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How employers can leverage LGBT workers' potential

NEW YORK – A new study reveals important new data on how employers can benefit from creating a workplace hospitable to their LGBT employees.

“The Power of Out 2.0” is based on a survey of 983 U.S. employees who identify themselves as LGBT. Surveys were also conducted in India, Japan and the UK.

The study was released today by The Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), a New York-based think tank.

“The Power of Out 2.0” builds on the influential study, “The Power of Out,” which was released in the summer of 2011.

“After our 2011 work, we felt there was still much to explore with respect to how employers can make full use of their LGBT talent: specifically, the opportunity companies have to drive business and the bottom line by leveraging the leadership potential and connections of their LGBT employees and allies,” said co-author Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president and CEO of CTI.

“Our new study finds that while progress has been made, discrimination remains pervasive. We outline a number of steps employers can take to improve the climate in the workplace and enable their LGBT employees to maximize their potential.”

LGBT employees and the broader LGBT community are often perceived as a homogenous group, said co-author Todd Sears, principal of Coda Leadership and founder of Out on the Street.

"This research provides critical detail. As companies continue to raise the bar in protecting and supporting their LGBT employees, we believe this data provides updated guidance on effective approaches and best practices. In addition, the research helps inform companies' efforts as they reach out to the LGBT market as a whole," Sears said.

Among the study’s findings

● There is an increase in the number of LGBTs out at work – 59% in 2012, compared to 52% in 2011.

● Being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity gives LGBT professionals access to business opportunities through which they can exercise their leadership.

● A significant gender gap persists between LGB male and female employees with respect to how their LGB status benefits them in the workplace. Men are nearly twice as likely to consider their LGB identity an asset in the workplace.

● The creation of a workplace where LGBT talent can thrive is due in large part to allies. 24% of LGBT workers credit their decision to come out professionally to allies in their workplace. While many straight employees define themselves as allies of their LGBT coworkers, only a small percentage – 12% of men and 23% of women -- qualify as an “active ally,” i.e., someone who has performed two or more LGBT-supporting actions, such as aiding a coworker in his or her coming out or speaking up to coworkers in defense of LGBTs.

● LGBT women are more likely to face discrimination because of the “double jeopardy” of gender and sexual orientation or gender identity – 74% of lesbians say they encounter bias compared to 51% of gay men.

● Discrimination continues to pressure LGBT individuals to resort to “passing” as heterosexual. 23% percent of men and 15% of women believe that changing their mannerisms, voice or clothing or hiding relationships or friendships in order to “pass” at work has helped their career.

● Bias and discrimination are an issue within the LGB community. Gay and bisexual men are 114% more likely than women to report LGB discrimination. Bisexual men and women are 59% less likely than lesbians and gay men to feel a part of the community.

About the authors

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit think tank where she chairs the Task Force for Talent Innovation — 75 global companies focused on fully realizing the new streams of talent in the global marketplace. She also directs the Gender and Policy Program at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. Dr. Hewlett is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum Council on Women’s Empowerment. She is the author of 10 Harvard Business Review articles, 11 nonfiction books including “Off-Ramps and On-Ramps” and “Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets” (Harvard Business Review Press), and is ranked 11th on the “Thinkers 50” listing of the world’s top business thinkers. Her writings have appeared in The New York Times and Financial Times, and she’s a featured blogger on HBR.org. She is a frequent guest on television, appearing on Oprah, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, the Today Show, and CNN Headline News. She has taught at Cambridge, Columbia, and Princeton universities. A Kennedy Scholar and graduate of Cambridge University, she earned her PhD in economics at London University.

Todd Sears is the principal of Coda Leadership, a strategic advising firm integrating diversity into business objectives and senior advisor to the Task Force for Talent Innovation. Sears is a former investment banker at Schroders and DeSilva & Phillips, as well as a first-quintile financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. After creating the first national team of financial advisors on Wall Street to focus on the LGBT community, which brought over $1.5 billion of new assets to Merrill Lynch, Todd moved into diversity leadership. Since that time, he has pioneered diversity initiatives at Merrill Lynch, where he was Head of Strategic Initiatives for the Office of Diversity, as well as at Credit Suisse, where he served as Americas Head of Diversity and Inclusion. He is the founding co-chair of Jeffrey Fashion Cares, a fashion show fundraiser supporting LGBT civil rights, youth and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, which has applied an innovative cost-structure to raise millions of dollars since its inception. He also serves on the non-profit boards of The Williams Institute of UCLA, The Palette Fund, The Asia Society Diversity Board, and Lambda Legal National Leadership Council. He received his BA from Duke University.

Karen Sumberg is executive vice president at the Center for Talent Innovation and a Senior Manager with the CTI’s advisory services practice Sylvia Ann Hewlett Associates. She is an expert in gender, sponsorship, career-pathing and communications and leads research projects for the CTI including “The Sponsor Effect,” “The Power of ‘Out’: LGBT in the Workplace,” and “Bookend Generations: Leveraging Talent and Finding Common Ground.” She is co-author of two Harvard Business Review articles “For LGBT Workers, Being Out Brings Advantages,” “How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda,” as well as the Harvard Business Review Research Reports The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology and The Sponsor Effect, CTI reports Off-Ramps and On-Ramps Revisited, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps Japan and Sustaining High Performance in Difficult Times and Harvard Business online blogs. Prior to joining CTI, Sumberg worked in Japan and Australia and in the publishing industry with a focus on marketing and communications. She sits on the national advisory board of Minds Matter. She received her BA from the University of Maryland and her MBA from Fordham University.

About the Center for Talent Innovation

The Center for Talent Innovation (formerly Center for Work-Life Policy), a non-profit "think tank" based in New York City, has emerged as a thought leader in diversity and talent management, driving groundbreaking research and seeding programs and practices that attract, retain and accelerate the new streams of talent around the world. CTI's flagship project is the Task Force for Talent Innovation (formerly the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force) -- a private sector task force focused on helping corporations leverage their talent across the divides of gender, generation and culture. The 75 global corporations and organizations that constitute the Task Force -- representing 4 million employees and operating in 190 countries around the world -- are united by understanding that the full utilization of the talent pool is at the heart of competitive advantage and economic success.