If you live in Toronto or another city celebrating this month, Happy Pride!
It’s Pride week here and all month rainbow flags have been waving all over the city. In fact, Scotiabank has PROUD in large letters outside their plaza. I walked by it the other day, remembering a time not too long ago when being LGBT or Q wasn’t quite so…cool….? Acceptable..?
I also thought, as I took the photo below, about a time in the not so distant past when it was dangerous to be LGBTQ – as Trudeau’s apology to LGBTQ communities (November 2017) recognizes. For some members of LGBTQ communities (here and around the world) this danger still exists.
We have certainly made headway in LGBTQ human rights and inclusion in Canada and around the world. And that is cause for celebration.
But we are not out of the woods yet. There are many issues still to tackle – including the high unemployment rate and poverty rate of Trans people, high homicide rates among Trans communities and other forms of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that manifest themselves in a myriad of ways both covert and overt.
For example, the “gay glass ceiling”.
The Gay Glass Ceiling
A UK study written about in the Washington Post this past week found that while being gay – particularly for men – makes it more likely that you will end up in lower management (7.9%), being gay make it less likely (2.2%) that you will hold a top management position. Not surprisingly, gay men of colour faced a larger gap (7.9% less likely).
No surprise for other groups..
If you’re a woman, or a person of colour, then these numbers are not surprising. Women and people of colour face these types of disparities regardless of sexual orientation, and we have been pointing them out for a long time: Women are 6.1% less likely than men to be in higher management. Women of colour are 0.2% less likely than white women to be in higher management. Lesbians are less likely to hold either management position (1.7% less likely for higher management, 1% less likely for lower management). Given the way identities impact experiences of discrimination, imagine if you were a Black lesbian?!
The study showed gay men were more educated than their straight counterparts. I would suggest that if they asked the same questions of women, and of men of colour, they would find similar results. Why is this? Because historically disadvantaged groups are often told we have to work harder by our parents, and if we aren’t we figure it out pretty quick. If you want to be seen as equal, you have to be “better”. This was a line I heard yesterday on CBCs The Current. Anna Maria Tremonti was interviewing Shiela E and other drummers who happen to be female.
It’s a sad reality for people from historically disadvantaged groups. Still.
Which leads the author of the Washington Post article to the conclusion that these disparities in the workplace are “simply” about discrimination. Big surprise.
This study provides evidence for what women, people of colour, gay men and lesbians (and other historically disadvantaged groups) feel every day – that there is a penalty for being who you are. So there is a “gay glass ceiling”. And many other types of glass ceilings. And if you have more than one historically disadvantaged identity, the ceiling is thicker.
So my questions for today are as follows:
If people from historically disadvantaged groups are typically better educated, and we know that (for example) female managers make work environments better for women and lower the pay gap, why does senior management keep on looking the same? (hint: bias, unconscious bias, plain old discrimination)
What’s the impact if this doesn’t change – on your company, department, team, customer service, society?
What ideas, qualities, positive ripple effects are we leaving unexplored because someone doesn’t “fit” the image we have of what a senior manager is/looks like?
What are you going to do about it?
But when the party is over, let’s remember we still have work to do on the equity front.