Lesbian Visibility Week: new report finds UK workplaces “letting down LGBTQ+ women

Graham Robson April 24, 2023

A report has found that LGBTQ+ women are on average the most unsatisfied group when it comes to discussions around pay, progression and the workplace compared to any other sexuality.

The report of 6,000 professionals – from recruitment firm Robert Walters – reveals how LGBTQ+ women are the most likely cohort to be living ‘paycheque-to-paycheque’ (18%), are 10% less likely to be promoted than their male LGBTQ+ counterparts, and lack the most confidence in the workplace when it comes to asking for pay rises or promotions.

Lucy Bisset, Director of Robert Walters, comments: “We have been carrying out this research annually for three years now, and whilst there are some improvements to be celebrated – we continue to see the presence of negative experiences of minority or marginalised groups in the workplace.

“The dial has been pushed on gender pay transparency – but this report highlights a more concerning issue that for LGBTQ+ women, it appears to be much harder for them to even approach the idea of negotiating for a better salary or a promotion.

“These differences cannot go on, and in light of Lesbian Visibility Week I urge all employers to start diving deeper into the experiences of LGBTQ+ professionals in the workplace.”

Pay isn’t cutting it

Fifty-five per cent of women who identify as LGBTQ+ state that their pay is not a fair representation of the work they do – over 10% more than LGBTQ+ men (43%) and heterosexual men (42%).

When analysing salaries, more than double the number of straight (30%) and LGBTQ+ men (26%) earn above £55k according to the Robert Walters report – compared to just 11% of LGBTQ+ women who are in this salary bracket.

Struggling to make ends meet

When comparing professionals’ pay against cost-of-living the widening gap is more dramatic for LGBTQ+ women.

Almost one in five state they are living ’paycheque-to-paycheque’ (18%) – more than any other sexual orientation (heterosexual female -16%, LGBTQ+ male -12%, and heterosexual male – 11%).

A third of LGBTQ+ women state that they have ‘some’ disposable income but must live sensibly to cover the cost of living, whilst a tenth (9.33%) admit to relying on additional forms of support & income to get by – including credit cards, pay-day loans, or side/weekend jobs.

When reviewing benefits, just 17% of LGBTQ+ women report benefiting from a bonus scheme with their employer – compared to 20% of heterosexual women, 26% of LGBTQ+ men, and 30% of heterosexual men (almost double).

Negotiations going nowhere

Fifty-three per cent of LGBTQ+ women reported to having not negotiated for better pay either when joining or during their time at their current employer – with a quarter citing lacking confidence or feeling embarrassed as the primary reason for not negotiating for higher pay, the highest of any sexual orientation (20% heterosexual women, 17% of LGBTQ+ men, and 14% of heterosexual men reported confidence as the primary reason for not negotiating pay).

When analysing those who have negotiated for higher pay, Robert Walters looked at those who were successful at negotiating and receiving 75-100% of the pay-rise that was requested – coming out on top is 31% of LGBTQ+ men, followed by heterosexual men (30%) and women (28%) – whilst LGBTQ+ women trail behind with a 22% success rate.

In fact, almost a fifth of LGBTQ+ women (18%) stated that they received no salary increase following negotiation – compared to 11% of men (LGBTQ+ and heterosexual) who said the same.

A new glass ceiling

When asked about the main challenges they face in their career, LGBTQ+ women stated; a lack of opportunities (28%), training and development offered to them (25%), as well as a lack of diversity in management or senior positions (14%) as the primary factors holding them back.

Yet again LGBTQ+ women cite confidence as a barrier for them – this time 25% stating that they do not have the confidence to brag about their own wins or hard work, vs just 16% of heterosexual men who said the same.

A quarter of LGBTQ+ women (23%) state that they are ‘not at all aware’ of what they need to do to receive a promotion – with a further 17% stating that they need support from management to improve their understanding.

Lucy Bisset adds: “There is a clear call from this report – leaders of an organisation need to do more to help eradicate conscious and unconscious bias at line manager level so that LGBTQ+ women are given fair access to new opportunities or projects, training & support feels accessible and tailored, and communication lines are improved so that confidence in conversations around pay & progression improves for LGBTQ+ women.”

Excluded from the Workplace

An alarming quarter of LGBTQ+ women report experiencing workplace discrimination surrounding their personal demographic – versus 11% of LGBTQ+ men who stated the same.

And it seems the chances of this behaviour being reported are slim, with one in five LGBTQ+ women stating that they do not trust leaders of the organisation to stand up for and do what is right.

The Robert Walters report concluded that in-spite of record levels of financial investment and human resource being put into diversity & inclusion strategies, a fifth of LGBTQ+ women report that their organisation fails to have initiatives to help them feel part of a connected community of colleagues – higher than any other sexual orientation.

Coral Bamgboye, Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at Robert Walters Group, comments: “It would be amiss of me to not admit that we ourselves at Robert Walters are on our own journey of improving everything surround equality, diversity and inclusion.

“Much like ourselves and the setting up of multiple D&I councils and working-groups around the world, our goal is to first hear what our LGBTQ+ professionals have to say and to get them involved in the solution.

“Hesitation or fear on this matter from employers won’t serve to shift the dial on some of the shocking statistics featured in this report.”

Statistics used were provided from Robert Walters annual report on Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace, surveying 6,000 professionals across the UK and Ireland – 1,000 of the respondents identified as LGBTQ+.

CLICK HERE to download the report.