Queer careers: how to get a job and be your whole self at work in 2021

Job hunting is a daunting process for everyone, but there is even more stress involved for LGBTIQ+ and gender non-conforming (GNC) people.
LBGT+ community in tech profession
On top of the usual concerns we all have when looking for a job, queer, trans, and GNC folk also need to decide how much to reveal about their identity and deal with the fear of discrimination that comes with it.

While not every queer person in the workforce faces these concerns, research shows that this feeling of unsafety is very real for a large number of queer people. According to the recent Blind report data, just 76 percent of LGBTIQ+ workers and 64 percent of GNC workers say they feel safe in their workplace. This fear of coming out or revealing too much often leaves LGBTIQ+ and GNC workers feeling unsafe and alienated.

The other issue at play is representation. The Blind report reported that just 35 percent of LGBTIQ+ and 41 percent of trans or GNC workers feel “represented in upper management in their company”. A lack of representation in the workforce is damaging not only to the organization that is losing out on diverse perspectives but also discourages people in underrepresented groups from applying for a position in the future. We need to see it to be it. That’s why representation matters.

Queer Careers in Technology

The tech industry, in particular, has been called out for lagging when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. With 30 percent of young LGBTIQ+ choosing to avoid a career in Stem due to negative stereotypes and fear of discrimination, tech companies have some serious work to do to ensure diversity and inclusion are top priorities going forward.

In fact, in 2020 just three tech companies – Fujitsu, ThoughtWorks, and Atos – made the list of Britain’s Top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers. Tech companies play an increasingly bigger role in creating the systems society uses daily, making this imbalance something that needs to be addressed urgently. Diversity in the tech industry is essential to make sure that the tech products being developed accommodate and reflect the needs of all members of society, including queer people.

If you are an LGBTIQ+ or GNC professional working in the tech industry or considering it, don’t let this data put you off.  Despite the tech industry lagging in general, several organizations are paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive tech sector.

This article offers up four tips for finding a queer career in the tech industry and being your authentic self in the workplace.

4 Tips for Finding a Queer Friendly Job in Tech & Being your Authentic Self at Work

Learning how to navigate the workplace as an LGBTIQ+ or GNC professional isn’t always easy. With 46 percent of LGBTIQ+ employees admitting that they haven’t revealed their full identity to their colleagues, it’s clear that more support is needed.

 

When employees don’t feel like they can be their whole selves at work, they tend to disengage. If an organization wants to reap the benefits connected to having a diverse and inclusive workforce, then it needs to ensure that all employees feel safe enough to be true to themselves.

How can LGBTIQ+ or GNC workers embrace their true selves without fear of discrimination or alienation? We’ve put together some suggestions.

Seek out organizations that actively support LGBTIQ+ tech workers

Several organizations are creating a new, more inclusive future for the tech world. These organizations work to empower LGBTIQ+ and GNC people to take up space in the tech sector and have their voices heard. By encouraging queer people to embrace their authentic selves, these organizations are changing the face of technology for the better.

Here are just a few of the trailblazers opening the door for more queer representation in the technology sector.

Out in Tech

With 16 chapters and 40,000 members, Out in Tech refers to itself as “the world’s largest nonprofit community of LGBTIQ+ tech leaders”. Out in Tech has a very clear mission; to create more opportunities for LGBTIQ+ workers who want to expand their network and get ahead in their tech career all while advocating for social change through technology. Its mentorship program gives queer youths the chance to be mentored and develop their skills.

Trans*H4ck

Trans people continue to face social and economic barriers. Not only do trans people face discrimination when it comes to housing and health care, but data shows that unemployment in the trans community is twice the national average in the US. The barriers don’t stop there; trans people are more at risk of homelessness, with the average income for a trans person in the US reported to be less than $10,000 a year.

Trans*H4ck came about as a response to these barriers. Its goal is to use technology to address these social issues. By developing new tech products that facilitate trans and GNC people, Trans*H4ck is breaking down barriers for the trans community and working towards a more trans-friendly tech industry.

Pride in STEM

Pride in STEM is an independent group of queer scientists and engineers that organizes events and activities to support the LGBTIQ+ tech community. With members based in the US and UK, Pride in STEM provides plenty of networking opportunities across the pond for queer people and brings together underrepresented groups in STEM. By celebrating and connecting LGBTIQ+ tech professionals, the trust is helping to build a more inclusive tech world for us all.

Queer Coders

Queer Coders is a great resource for organizations who want to hire LGBTIQ+ tech workers and for queer tech people in search of LGBTIQ+ friendly employers. Queer Coders is a community of LGBTIQ+ coders, developers, and other tech roles who are looking to connect with like-minded professionals. It allows underrepresented groups to come together through networking events and collaborate with fellow queer people.

