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Photo and illustration by NHM

Photo and illustration by NHM

New York think tank The Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) has released results from an interesting new study about why creating a gay-friendly workplace adds up to better business. “The Power of Out 2.0” reveals that not only are more people out at work than ever (59 percent in 2012, compared to 52 percent in 2011), but there’s an advantage to being open and honest when exercising the most successful leadership skills needed to rise in the ranks.

“Our new study finds that while progress has been made, discrimination remains pervasive. We outline a number of steps employers can take to improve the climate in the workplace and enable their LGBT employees to maximize their potential,” says the study’s co-author Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding President and CEO of CTI. “We felt there was still much to explore with respect to how employers can make full use of their LGBT talent: specifically, the opportunity companies have to drive business and the bottom line by leveraging the leadership potential and connections of their LGBT employees and allies.”

She says there’s a significant gender gap between men and women in the workplace with respect to their sexuality, with men nearly twice as likely to consider their identity as an asset. Women, however, are more likely to face discrimination because of the “double jeopardy” of gender and sexual orientation (74 percent of lesbians say they encounter bias compared to 51 percent of gay men).

For as many people coming out, fear of discrimination also pressures many LGBT employees to stay in the closet – or try to pass as heterosexual. Twenty-three percent of men and 15 percent of women believe that changing their mannerisms, voice or clothing, or hiding relationships or friendships in order to “pass” at work, has helped their career. But when they are discriminated against, gay and bisexual men are 114 percent more likely than women to report these incidences, while bisexual men and women are 59 percent less likely than lesbians and gay men to feel a part of the community.

The report suggests that maintaining an LGBT-friendly workplace really comes down to support from straight allies. Twenty-four percent of LGBT workers credit their decision to come out professionally to these office allies. How do you know if you’re an ally? While many straight employees may think they’re gay-friendly, the reality is that only a small number (12 percent of men and 23 percent of women) ever really take a stand against bias. This means that someone has performed at least two or more pro-gay actions, like helping a coworker come out or speaking up when someone else makes a slur.

“This research provides critical detail,” says Todd Sears, author of the Principal of Coda Leadership and founder of Out on the Street. “As companies continue to raise the bar in protecting and supporting their LGBT employees, we believe this data provides updated guidance on effective approaches and best practices. In addition, the research helps inform companies’ efforts as they reach out to the LGBT market as a whole.”

Do you have a story to share about being out (or staying in the closet at work)? Share it with us (ThePhillyQ@yahoo.com).

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