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Most employers’ workplace inclusiveness isn’t working for LGBTQ+ Gen Zers: New barometer study shows middling scores

by | Mar 22, 2024 | Public Relations

Diversity and inclusion—and everything that they mean to everyone—is a powerful mandate for businesses worldwide. And unlike more variable-reliant Purpose initiatives like sustainability, DEI is largely a workplace attitude supported by policies and procedures, as well as actions, that are almost entirely within every company’s control. So it’s doubly enigmatic that so many businesses and leaders just can’t get it right.

For whatever reason, employers’ efforts around workplace inclusiveness are falling short with Gen Z workers in the LGBTQ+ community. In a recent barometer study from Ernst & Young LLP and FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence, this group gave their employer’s inclusion efforts a C+ grade, compared to a B grade from other generations. In addition, they are 3x as likely to be “unsure” about their organization’s LGBTQ+ initiatives. 

workplace inclusivenessBut it’s high time that leaders figure it out

Today Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ+ at nearly 6x the rate of Gen X, and are expected to make up 30 percent of the total US workforce by 2030, highlighting how urgently these disconnects in employee engagement need to be addressed, according to the 2024 EY US LGBTQ+ Workplace Barometer, a study of 500 US LGBTQ+ full-time corporate employees. And millennials continue to view DEI as a priority—the supplemental EY US Generation Survey found that 76 percent of millennial employees would leave an employer if DEI initiatives weren’t offered.

workplace inclusiveness“Feeling safe to be your authentic self is something that everyone should be entitled to, but we know reality is often more complex than that,” says Mitch Berlin, EY Americas Vice Chair — Strategy and Transactions and Americas Executive Sponsor of Unity in the EY LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group, in a news release. “Company leaders should remain steadfast in their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, cultivate an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves and offer the right resources so employees can thrive.”

workplace inclusivenessThe cost of ignoring inclusion

For many employees, an inclusive environment is a baseline expectation when it comes to joining an organization and a lack of it can drive them to leave a workplace. Only 38 percent of LGBTQ+ workers who rate their workplace experiences poorly on the Barometer are likely to say they expect to stay with their employer for the next year.

For the average Fortune 500 company, which has about 62,000 employees, improving retention of LGBTQ+ employees by just 5 percent could result in annual savings of nearly $4.2 million in turnover costs alone. “There are millions of dollars on the line, and as the LGBTQ+ population grows, organizations that prioritize inclusiveness will differentiate themselves among top talent,” added Berlin.

Conversely, LGBTQ+ workers who rate their workplace experiences high on the barometer are 2.6x more likely to say they intend to stay with their employer for another year.

workplace inclusivenessUnderstanding generational shifts

Failing to reach and address the needs of a growing Gen Z LGBTQ+ workforce could mean missing out on a talent pool of up to 10 million workers over the next five years.

  • LGBTQ+ Gen Z employees were also found to be 3x as likely to be “unsure” about their organization’s LGBTQ+ initiatives.
  • On average, Gen Z LGBTQ+ employees surveyed gave their employer’s inclusion efforts a C+ grade, compared to respondents from other generations who gave their employer’s a B grade, highlighting that Gen Z may have different expectations when evaluating employer actions.

The uneven landscape

In addressing the expectations and needs of the LGBTQ+ community within their workforce, organizations should keep in mind intersectional identities. The survey uncovered some stark findings of racially and ethnically diverse (R&ED) workers within the LGBTQ+ community. Among them:

  • R&ED LGBTQ+ employees are 1.7x more likely than white LGBTQ+ employees to experience harassment at a previous employer.
  • R&ED LGBTQ+ employees are 2.3x more likely to experience microaggressions in the workplace.

“Building and sustaining a culture where people feel seen and valued starts with leadership setting the tone at the top,” said Leslie Patterson, EY Americas and US Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness Leader, in the release. “Through listening, learning, offering support and taking action, leaders will build trust and credibility, which in turn can help their organizations stand out with a powerful and growing segment of the population.”

Download the full Workplace Barometer here.

Ernst & Young LLP and FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence surveyed 500 LGBTQ+ full-time workers in the US who hold corporate roles at mid- and large-size organizations (2,500+ employees). The 13-minute online survey was fielded from December 6, 2023, to January 12, 2024. EY employees were not included in the survey sample.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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