people.
“As a country, we may have changed the rules, but it is clear we have not fully changed the culture or the lived reality that LGBT+ people experience.
“If we are to deliver equality of opportunity, aspiration and experience for LGBT+ people then employers still have a lot of work to do on supporting, promoting visibility and stamping out homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
“This research presents an essential starting point for all employers who want to make that a reality. We have to be prepared to become champions and campaigners for the values we say we believe in.”
Maria Ayaz, Head of Equality and Diversity at the University of York adds: “This is the largest piece of research conducted in collaboration with employers on the wellbeing and experiences of LGBT+ students and graduates and clearly shows there are still significant societal, institutional and cultural challenges to overcome.
“The research shows the importance of having the right support services in place to ensure students and graduates feel included and a part of the environment they choose to study or work.
“There is an opportunity for collaboration between universities and employers to provide better guidance for LGBT+ students when making career choices.
“The toolkits for employers and universities should help provide a strong foundation to enhance LGBT+ students’ well-being and employment prospects.”
Stuart Lewis, Deutsche Bank’s Chief Risk Officer and Member of the Management Board, says: “As we continue to work to deliver an unequivocally open, inclusive and equal environment, we welcome research that enables us to better understand how to support our LGBT+ colleagues in the workplace.
“While progress has been made, some of the findings are troubling; two in three LGBT+ students report experiencing discrimination and rates of homelessness and poor mental wellbeing are high for young LGBT+ people.
“We hope the study raises awareness of this important topic, and prompts action within companies to further build diverse and inclusive workplaces.”
Intersectional Barriers To Coming Out
Despite the wellbeing benefits of being open about one’s sexuality, there are still many barriers to coming out, with LGBT+ students (64%) 60% more likely to hear discriminatory remarks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis than non-LGBT+ students (40%).
BAME LGBT+ people might be more hesitant to come out due to the cultural pressures put on them by their respective ethnic communities.
Where BAME LGBT+ and non-BAME LGBT+ people are equally as likely to be open about their sexuality, discrimination is still a factor.
For more information on the findings, the full report and recommendations for employers and universities, please contact a member of the team.