Early careers professionals have a role to play in creating safe and inclusive places so LGBTQ+ people can thrive. Steve Keith at Curious Consulting explains how.
Young LGBTQ+ people in the UK continue to see and experience challenges and issues that are associated with their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression at global, national and local levels.
In the last 12 months alone LGBTQ+ hate crimes have accounted for over 24,000 of those reported (second to racism) and a promise by government to ban conversion therapy has been delayed.
There has also been a focus by non-LGBTQ+ media on transgender rights with research finding that of 13,015 articles published in UK on trans topics between 2015-22, 80% were negative.
These are just some of the examples that could be informing how they view the world, and which are likely to be informing decisions that they are making about which universities and employers they deem as not only being LGBTQ+ inclusive, but whether they are safe places for them to study and work.
So what can we do as a community of early careers professionals to create more safe and inclusive spaces for young LGBTQ+ people?
Census 2021 and the ‘Rainbow Nation’
For the first time in history, census data collected in 2021 asked two voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
As a result, we have the first clear picture of the size of the LGBTQ+ population in the UK with 6.9% of 16-24 year olds (436,459) sharing that they are ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual or other’ and 1.1% (63,168) sharing that they identify with a gender which is different from the sex assigned at birth – transgender.
From a recruitment perspective this aligns well with data captured in the 2023 ISE Student Recruitment Survey where 6% school and college leavers, 12% placement and interns and 13% graduates recruited are LGBTQ+.
However, there are still some opportunities for employers and universities to target efforts within the LGBTQ+ student population. Research from UCAS and Stonewall reports an 86% increase in applications from transgender students since 2016, 17% of LGBTQ+ students applying from disadvantaged areas and 30% declaring a disability at application.
Research published by Stonewall earlier this year suggested that we have become a ‘Rainbow Nation’. One in three people surveyed said that they are ‘not exclusively’ attracted to people of the opposite sex and 40% of Gen Z had a pattern of attraction that could be described as ‘Queer’.
Looking back at the 2022 ISE Student Recruitment Survey, it’s interesting that just 11% employers have targeted programmes for gay, lesbian and bisexual students (10% for transgender and intersex) and that less than one in five employers have reviewed their selection approach with internal staff groups.
The Gen Z experience
Research conducted in schools and colleges by Just Like Us (JLU) found that the average age that a person ‘knew that they were LGBTQ+’ was 14 years old. This could mean that Gen Z is the most self aware generation to date with regards to their sexuality.
If we focus on the life and career aspirations of young LGBTQ+ population today, insights taken from JLU, myGwork and UCAS show us that:
• Over 50% of school/college leavers plan to be open about their sexuality and gender identity at university
• 47% of school/college leavers are ‘extremely interested’ in mental health and 46% in the EDI reputation of a company or brand
• 72% of graduates feel that ‘being out at work’ is important to them
• 42% ‘never or rarely’ feel optimistic about their future, with 48% ‘not confident’ they will have a career they enjoy which could be linked to the fact that 48% have seen ‘little or zero’ positive messaging about being LGBTQ+ and that 65% of schools and college do not celebrate the LGBT History or Pride months
How to create safe and inclusive spaces so young LGBTQ+ people thrive
Make small changes that have a big difference
Including respect around the use of pronouns, and using rainbow lanyards that LGBTQ+ people can wear to identify themselves to colleagues or for allies to signal safe spaces for them.
Celebrate the LGBTQ+ community all year
We are slowly moving away from Pride month being the only time in the year when the LGBTQ+ community is supported and/or celebrated.
To build on this momentum make sure that you are being vocal in your support for community issues and sharing LGBTQ+ people stories throughout the year, not just during Pride month.
Demonstrate LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace
LGBTQ+ inclusion strategies should extend well beyond communicating your commitment, ensuring that job adverts use inclusive language and delivering training.
Consider initiatives such as reverse mentoring with senior LGBTQ+ leaders and asking your employee resource group for their feedback on attraction, selection and onboarding strategies. You could also encourage LGBTQ+ people and allies to volunteer with charities such as Just Like Us and Diversity Role Models.
Support industry initiative and job platforms
These could include The Queer Student Awards, Trans In The City, National Student Pride and myGwork.
Make time to educate yourself
Every single person reading this article has the potential to become a better ally for the LGBTQ+ community.
Take time to speak to those apprentices, interns and graduates who are out at work and learn about their individual experiences of the workplace. Use social media to follow LGBTQ+ activists and influencers such as Eva Echo and Ben Pechey and/or read and listen to LGBTQ+ focused books and podcasts.
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