diversITy: can being gay hold your career back?

diversITy: can being gay hold your career back?

Summary: Edit: Just a couple of grammatical tweaks.This series of entries, called diversITy, continues from the previous topic, all concerning the diversity of people within the IT industry.

TOPICS: CXO, IT Employment

diversity-sm.pngEdit: Just a couple of grammatical tweaks.

This series of entries, called diversITy, continues from the previous topic, all concerning the diversity of people within the IT industry. This time, I'd like to put forward: sexual orientation in the workplace, can it set you back?

I've been researching this for a good week now, trying to get to the heart of the matter. I'm not gay, but I have many friends and colleagues who are, so I've been asking them for their opinions and thoughts, and this topic is certainly not an easy one to cover. For a start, some people somewhere will disagree with everything; then of course because I'm not gay, "how can I know?", and ultimately I'll end up offending someone because when it comes to sensitive topics like this, you're always going to, regardless of how much you try not to.

50 years ago in both the UK and the US, homosexuality was illegal. In the back end of the 19th century, Richard von Krafft-Ebing claimed it was a disease. Nowadays, we've begun to start accepting this way of life, which is nothing short of a fantastic breakthrough. Without doubt, one of the most famous gay computer scientists was Alan Turing OBE, the man who essentially created the Enigma machine that helped win World War II, and the Turing test which determines the level of a computers intelligence.

Yet in 1952, he was prosecuted under essentially an act which criminalised homosexuality, the same act which had prosecuted and jailed Oscar Wilde only 50 years previously. This ultimately led to Turing's suicide (although disputed) two years later.

During my research, there seems to be no definite figures on how many gay people per population. I spoke to the HM Government Office of National Statistics, and they told me:

"Currently there's no demographic data for what you requested, as this isn't something the Government keeps tabs on. However there will be an optional request in the 2011 census."

I tried the US Census Bureau, but couldn't figure out how to get an international dialling tone on this stupid bloody phone. Needless to say, with some added research (and with the help of my good ol' friend Google), it's fair to say there's roughly 1 in 10 people in the United States and about the same over here in the UK. Don't have a go at me if that's slightly wrong, it's near enough.

Read on for more hard-hitting investigative journalism, as well as absolute, irrefutable proof* that the Iranian president is himself gay.

* well, maybe...

For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, "LGBT" or slight difference in combination of those letters for short, being openly expressive of their position can limit them in some ways. Most organisations nowadays work by many standards - the "diversity" code of conduct, not allowing discrimination against other employees or contractors, respect, equality against age, sex, etc., but this isn't always enough. If your boss has an discomfort or an issue with something, they can personally reduce your chances or gaining a higher place in the company, and throw some other reason in instead.

glcoc.pngAccording to GCN's Gay Market Study, just over 78% of all gay people fear coming out at work as they worry it may harm promotion opportunities. Looking at the Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census, most LGBT find "the concern about being out at work is obvious, because it is there that [LGBT] people can potentially be discriminated against." Considering 44% of those questioned on the census came out when they were between 18 and 24, this is certainly an issue for gay students wanting to make their way into the workplace.

The IT industry is one of the most attractive roles to LGBT, considering 11% of all gay US citizens taking the survey are in computing and/or technology, whilst 4% of the same demographic are in media/communications, which is heavily supported by technology.

Scott Stockwell, diversity group leader at IBM UK, spoke to The Independent newspaper in their recent article, "The number of gay people in senior positions is growing":

"We have had a general employee diversity policy in place since 1953 and although we are not able to collect specific statistics on the sexuality of our staff, we believe that IBM senior management not only understands the issues but is geared up to fully support any member of staff who does decide to come out."

I spoke to my good friend Beau Giles, a student living in Australia; spoke to me about entering the IT industry and the choices he'd make:

"I guess I'd want to work for companies that wouldn't discriminate towards you in the first place For example, on Apple's jobs page, they have 'We are committed to diversity. Apple is an Equal Opportunity Employer'. But, wouldn't work be just like the 'outside' world? You'd just come out to who you'd trust."

It seems over the vast majority of the "developed" world - the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, most of Europe and probably Russia - being LGBT isn't a problem. Nowadays we live in a world where (again, I'm keen to stress) the vast majority of people are accepting, understanding, tolerant and well informed about homosexuality. It doesn't strike a problem because we know being gay isn't a disease, you can't catch AIDS by going near someone who's gay, and you can't "catch" being gay. We see gay people as ordinary people, caring, understanding people, who are just the same as straight people with a difference in sexual orientation.

yayforgay-small.pngOK, so we may have a slight situation in places like Iran, where you even mention the word "gay" and you can get hanged... thankfully some nations have stopped deporting gay people back to Iran, because in my opinion, a government which will send someone in extreme danger of capital punishment for being gay is repugnant and abhorrent.

