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Sexual orientation must not be a barrier to fulfilling potential

Strides have been made in recent years in improvements to inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace. Employers who build inclusive, supportive workplaces have found that their rewards are higher employee engagement, better performance and improved retention. But recent research has shown that some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) women are still fearful that if colleagues find out about their sexuality, their career prospects will be damaged.

A survey carried out by Evolved Employer found that 42 per cent of LGBT women in financial and professional services had not 'come out' to everyone at work and one in ten said that they were sure that coming out had already hurt their career or would hurt their career if they were to come out.

When asked about support in the workplace, three in five LGBT women had been made uncomfortable by jokes or statements about LGBT people in the past two years. Fifteen per cent said that negative comments about LGBT people are either accepted or tolerated in their workplace.

On the other hand, more than three quarters of respondents said that their colleagues were supportive of them and that negativity against LGBT people was not tolerated. The contrast between these statistics suggests that many workplaces do not yet have a consistent and accountable approach to inclusiveness around sexual orientation.

Other research has found that being out can help LGBT employees advance more quickly in their careers. By being 'truer' to themselves, they said they could be fully dedicated to their work without wasting time and energy pretending to be someone else.

Acas has provided detailed guidance to help employers promote good equality and diversity practices in the workplace in its Advisory booklet - Delivering Equality and Diversity. Acas can also work with organisations to help them understand the issues surrounding equality and diversity and assist in developing practical solutions.

Visit Equality and diversity: how Acas can help and the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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