The Power and Struggles of LGBTQ+ Women in the Workplace

This is the first of a series of articles exploring and discussing issues that face OutWOMEN in the workplace, written by our Manager of Programs & Partnerships, Jane Barry-Moran.

Women in the workplace continue to face inequities. We are paid less and encounter verbal and physical harassment more. Decades of research backs this up. The same is true for the LGBTQ+ women and in some cases, it is worse. This is despite the well-documented economic and cultural advantages that organizations have when they recruit, retain and promote women.

Over the past decade, Out Leadership—alongside our partners at the Williams Institute and the Center for Talent Innovation have uncovered the ways in which LGBTQ+ individuals experience the workplace and their career trajectories. We have also lifted up the significant “Return on Equality” that organizations have when they support and lift up their LGBTQ+ leaders. 

However, there has never been a comprehensive global workplace study on LGBTQ+ individuals who identify as women. We want that to change and have started working on a global research project that will be published early next year. This piece will also examine the additional intersections that many LGBTQ+ women hold (race, ability, religion, etc.). 

Analyzing existing regional and industry data shows there are some interesting trends that are worth assessing to see if these extend beyond regions and industries.

One regional study of workplace reality for LGBTQ+ women was conducted by Out Leadership member firm, PWC Australia. This research showed that “LGBTI women are 12% less likely to be out at work than men and make up less than 1/3 of identifying LGBTI people at PwC Australia”. 

One of these existing regional studies revealed interesting achievement gaps in both higher education and the job market for women, and specifically LGBTQ+ women. In our 2018 research collaboration with Center for Talent Innovation, “Out in the World”, we found that only 9% of LGBTQ+ women see their LGBTQ+ identity as a career asset. 

Power and Struggles of LGBTQ+ Women in the Workplace 1

95% of LGBTQ+ women agree that the U.S. still has a long way to go to reach complete gender equality. Only 74% of straight women agreed.



Power and Struggles of LGBTQ+ Women in the Workplace

40% of Non-LGBTQ+ women say they have experienced gender-based pay/ promotion discrimination. For LGBTQ+ women, that number is 61%

These findings show that being an LGBTQ+ individual who identifies as a woman puts you at profound disadvantage in the workplace. And yet on average, these LGBTQ+ women are more educated than their straight and cis-gender peers. 

Similarly, in a 2016 resume study, researchers found that LGBTQ+ women were interviewed 29% less than identical resumes without a LGBTQ+ indicator (a club or organization they were a part of or an award or scholarship they received etc.) The opportunity gap in that startling statistic for LGBTQ+ women is clear. They may rise in a company once they are in the door but the reality is that the door is closed  far more often because of conscious or unconscious bias against LGBTQ+ women. 


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