As the demographics, requirements, and opportunities for LGBTQ employees and leaders have changed over the last few years, Out & Equal’s approach has taken on a new weight and shape. We are integrating the best, most cutting-edge thinking in leadership with an eye to the specific needs and aptitudes of LGBTQ people. In this way, we can truly support the thriving of our community and help organizations create cultures of belonging for all.

One way to create cultures of belonging that benefit everyone is by (1) developing more LGBTQ leaders, and (2) emulating their leadership traits! 

Investing in supporting LGBTQ leaders and in building strong LGBTQ leadership pipelines has a proven benefit, not just for that individual employee but for the engagement, job satisfaction, and morale of their teams and, ultimately, for the strength of the entire organization.

What do LGBTQ people need to thrive at work? What differentiates LGBTQ leaders from others? Is there such a thing as “LGBTQ Leadership”?

Research shows: Yes, there is!

In 2006 Kirk Snyder published the very surprising results of a five-year study, which found that – in organizations and teams working under the direct leadership of out gay executives – employees care more about their work, feel more personally connected to the success of the organization, and demonstrate a deeper commitment to professional excellence.

In fact, gay executives produced 35 to 60% higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and morale compared to straight male bosses.[1]

To put this in context, contemporary studies of workforce behavior reported that only 14% of the global corporate workforce was fully engaged at work, and that the primary reason people quit jobs was due to their managers’ behavior.[2]

Why did gay executives do so much better?

Snyder found that these gay executives displayed similar leadership traits, and that these leadership traits in turn provide a 21st century advantage – particularly in addressing the needs of a workforce reporting increasing feelings of disconnection, isolation, loneliness, and burnout. To be clear, Snyder is not saying these leadership traits are innate, or that straight people make bad leaders. We all know plenty of amazing straight leaders and some bad gay ones.

How do we get more LGBTQ leaders to thrive in the workplace? While we know that the answer to this question is NOT one-size-fits-all, we also know that:

  • LGBTQ leaders need dedicated resources and more opportunities. 
  • A focus on senior-level representation is not enough; we must support mid-level and emerging leaders in the talent pipeline.
  • We must continue to expand the pipeline of diverse leadership, with a keen eye to the intersectional impact diverse leaders face.

The LGBTQ community is not a monolith. While the LGBTQ community as a whole is disproportionately subject to violence and discrimination, that discrimination is in turn further compounded as it intersects with other marginalized identities. When queer women receive 30% fewer callbacks for job interviews than straight women, we know there is more to be done.[3] When 2x as many LGBTQ people of color report personally experiencing workplace discrimination as white LGBTQ people, we know there is more to be done.[4] When 9 out of 10 trans people are leaving a job due to discrimination or harassment, we know there is more to be done.[5]

Having identified the untapped potential of LGBTQ leaders, the need to take on the discrimination that we face, and the lack of equity within our community, Out & Equal has developed new strategies – supported by JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America – to propel more LGBTQ individuals into increasingly senior roles.

A key component of these strategies is Out & Equal’s partnership with the Korn Ferry Charitable Foundation in support for the Leadership U for Humanity program. This groundbreaking leadership development program aims to end underrepresentation in business leadership. We are making sure that budding LGBTQ leaders, representing a diversity of LGBTQ identities, will be getting the best training possible, alongside other individuals who are underrepresented in the ranks of corporate leadership. This program will make an enormous difference!

Isabel Porras
Learning & Development Director
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

[1] Kirk Snyder, The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives Are Excelling As Leaders… and What Every Manager Needs to Know

[2] Ibid.

[3] Emma Mishel. Discrimination against Queer Women in the U.S. Workforce : A Résumé Audit Study

[4] National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of LGBTQ Americans

[5] National Center for Transgender Equality: The Report of the 2015 US Transgender Survey.