Research findings from gay market research show that up to half of UK lesbians and gay men do not feel able to reveal their sexuality to all those they work with. The research also discovered that as many as one in ten gay men, and one in eight lesbians, are harassed at work because of their sexuality.
These workplace research findings are uncovered in the UK by the Out Now Consulting Diva and GT Readers Surveys.
Only 52% of gay men and 51% of lesbians say they can be completely honest about their sexuality with their work colleagues.
Official Whitehall figures say that 6% of the UK adult population, or around 3 million people, are lesbian or gay. This Out Now research reveals up to 1.5 million UK workers do not feel they can be honest about such a fundamental aspect of their lives at work.
“Lord Browne of BP is far from alone. Out Now’s research for Diva and GT shows that there are around 1.5 million other UK workers that are in a similar position,” according to Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now Consulting, a specialist gay marketing consultancy which conducted the research. “Heterosexual people do not experience the same pressures to conceal such a major aspect of themselves when they are at work.”
“Being accepted by government in the UK is a big step forward in terms of Civil Partnerships, but being able to be yourself at work is something all workers in the UK really ought to be able to do,” says Johnson.
“These figures show that this is not currently the case for a large number of UK lesbians and gay men,” says Johnson. “In the medium to long term that affects workplace productivity, loyalty and ultimately can result in otherwise well-qualified lesbian and gay staff leaving a job because they can no longer keep up a pretence of being heterosexual. UK workplaces need to improve on these figures both as a matter of social justice and also as a matter of business profits and workplace productivity.”
“Perhaps it may be understandable why many UK lesbians and gay men choose to keep quiet about their sexuality, when we consider what our research showed about how likely people are to be harassed for their homosexuality at work in the UK,” says Johnson.
9% of male respondents and 12% of female respondents reported they had been harassed at work during the previous 12 months because they were gay.
These figures compare poorly with research Out Now Consulting undertook in the Netherlands in 2004 where only 2.8% of gay men said they had been harassed at work.
UK gay men seem three times more likely than Dutch gay men to have experienced this situation.
Johnson said he felt that companies need to do more to improve on these results: “We recommend UK companies should improve their workplace equality and diversity policies. Training on gay and lesbian issues is also likely to help improve the current situation.”
Lord John Browne, the former head of BP, recently resigned after admitting to lying in court in an attempt to avoid being publicly outed by a British newspaper.