In the workplace, more and more LGBT people are getting to more senior positions - probably not because they're gay, most likely due to the fact as individuals, they're good at their job. Amidst controversy from certain religions, gay marriage and civil partnerships are more incredibly popular, where legalised of course. Being gay should not stop you in the workplace, but thankfully if problems do arise, this is what union's are for, not to mention the law.

warning.png Comments:  These posts may seem controversial to some, so in light of this I will not be accepting any derogatory, sexist, homophobic, racially motivated, extremist, verbally violent, threatening, or anything like that. I’m all for openness, honesty and transparency, but I have zero tolerance over any of the above. If such comments are found, they’ll be deleted straight away without warning or notification.

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

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  • thank u

    Good article and great research. Somthing different from usual posts. It is very sad that not all people are treated the same at work.
    • Yes, sad indeed

      Unfortunately it has always been so. Even where there are attempts at the most even handed and fair evaluation of abilities, problems still arise. It appears to me that that the comfort level of those with whom one must work always becomes an issue. After all, as one rises on the organizational ladder, their ability to work well with others becomes more critical What one can do gives way to what they can get others to do in importance. Management is basically getting things done through people. Thus, at some point, people skills become more important than technical skills. That is why many posts here recommend that one leave their personal life out of the workplace. I would add that one must always be ready to build cooperative, team player relationships. Hey remember kindergarten, play well with others.
  • Free will...

    Orientation may or may not exist in terms of genetic factors, but that does not take away the fact that we all have free will - noone can make anyone act on it. To act on certain impulses or "orientations" remains wrong - such genetic aberrations are not the intended way it should be. We see this in the fit of a man and woman and the ability to reproduce vs. lack of fit and inability to do so. This has always been considered obvious until our current, degenerate era.

    With that said, do I think we should treat people who have a homosexual tendency as freaks? or limit them professionally? No. We should treat them as human beings, with the same kindness and compassion as anyone else. In the workplace, ability and merit should be the measuring stick. Let people keep their home life to themselves.

    At the same time, while stamping out mistreatment of people in this group is appropriate, it seems we have gone beyond the mark and now consider it appropriate to endorse the "alternate lifestyles" as ok and equally appropriate. This is overshooting the mark and misguided as well.

    The appropriate response is to foster treatment of all people as human beings, but at the same time to recognize the truth of human sexuality as being heterosexual by its very nature, and to make available resources for those who struggle with that to have the support they need.

    This is not the only issue on which modern society is currently blinding itself to the woes of the "I'm ok, you're ok, we're all ok" mode of thinking, in which we are all supposed to be able to make our own choices on whatever topic and that makes it ok. No fault divorce comes to mind as another one that is ruining the basis of any civilization. We just need to stop thinking in morally relative terms - some things are true whether we like it or not.

    And, in case anyone is tempted to leave with the impression that I'm a "homophobe"...that would be incorrect. There is plenty of errant heterosexual behavior going on, condoned by current societal "norms" as ok...when instead it should be regarded as something more "sacred" and profound, among those who have a lifetime commitment to each other...aka, marriage.
    • RE: Free will...

      I see what you mean about marriage. Many people, usually those who have religion, often believe that marriage is something that can only be between a man and a woman. Personally, I believe it can be for anyone.

      Civil partnerships are designed for same-sex couples. Civil ceremonies are there for those who don't wish to have a religious ceremony (like me, and indeed my parents).

      There seems to be some sort of "union" for everyone nowadays, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or religion, and that's nothing but a good thing :-)

      Legally, there are some issues because some people don't have the same right as a "married" couple, something of which needs to be addressed, in my opinion.

      But hey, thank you both for your comments - it's certainly good to have some positive comments on what could easily attract so much negative attention... lets just wait and see what others have to say.
    • A few things to think about...

      [i]To act on certain impulses or "orientations" remains wrong[/i]

      You mean like the impulse to spout off as if you have any specific knowledge of a particular topic? I see your point there.

      [i]Let people keep their home life to themselves.[/i]

      You mean like not ever talking about your ?spouse?? I?m all for that. I love when people say they keep their sexuality/orientation private and go on and on about their husband or wife. Considering there are currently only two states where you can legally marry, using those terms in the other 48 pretty much broadcasts your sexuality.