Find a career coach who specializes in LGBTIQ+ Candidates

If you’ve got the qualifications and the drive but you’re still struggling to land that dream job, a career coach could be the missing piece of the puzzle. Whether it’s to find a job or get some expert advice on how to kick your career into overdrive, a career coach who specializes in helping LGBTIQ+ professionals can help you achieve your goals.

In a recent Q&A session with recruitment experts Lensa, career coach Amber Crow shares some inside information on how she helps LGBTIQ+ professionals find a queer-friendly company where they feel safe and included. Amber, who works for Transperfect, highlights some red flags that queer people should look out for in an interview that could signal the company isn’t as inclusive as it seems.

Amber, who also runs The Queer Career blog, suggests some useful questions candidates can ask themselves after an interview to get a feel for the culture, but ultimately she recommends trusting your gut.

“Were you asked your pronouns in the interview process? Do they ask about the different career activities on your resume? Do they imply gender or sexuality at any point? All of these can give you insight into the company and what your day-to-day is going to look like, and then you listen to your gut.” – Amber Crow, Transperfect

A career coach can help LGBTIQ+ or GNC people navigate common challenges such as how to be transparent about your identity in an interview, signs you’re working for an inclusive company, coming out to your employer and being your authentic self, and even how to dress for interviews if you are non-binary. Career coaches also work with you to understand your rights as an employee. For instance, in 2020, SCOTUS updated the list of what is considered workplace discrimination to include that people cannot be fired because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Knowing your rights can help you feel protected in your workplace.

Take time to educate your colleagues

 

Finding yourself in a non-inclusive working environment can be frustrating and alienating, but there are some steps you can take to improve the situation. Developing an LGBTIQ+ inclusive work environment can take time, but you can speed this process up by giving feedback and communicating with your colleagues. If you spot something in the diversity and inclusion training that doesn’t sit right with you or that could be improved, speak up (calmly).

Creating a dialogue and taking time to educate your employer on how to be more inclusive will make your organization a better place. When an issue arises or if you spot weak areas, be part of the solution and make it clear that you are there as a sounding board to help reach inclusivity goals. Not only will this take away some of the frustration you’re feeling, but it will allow your colleagues the opportunity to learn from you and improve.

Build a community to lean on

There are a lot of people who might be going through the same struggles as you, by building a network, you can get the support you need. Look for ways to grow your network of LGBTIQ+ people and allies such as creating an LGBTIQ+ employee resource group (ERG) in your organization or suggesting local pride events that your organization can support. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are great for growing your network outside of your organization and lifting up other queer professionals in the tech industry.

Becoming part of a wider community of LGBTIQ+ professionals in the tech world will create more visibility and inspire younger LGBTIQ+ people to choose a career in technology too. This increased representation is the key to revamping the industry and making queer people feel confident enough to be their true, fabulous selves at work.

Watch out for rainbow-washing

Almost every large organization now has an inclusive mission statement and will plaster rainbows all over social media during pride month. However, when searching for a company that genuinely supports LGBTIQ+ and GNC people all year round, try to look past the rainbow-washing and dig a little deeper.

There is a fine line between supporting queer people and using it as a marketing or employer branding tactic. Take Walmart, for example, after launching its Pride & Joy collection selling pride-themed products, it came to light that it has donated nearly $30,000 to Arkansas lawmakers who are responsible for passing a bill banning gender-affirming treatment for young trans people.

Don’t be fooled by rainbow-washing. When applying for jobs, try to find out if the company takes any actionable steps to support the queer community outside of pride month. If the answer is no, then this could suggest that it isn’t a high priority. If your current company is rainbow-washing, calmly suggest tangible ways that it can show support that is more than turning its logo rainbow. This could be by improving non-discrimination clauses in contracts, ensuring fully LGBTIQ+ inclusive benefits, and increasing representation in upper management.

Key Takeaways

Every employee or potential employee should feel safe to be completely themselves in the workplace without fear of discrimination or alienation. Unfortunately, for many, this isn’t the case. Even though more organizations are working towards being more inclusive, as an LGBTIQ+ or GNC professional, it still pays to know what to look out for when searching for an inclusive company. Don’t be afraid of making waves; speak up and ask your company the important questions. If certain benefits aren’t LGBTIQ+ inclusive, hold your company accountable. By recognizing red flags and building a network in their industry, LGBTIQ+ professionals can make set themselves up to get the treatment they deserve – an organization that’s going to make them feel safe, valued, and included.