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HOW CONGRUENT MESSAGING OF DE&I INITIATIVES AFFECT LGBTQIA+ EMPLOYEES’ PERCEPTIONS IN THE USA

Updated: Jun 17, 2023

The current climate for LGBTQIA+ professionals in the United States suggests that a gap exists between what is claimed to be socially accepted in the workplace and the actualities of being a queer professional in the country. Despite growing support for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives specific to queer employees throughout the private and public sectors, queer individuals continue to struggle with mixed perceptions of discrimination stemming from their unique position as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Recent scholarship suggests that the congruence of organizational policy and coworker support plays a significant yet nuanced role in U.S. workplaces (Bryant-Lees & Kite, 2021; Compton, 2016; Dimant et al., 2019; Tatum, 2018). According to Meyer-Bridgewater and Millesen, the queer community in the United States continues to be particularly vulnerable due to institutionalized stigmatization, marginalization, social exclusion, and violence (2022, p. 146). Medina and Mahowald (2023) stipulated that one-half of queer Americans not only reported workplace discrimination in 2022 (Employment and Housing Discrimination section, para. 1), but 78% hid or altered aspects of their personal or work lives to avoid discrimination ("Overall Experiences of Discrimination" section, para. 8). Simply stated, queer professionals in the United States continue to alter their social identities, including the omission of some of the most fundamental aspects of themselves, despite the espoused support for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Most notably, systemic marginality and normalized microaggressions within organizations highlight that the current heteronormative, patriarchal societal structure legally allows the discrimination of queer individuals (Blanck et al., 2021; Opall, 2021), simultaneously enabling the disenfranchising and marginalization of allies who champion the equitable treatment of all social groups (Martinez et al., 2017). For LGBTQIA+ professionals, these outcomes are commonly seen in the form of occupational barriers such as lack of career progression (Freeman, 2020; Pierce et al., 2020), lower perceived competence and hireability (Bryant-Lees & Kite, 2021; Pichler & Holmes, 2017), lower earnings (Burn & Martell, 2022), and willful acts of damage (Tatum, 2018; Thoroughgood et al., 2021). Of significance, the literature also suggests that individuals with intersectional marginalized backgrounds experience significantly higher discrimination and disadvantages in the workplace than their counterparts (Barthelemy et al., 2022; Blanck et al., 2021; Cech & Waidzunas, 2021; Cheeks & Yancey, 2022).

The rapid evidence assessment (REA) that informed this blog revealed that:

  • Increased congruence, through explicitly clear policy, enables management and HR representatives to enact equitable practices towards all employees.

  • Congruence shows a positive and significant effect on job satisfaction, affective commitment, and feelings of comfort in being out in the workplace.

  • Congruence counteracts harmful national and regional norms that affect organizational culture.

The REA also revealed two distinct themes in the reviewed literature. It is important to emphasize the complexity and interlocking nature these two themes share within organizational practices and norms: namely, a reciprocal, and presently contradicting, influence on the congruency of organizational practices. These themes are:

  • The significant influence that external cultural factors hold on organizational policy congruence.

  • The regulatory effect's identity centrality holds on LGBTQIA+ individuals' perceptions of discrimination and career advantages in the United States.

Given the current socio-political uncertainty for LGBTQIA+ individuals within the United States, practitioners should remain steadfast in the face of federal civil rights challenges that could reverse progress for equality; organizations should remain resolute in their commitment of fair treatment of sexual minority employees within their ranks.

  1. Further emphasis on nondiscriminatory workforce practices, with diversity training that educates employees on the differing perspectives of the queer community, may authentically foster more queer-inclusive workplaces and significantly shift LGBTQIA+ perceptions of discrimination and career advantages. These practices encourage employees of all backgrounds to engage in conversations that equip them with the strategies and confidence needed to translate knowledge into tangible action, reducing mixed messaging within organizations.

  2. Seeking external partnerships with organizations that champion LGBTQIA+ equality, such as the Human Rights Campaign, may provide resources for employers to better support their LGBTQIA+ employees, specifically those with highly stigmatized identities, such as transgender and bisexual individuals.

  3. Additional research and continued academic discussions on the current review question may exponentially improve the work conditions of queer individuals, aiding in the current movement the United States is experiencing. Of note, the major limitation of the research is the current need for more literature on the phenomenon being studied. Because of this, future studies must expand on the research, applying new literature pertaining to queer employees' perceptions of discrimination and career advantages in the United States. Applying additional research may add a richer understanding of the phenomenon, further improving organizational functionality and increasing our understanding of the impact congruent messaging has on queer talent within the country. Contributions in this space may genuinely change how organizations in the United States view DE&I initiatives and continue to move our nation away from just tolerating marginalized communities and towards the full acceptance of every individual, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

References

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