      [i]At the same time, while stamping out mistreatment of people in this group is appropriate, it seems we have gone beyond the mark and now consider it appropriate to endorse the "alternate lifestyles" as ok and equally appropriate. [/i]

      Um, I have no alternative. Unless you mean I should deny who I am, lie to myself, date a woman (which means lying to her as well), start a family, and just pretend I?m a heterosexual? Being who I am is my only option. YOU consider it an alternative because I?m not like you.

      [i]The appropriate response is to foster treatment of all people as human beings, but at the same time to recognize the truth of human sexuality as being heterosexual by its very nature, and to make available resources for those who struggle with that to have the support they need.[/i]

      Thanks for the offer, but I?ll politely decline. I do just fine the way I am.

      [i]And, in case anyone is tempted to leave with the impression that I'm a "homophobe"...that would be incorrect.[/i]

      I wasn?t going to go that far. I was just going to label you as one of those people who thinks that everything THEY do is normal, but anyone who does anything not within your own personally imposed comfort zone is ?aberrant?.

      [i]There is plenty of errant heterosexual behavior going on, condoned by current societal "norms" as ok...when instead it should be regarded as something more "sacred" and profound, among those who have a lifetime commitment to each other...aka, marriage. [/i]

      For the record, I?m one of those gays who is against gay ?marriage?. All the societal benefits that come with marriage? Absolutely. We deserve them. All the financial benefits that come from marriage? Don?t stop fighting till we get ?em. But ?marriage?? With the failure rate of marriage currently in the high 40?s percentage-wise, surpassed only by the failure rate of second marriages, why would and self-respecting homosexual want to start a new chapter in life with such failed moniker attached to their celebration. I say, let the legislatures call them ?civil unions? if they want. Then we can call them what we want, be they Queeriage, Dykeage, Civilly Unionized Bondage, whatever. Then we worry about protecting the integrity of OUR OWN institution. That way, when heterosexual marriage finally does go swirling down the toilet, and the Bill O?Reillys, the Presidents Bush, the pope du jour, and the Techboy_z?s of the world try to point the finger at us (like they currently do when it comes to the failure of heterosexual marriage), we can stand safely out of their reach, smile smugly, and say ?Don?t look at us, we?re NOT married?.

      As for homosexuals, three of the five kids in my family are gay. I know many other families that have more than one gay child, so in my opinion, it certainly is genetic. And for all the God-quoters out there, if it?s genetic, then it?s intelligent design. Or are you criticizing God? I did a research paper a last year for school. One guy who has done some fascinating research is Professor Richard Pillard of Boston University. It?s called the ?older brother? syndrome. Google his name and you?ll find some interesting stuff, like at the link below.

      • Right on...

        I am with you as being 'against gay marriage' in those terms...(and for the record Yes i'm gay)...the term marriage carries way too many religious connotations that I care to be associated with. Also, if you really look hard at it, unless you get kids involved there really is no financial benefit (at least under the US IRS).

        People who say that we should keep our personal lives seperate and transparent, yet drone on and on about their wives, kids, and placment of pictures on their desk..really should just be shut up and re-evaluate themselves. I am all for keeping my private and professional life seperate - I did so while I was an enlisted member of the US military and still continue that in the civilian world because I dont want any "special" treatment - just equal.

        Fortunately I have the privilege of working for a company that is very advanced, i guess, on granting equal rights for someones partner, regardless of sexual orientation (and this is a government contracting company), so if the day would ever arise that I would need to take advantage of those benefits - I know they are there.
        • Where are the exceptions?

          I guess one thing we might think about is what companies/organizations are entitled to discriminate based on orientation. I can only think of nonprofits and the military- are there others?
  • Same as being black or female - yes

    I like the cutting edge topic and controvertial topic as well - thanks. I'm still overdosed on the "next great chip" story but recognize this is a tech forum.

    By inspection at my very large semiconductor company, I would say yes in too many cases. While "sexual preference" discrimination is forbidden and included alongside woman, blacks, etc. this is easily overcome because promotions, etc have a large "subjective" component to them - if you know what I mean.

    This is especially true IMHO, for middle management positions. One data point is that gay jokes are still seen as "OK" as long as one refrains from using the word faggot and in some large companies, 'queer'. Do you think that sentiment does not work its way into the 'subjective' component of promotions?
    • And I think

      That as long as you're not wearing it on your sleeve or as a chip
      on your shoulder, no one would ever know one way or the other.

      The real issue here is that some individuals base their entire
      identity as a human being on what kind of sexual urges they
      have. That's not a particularly healthy psychology.
      • Wearing it on your sleeve?

