In previous posts of the Pride Series, we have explored the ways in which gay, bisexual, lesbian, queer, and transgender people are overlooked and thus their leadership potential squandered. Unfortunately, LGBTQIA+ people of color (POC) face everything the general LGBTQIA+ non-POC population faces, and then some; their issues and challenges are compounded by their race and ethnicity.
With COVID19 for example, 40%* of LGBTIA+ employees work in hazardous industries with regard to exposure to the virus as well as economic insecurity, and LGBTQIA+ POC employees are at a comparatively higher risk than their non-POC counterparts (and four times the national average) for unemployment, especially if they are Black. By and large, transgender people face discrimination and unemployment problems, and for Black transgender people—particularly women—those rates double, an especially formidable barrier for trans people with families. Transgender people are more racially diverse than the general U.S. population, and LGBTIA+ POC is more likely to be raising families are raising kids than non-POC people within the LGBTIA+ community. Putting all of this together, we have a serious bias and discrimination problem on our hands, and due to obstacles like unwarranted background checks, surface-level discrimination protections, lack of mentorship, and fair access to benefits or equitable pay, people of color within the LGBTIA+ community pay a high price for just being who they are and always have been.
This points to a cavernous missing link in the diversity of teams and leadership, which only hurts the teams and organizations missing out on them. Generally speaking, the more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse a team or organization, the more success it reaps. Fortunately, there are ways for leaders to make a deeper, more resounding change and carve out a space for Black, Hispanic, and other transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer women, men, and nonbinary people of color. Beyond HR initiatives like shedding the marital status and legal parental relationship requirements for health insurance, the infrastructure of our teams and organizations could stand to evolve with the incoming base of inclusion-minded (regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity), racially diverse generations. Leaders can take the initiative in identifying the difference between diversity and inclusion and use that to address using new tools to restructure accountability, working models, and the culture of the organization.
Recognize that the experiences of LGBTQ+ people are unique to each individual, but there are general, compounded issues in the eyes of POC LGBTQ+ that can only be addressed by seeking out that guidance from those specific POC in meeting their needs at work. Once this is recognized, seek out that knowledge from them rather than making presumptions about what those needs are and how to fill them. When evaluating and grappling with the complexities of racial prejudice, such as in bias awareness training, take into consideration–and add to that breadth of training–the presence of LGBTQ+ identities as part of that experience. Don’t be afraid to explore the nuances in cultural stigma particularly for LGBTQ+ people of color in their own communities.
Equip our teams, employee resource groups, and workforces with a deeper understanding of the intersections in race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality and how those intersections inform the complexities of individuals’ experiences. Offer intersectional allyship and programming, let individuals self-identify at work, and institute gender-neutral language in formal policies and procedures.
75%* of LGBTIA+ (including people of color) employees experience negative daily interactions at work related to their identities, but only 43%* of their straight counterparts noticed these incidents, and only 34%* of those stepped in and did something about it. When you hear someone say something like “gay people don’t want/have kids” or see teammates avoiding their LGBTIA+ colleagues, which is more likely to happen in managerial and higher leadership roles, do not passively condone it by saying, and/or doing nothing. A leader calls to other leaders, and there are leaders in LGBTIA+ POC on our teams, in our families, organizations, and task forces. Call to your trans and/or queer POC colleagues by standing beside them and taking the steps to make the environment a much more inclusive one. Such are just a few ways to be the change that we want to create as leaders in our industries, and these things take the boldness, courage, critical analysis, and diligence that does not come easy but comes nonetheless to those that lead by design.
Source: Boston Consulting Group (2020),