Though LGBTQ+ rights have significantly advanced since the Stonewall riots of June 1969 that are commemorated as part of Pride Month, the community still faces marginalization and repression – even in the most liberal of societies. Approximately two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQ+ Americans say they have experienced discrimination in their personal lives, and roughly half of the report being closeted at work.
Research by the University of Cologne also found that LGBTQ+ people are almost three times more likely to suffer depression and burnout as a result of chronic stress and homophobia and the researcher, Dr. Mirjam Fischer, has said that health services must address this.
“In our societies, many LGBTQ+ people experience chronic stress due to homophobia and heterosexism, which can result in health problems. Even the anticipation of discrimination, independent of experiences of discrimination, can create and exacerbate health problems. We as a society must address this disadvantage,” says Dr. Fischer.
Dr Fischer recommends that the healthcare industry place a focus on counseling and mental health services, specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as encouraging society to strengthen LGBTQ+ community structures, such as sports, culture and leisure activities.
This is not the only area where the healthcare sector needs to improve for the LGBTQ+ community. Many have had personal experiences where there has been a physician bias against them because they are a sexual minority, and this has resulted in them not experiencing a high level of healthcare.
Research at Northwestern Kellogg supports this. The study, co-authored by Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations, Ivuoma N. Onyeador, found that physician bias against sexual minorities contributes to the prevalence of negative health outcomes but they say this can – and needs – to be changed.
The researchers found that, although medical school’s formal curricula contribute to students’ preparedness to provide care, their informal curricula can play a critical role in shaping students’ social attitudes. By simply editing the curriculum they study at medical school, we can reduce physician bias against sexual minorities.
They recommend that course directors identify the elements in the informal curriculum that either mitigate or exacerbate physician bias against LQBTQ+ individuals. It is a critical step towards building inclusive medical institutions, improving the quality of care that is delivered, and reducing health disparities between LGBTQ+ and heterosexual individuals.
It’s not only the health sector that needs to improve its policies for the LGBTQ+ community. Organizations across many other sectors also need to work to make a better environment for their employees. to research at Harvard, many LGBTQ+ individuals do not truthfully report their sexuality, even in highly private and anonymous settings because they believe the stigma towards them has not been accordingly eliminated.
This sentiment is further emphasized by research from Professor Sara Louise Muhr, who teaches on the Executive MBA at Copenhagen Business School. Muhr investigated the relationship between the body and leadership through the case study of a transgender leader. She conducted interviews with the employees of a transgender leader, and found that while they were accepting of ‘John’s’ transition to ‘Claire’, both pseudonyms, they saw her leadership capabilities as natural pre-transition, but unnatural as a woman.
To make sense of her as a leader, they split her up into two personas; one that possesses the female qualities of Claire, and one which is allowed to be strict, masculine, and authoritarian, as John.
“The ‘masculine’ leadership behavior Claire presents, seen as natural when they were male-presenting, didn’t make sense to the employees in relation to Claire’s feminine body. Therefore, they make comments such as ‘John has come back’ or use male pronouns when discussing Claire’s leadership style,” says Professor Muhr.
The stigma faced by the LGBTQ+ community needs to stop, and companies should be the driving this change. As many say, a business is only as good as their employees, and making an environment safe and welcoming for everyone should be a priority. This can be done through creating LGBTQ+ friendly policies, which can actually benefit your organization in many ways.
While the main benefit is to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from any form of discrimination, LGBTQ‐friendly corporate policies can also enhance firm performance, according to research from Aalto University School of Business.
The research, conducted by Assistant Professor Digitalization in Accounting, Jukka Sihvonen, found strong evidence that more LGBTQ‐friendly firms have higher profitability and higher stock market valuations. This is because LGBTQ‐friendly firms are associated with greater employee commitment, improved job satisfaction, increased employee productivity, and more altruistic workplace behaviour.
LGBTQ-friendly firms tending to be more successful has led to more firms promoting the policies and initiatives they have in place, but in some scenarios, these have been superficial commitments, and not something that actually generates change.
Research by emlyon business school says that this can be combatted through insider. The study, by Assistant Professor Lisa Buchter, found that LGBTQ+ rights increased their influence on organizations by developing implementation resources that corporations could readily use to flesh out their diversity commitments and implement diversity programs to promote the inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees.
We have come a long way in the last two decades in terms of human rights for the LGBTQ+ community but more still needs to be done. The research of business schools and universities is identifying areas for change, with recommendations for successful implementation. It is now up to us as organizations and society to take it to the next level.