Will it hurt your career if you are part of the LGBT community? In politics not: Europe has now two openly gay prime ministers: Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister of Ireland and Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg. Who would have thought that this would be the case ten or even twenty years ago within the European Union? Things have changed. However, not all countries within the EU are committed to equality when it comes to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals. There is still much work to do within some countries when it comes to equal rights: Marriage, partnerships, pension, social benefits, and so on.
However, what is happening within the workforce and recruitment when it comes to LGBT emancipation? A Deloitte report found that 83 percent of LGBT individuals hide aspects of their identity at work, often because they say their bosses expect them to.
In the last decade many organizations have been focusing more and more on LGBT individuals. Some examples:
- The Work Place Pride – This organization strives for a world of inclusive workplaces where LGBT people can truly be themselves and are valued and through their contribution to help to lead the way for others.
- Human Rights Watch – Has introduced the Corporate Equality Index. It focusses on US Companies and is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees.
- Stonewall – This charity equips people with the tools and confidence to connect with, influence and enable others in their communities,by challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, celebrating difference and improving inclusion and visibility of role models.
- Some companies like Accenture or Chevron have dedicated themselves to ensure an inclusive environment for LGBT employees.
This is of course excellent news. Companies are realizing that having a diverse employee base is an asset and it will increase the earnings – see three blog posts on Gender Pay Gap from my colleague Wilma. A company that can pledge its support to employees irrespective of their skin colour, gender or sexuality stands to benefit hugely; firstly by creating a sense of empowerment among employees and secondly by setting an industry standard that can pave the way for change across society towards embracing diversity. We suggest reading the Glass Closet: Why Coming out is Good for Business – by John Browne (former CEO of BP).
As Executive Search Consultant and being part of the LGBT community, all these initiatives are great steps towards a more inclusive future. Since graduating from University in the nineties I have noticed companies and organizations are seeing the necessity for focusing on this group. However, as consultants we still come across candidates and clients that are hesitant to come out.
Since having established Lens, Executive Search/ Kennedy Executive Search Amsterdam, we have interviewed many candidates who are afraid of their identity, asking questions like:
“Being openly gay, will this have influence on my career when I move to a major financial institution?”, “I do not want to let others know about my identity, as this is a private matter.” or “I have not officially come out of the closet, as I come from a conservative background.”
Why do professional candidates tell us this? Part of our job as Executive Search Consultants is to find out what drives people. It is for us of utmost importance that next to competences, there should be a cultural fit with our client. In all instances, we have indicated that it should not matter. If candidates are still afraid of their identity, we try to put them in contact with important influencers within our clients or have them talk to representatives of Workplace Pride.
What is still shocking is that some of our clients are hesitant in hiring LGBT people. We have come across clients that requires a commercial candidate that focus on conservative clientele. Clients do not want to put our candidates in an awkward situation. They want to protect the candidate and of course their own brand and reputation and fear that someone clearly gay might polarize. Which might be true. But then, what is the solution? We have discussed this internally at Lens, Executive Search. Should we continue to service these types of clients? We are struggling with this as well.
Our job is also to educate employers and employees. Or as per the last sentence of our newsletter “help us to make the world of labor become a better place”.
It does not hurt your career being part of the LGBT community. It will add value to your brand and to your career. here are many examples of professionals that are openly gay and have been quite successful: Tim Cook of Apple, Christopher Bailey of Burberry, Inga Beale of Lloyds of London or Hein Knappen of ING to name a few.
Should you as candidate inform us about your sexual orientation? The answer is no! However, if you are open about it and see the importance of it being for example a role model, you should. Do not be ashamed of who you are or what you want to accomplish in life.
We at Lens / Kennedy Executive Search will assist you in your professional career no matter who you are. We will find the right person for the right job and we don’t care if man, woman or both!