Lesbians find sexism a bigger barrier to work success than homophobia, says a new report on lesbians in the workplace by British LGBT rights group Stonewall.
The report, titled The Double-Glazed Glass Ceiling, features interviews with lesbian and bisexual women from both the private and public sectors and discusses their experiences, perceptions and expectations of the impact that their sexuality might have on them at work.
The majority of the women interviewed, felt that being a woman was of greater importance and significance to their experience of the workplace. Their sexual orientation was seen as secondary, and they could hide their identity as a lesbian if they wanted to.
However, for those who have felt able to come out at work, the personal and professional benefits have been considerable.
Participants who were confident about their sexual orientation, and saw being a gay woman as something positive, generally felt that being a lesbian or bisexual woman gave them a distinct advantage in the workplace.
“Women know that in 2008 the glass ceiling is very much still in place. What this report shows is that for lesbians, that glass ceiling is double-glazed,” said Ruth Hunt, Stonewall Head of Policy.
“It’s no surprise therefore that Britain’s two million lesbians remain almost invisible at work. In publishing this report Stonewall wants to see that change.”
Interviewees pointed to a lack of openly gay women in the workplace, with many expressing the opinion that such role models made a crucial difference to the confidence and profile of lesbians and bisexual women in working environments.
Among the recommendations made by the report are that employers should promote career development opportunities to lesbian and bisexual women and encourage them to develop confidence and assertiveness.
It also recommends that employers should support and enable lesbian and bisexual senior members of staff to be out and involved in awareness raising initiatives.