41% of LGBT+ people go ‘back in the closet’ in first job finds independent multi-industry study across 15 countries

More than half (58%) of young LGBT+ people are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work because they worry they will face discrimination from managers and colleagues, with 1 in 3 (31%) LGBT+ people admitting they went ‘back into the closet’ when they started their first job. This figure rises to 41% among 18-25 year olds.

New international research, commissioned by Vodafone from research firm Out Now surveyed more than 3,000[1] LGBT+ young people across 15 countries and multiple industries, has found that the reasons young LGBT+ people feel unable to be out or open at work include: worrying that colleagues will react negatively (60%); fearing their career prospects will be worse (42%); and feeling they will be less likely to get promoted (33%). Many of those surveyed said that not being open about their LGBT+ status had negative repercussions, with nearly one third (28%) saying they had been less productive at work as a result.

The Vodafone/Out Now research also found that over half (51%) of those surveyed said that they were ‘not out at all’ to their direct manager in their first job, and 37% were not out at all to their colleagues. These figures fall to 13% and 8% respectively in their current jobs, highlighting the need for more support when young people first start work.

This extensive research, along with insights gathered from current LGBT+ employees at Vodafone, has informed a new multi-country programme at Vodafone ‘LGBT+ and Friends Connect’, which is aimed at hiring and supporting LGBT+ people in their first jobs and providing training for managers.

Other findings from the research included:

  • 1 in 5 (21%) said that being out or open at work is the ‘hardest thing they’ve done’
  • Three quarters (76%) of LGBT+ employees have hidden their sexual orientation or gender identity at work at least once.
  • Only 29% of LGBT+ women aged 18-35 are out at work today compared with 44% of men, for fear of discrimination.
  • 83% said that clear and visible signs from managers that they take LGBT+ inclusion seriously are important in helping them to feel comfortable to be out or open at work.
  • 83% would prefer to work for an employer that has visible LGBT+ leaders, and LGBT+ friends, allies and supporters.

To help create a culture where employees can be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity, Vodafone is launching:

- LGBT+ inclusive messaging on Vodafone job adverts and career channels

- A global ’buddying’ programme for LGBT+ graduates;

- A refreshed Code of Conduct which will support LGBT+ inclusivity;

- Graduate, induction and leadership training programmes to support, retain and help attract LGBT+ employees;