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One in 10 LBQ+ women and trans people feel unsafe at work

HR is responsible for ensuring that LBQ+ women and trans people feel safe at work, said Windō's cofounder Ken Janssens

More than two thirds (68%) of lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ+) women and trans people reported feeling safe at work, a report by LGBTQ+ magazine DIVA and consultancy Kantar revealed yesterday. However, more than one in 10 (11%) LBQ+ women and trans people reported not feeling safe at work.

The report was published to mark Lesbian Visibility Week 2024.

Safety concerns were reflected in the responses of LBQ+ women and trans people who took part in the research, as 12% of respondents had witnessed or experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic comments or conduct at work, while 10% experienced or witnessed verbal harassment and misgendering of trans people.

Katherine Parsons, head of diversity, inclusion and belonging for workplace management company ISS UK and Ireland, explained that incidents of homophobia can impact employees’ decision to come out at work.

She told HR magazine: “The statistic that 13% of women have experienced homophobia in the workplace is frightening. 

“These events and comments are like papercuts that can sometimes seem small or 'banter' but they hurt deeply and can stay with people for a lifetime. 

“This will affect future decisions on whether to disclose their sexuality.” 

The DIVA and Kantar survey also found that 13% of LBQ+ women and trans people reported that they did not get the same opportunities to advance at work as their colleagues; 11% reported that they could not be themselves at work. 

A survey by LGBTQ+ networking hub myGwork in April 2024 found that three quarters of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people feared coming out at work. 

Read more: Three quarters of LGBT+ women fear coming out at work

Ken Janssens, co-founder and head of social impact at Windō – a comparison platform for jobseekers wanting to assess business's ethical, sustainability and inclusion credentials – told HR magazine that HR is responsible for ensuring that LBQ+ women and trans people feel safe and included at work.

He said: “HR teams have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that LBQ+ women and trans employees feel confident in bringing their full selves to work, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be accepted, supported and celebrated for who they are.

“It’s all very well telling employees that you’re an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace, but in order to walk the talk, it must be underpinned by a suite of robust HR policies and practices.”

Parsons suggested that HR should ensure LBQ+ women feel psychologically safe at work.

She commented: “Psychological safety is in everything we do, from health and safety to giving your view on a business decision. 

“From my experience, psychological safety comes when a leader is vulnerable, open and empathetic. They relate to their team, empower them to speak up and, most importantly, 'listen' to the feedback being given without shutting people down or making people feel uncomfortable. 

“HR teams can support this by listening empathetically to people's concerns, and mediating, if required, if there has been a situation so both parties are aware and can move forward.”

Read more: LGBTQ+ employees have lower wellbeing at work, report reveals

Janssens added that HR could offer LBQ+ women and trans people mental health resources to improve their psychological safety at work.

LGBTQ+ employees have a significantly higher risk for low mental wellbeing than heterosexual employees, a report by job listings platform WorkL found in February 2024.

Janssens continued: “HR teams can improve psychological safety by bolstering their suite of inclusive policies with access to mental health resources, support services and designated ‘safe spaces’ for LBQ+ women and trans employees. 

“By providing things like employee assistance programmes (EAPs), counselling services and referrals to relevant support groups, LBQ+ women and trans people can feel supported from every angle, by people within and outside of your organisation.”

Parsons added that HR could improve work for LBQ+ people by ensuring family policies are inclusive of everyone.

She commented: "Policies need to be fit-for-purpose, robust, intersectional and followed, not just stored in a file for no one to use. 

"When I started a family, my partner carried our children. The paternity policy I was given as support referred to he/him/father throughout the document and was not designed for a female co-parent.

"Sadly I was given the same policy when my second child was born five years later, so no one had taken the learning that women may also require paternity leave."