Out Leadership’s Founder and CEO, Todd Sears, presented the AllyUp Research in a panel with special guests Rich Jeanneret, Vice Chair and US-East Region Managing Partner of EY, Brandon Cooke, Global Chief Marketing Officer of FCB, Vita Harris, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of FCB, and Brian Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG. The AllyUp Research consists of three components: the duties of LGBTQ+ allies as individuals, the duties companies have to their LGBTQ+ employees within the walls of their company, and then the duties companies have to better LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance in the world at large. These categories are important because depending on the power and reach a person or entity has, the impact of their allyship can vary drastically, and it is vital that companies and individuals are practicing allyship on a scale that is representative of their reach.
Although LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way in the recent history of this country, there is still quite the distance left to go. As Sears expressed in the panel, around 86% of LGBTQ+ people who are out at work still feel the need to cover at least one aspect of their identity, and if one feels the need to cover parts of themselves, then are they truly “out”? The labor that goes into covering means that one cannot experience the same freedom as their non-LGBTQ+ colleagues who do not have to worry about hiding parts of themselves from those around them. And when LGBTQ+ people feel the need to cover, everyone loses. Harris explained that 52% of LGBTQ+ workers use around 30% of their time at work to downplay and hide who they are. That is valuable that could have been used more productively for both the individual and the company, but instead is spent trying to ensure a person’s safety and comfort in an environment that is likely not accepting of them. Harris also shared that 24% of LGBTQ+ workers have moved to entirely different cities and states in hopes of working in environments that they feel safe and accepted in – some even being willing to take a pay cut to do so. These numbers show how important a safe environment is for people to not only be able to do good work, but for them to do any work. And it is important to note that covering exists in all aspects of identity, not just sexual orientation and gender identity. So people who are marginalized for race, class, ability, and more, often have to cover as well, and share the experience of that covering being a distraction from their actual work.
We’re redefining the word #Ally, because
— Out Leadership (@OutLeadership) June 25, 2020
The research showed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of LGBTQ+ workers covering has declined. Sears explained that everyone sharing the trauma of navigating this pandemic as well as the personal aspect of seeing people in their home environments has caused a lowering of barriers that allows people the freedom to be their more authentic selves. It is important though, for companies to create environments of acceptance that will further decrease the amount of employees that feel the need to cover. As Harris said in the panel, companies have a duty to take a stand and make clear what their beliefs are – especially in the social climate of today. And depending on what choice a company makes, that could make or break their future.
This was the first piece of a series Out Leadership will produce on allyship research. In the future, there will be a global piece focused outside of the U.S., and a piece on intersectionality, looking at how we can be allies not to just LGBTQ+ people, but to all people who are marginalized.