Why does our sexual orientation impact our professional careers? 25% of LGBTQ+ workers do not feel accepted in their workplace 

Last week, cities around the world were hosting their annual Pride Parade, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, and the freedom to express one’s true identity, freely and with confidence. Serving as a societal backdrop to the 50th iteration of Pride, the latest ONS figures show there are an estimated 1.1 million people aged 16 years and over identifying as LGBTQ+, one in four 18-24 year olds identifying as gay and/or bisexual, and London emerging as the ‘Gay Capital’ of the UK, with the highest percentage across the UK (17%) saying they’re gay, lesbian or bisexual. Now that it is the end of the colourful celebration that is Pride, diversity-focused head-hunter Equality Group revealed to us a ground-breaking study as to how our sexual identities – and the freedom to express this – affects our professional lives.  

Key research findings

  • A fifth of those who identify as LGBTQ+ feel that their workplace –albeit not consciously – does not progress them as much as they could do professionally due to that fact that they identify as LGBTQ+ 
    – This increases to 21% of men versus only 16% of women 
  • Nearly a quarter of the LGBTQ+ community feel that their workplace – albeit not consciously – is not accepting of them, due to the fact that they identify as LGBTQ+
  • A quarter of LGBTQ+ people feel there is an unconscious barrier between them and their bosses, due to that fact that they identify as LGBTQ+, that hinders their professional development 
  • A third of workers state that there are no people of LGBTQ+ status on their management team or board
  • Seven million UK workers believe that their workplace suffers from unconscious prejudice/bias against people who identify as LGBTQ+ 
  • More than a fifth of UK workers – 6.2 million people – believe that those who identify as LGBTQ+ are the most disenfranchised demographic of the UK workforce

Serving as a stark backdrop to the data, The National LGBT Survey 2018/19 found that over two thirds (68%) of all respondents with a minority sexual orientation said they had avoided holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative reaction from others. Similarly, 70% said they had avoided being open about their sexual orientation for fear of a negative reaction; this was higher for cisgender respondents who were asexual (89%), queer (86%), and bisexual (80%). 
According to the ONS, over the last five years, the proportion of the UK population identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) has increased from 1.5% in 2012 to 2.0% in 2017. However, according to the LGBT National Survey, on average, respondents were less satisfied with their life nowadays than the general population, with many of the LGBTQ+ community responding negatively to their professional development, citing unconscious homophobia and unacceptance of them as LGBTQ+ as the main reason for their response. 

CEO and Founder of Equality Group, Hephzi Pemberton, is of the opinion:
“These findings are shocking, but sadly, not surprising. So many of the LGBTQ+ community face barriers, conscious and unconscious, in their professional career and development and it is not acceptable. Individuals and businesses alike need to come together to devise a sustainable way to tackle unconscious, sexuality bias to ensure that new and present members of the workforce are not subjected to this treatment at work. As part of the framework of our very basic human rights, the ability to express ourselves honestly is of critical importance. The UK is a leading first world economy – we, therefore, are charged with a global responsibility to define the status-quo of diversity, quashing the presence of the workplace injustice today’s data has revealed.


Equality Group, a consultancy that helps companies attract, retain and develop diverse talent, assesses why the UK’s LGBTQ+ community is one of the most disenfranchised in the UK’s workforce