        Coworkers frequently ask personal questions that end up "outing" a person and then act uncomfortable as a result.

        How often have you heard people talking about their impending marriage, child, or divorce?

        It's very difficult to completely separate your personal life and career. Should gays have to closet themselves at work or invent fake husbands/wives and relationships?

        What do you define as "wearing it on your sleeve?" Should gay people hide their sexuality when asked a point blank question?
    • ...or same as being human

      Let's not narrow this down to a certain group, like gay, black, female, etc., as if only people who are not in these groups (like white males, for instance) are capable of exercising human nature, which is to trust and prefer people like themselves. The question should be about human nature, not about a certain group. In fact it is unfairly discriminatory to infer that certain ethinic/racial/age/faith groups have some bigot gene inside them that others don't have.
  • It is best to work for enlightened folks

    than fighting with the usual bigots. It not only violates peoples rights, but lowers profits thru the usual unproductively with a stressful work environment. Also these same people will discriminate at more than just gays also. They don't like anyone different from themselves. Code language is, "they are not my kind of people".

    One correction. Alan Turing developed a electro mechanical machine at Bletchley Park that helped cracked the code of Enigma. The Enigma was used by the Germans during WW2.

  • My guess would be

    anyone who places their entire identity as a human being around
    a single biological act and how they perform it and then makes a
    vocal issue out of it is going to have troubles in any career they
    attempt, because they are the ones who have the problem.
  • RE: diversITy: can being gay hold your career back?

    Part of the problem is that getting into "upper management" often requires schmoozing and schmoozing requires a spouse and similar enough values and lifestyle.

    Being gay doesn't stop you from going higher but it often makes it more difficult.
  • RE: diversITy: can being gay hold your career back?

    Or "old." I am 45 and was laid off last year. I am having a difficult time getting entry level positions having been told on more than one occasion I am overqualified. I think I have been age discriminated against. Further, I am applying for administrative assistant positions, euphamism for secretary, and being male may be some victim of gender discrimination. Discrimination exists, proving it is more difficult.
  • Orientation - No Problem - Activism - BIG PROBLEM

    Sexual Orientation is not a problem.

    Sexual Extremism or Sexual Activism is a problem and it is not to be in the workplace.

    A sexual extremeist or a Sexual Activist can make for a hostile work environment. Heterosexuals can file a complaint of sexual harassment just like anyone else can.

    It is important to know - that if you are a sexual activist, don't bring it to work. Your going to get fired just as fast as the fella who harasses a female.
    The Admiral
    • Sexual Extremist?

      What does that even mean? Is activism mentioning you have a partner? Is it acknowledging your sexuality?
      • Sexual Extremeism

        Absolutely not. Extremism is when a person puts up photos of gay pride day in their cube with them naked. It is them putting up posters of "Support Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, whatever" posters in the cube and makes it a point to bring it up in every meeting.

        Activism is going to the managers screaming that they are not getting a fair shake, when they are the lead programmer and they sit on their hands all day while everyone else does the work.

        Activism is when they stand out side of the front gates of the building handing out rainbows.

        Activism is suing non-profits because they were refused entry into an all boys club because they use it to farm their next lover.

        You need more? Plain and simple - it needs to stay out of the workplace, it needs to stay out of government as intervening legislation.

        I have no problems with any one else's lifestyle, but like the bible thumpers, when you start pushing the issue, you loose my support.
        The Admiral
      • RE: Sexual Extremist?

        Someone who straps a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_bomb">gay-bomb</a> to their chest? :-P
    • Orientation v. Activism

      I agree. I've worked with gay people, some for years, and not had, or caused, a problem. I used to work doing phone tech support, until that job went overseas, with a guy I was unaware was gay until we had a new hire that came in and immediately started causing problems. Whenever someone would try to talk to the new guy about his behaviors his first response was "It's because I'm gay." He tried to pull that on my gay co-worker who straightened him out - forcefully.

      As was stressed the vast majority of people don't give a hang what color, gender, or orientation someone is, it's their actions that most influence our feelings about someone. Are they polite - or do they seem to go out of their way to be obstreperous.

      You will run across jerks who treat you badly no matter who you are, no matter what color, gender or your sexual orientation is, and not because you are being singled out, it's just that you had the bad luck to run into a jerk.

      For a non-tech type person dealing with new situations and environments in the equipment they work with is daunting enough why stress them even more by your actions.Be professional, know your job and do it well and be courteous to those you work with and you'll be successful, no matter what color, gender or your sexual orientation is.