The aim of this lesson is to acquaint you with the most common factors of discrimination in the workplace. At the end of this lesson, you should be able to list key factors of discrimination in the workplace and recognize factors of discrimination in your workplace.
Note: The audio is available below the introduction.
Discrimination in the workplace may range from subtle jokes or uncomfortable comments to physical or verbal abuse and unfair treatment directed at one’s sexuality or gender when they are not in line with heterosexual or cis-gendered identity. Our findings from the WE project showed that on average, one in three LGBT+Q+ youth participants across Europe experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at the workplace. Among the experiences described are explicit discrimination such as physical assaults, verbal insults, derogatory comments and bullying that were felt to be degrading, frightful, and sometimes dehumanising (eg. comments such as ‘What are you?’). Covert experiences of discrimination such as indirect insults or jokes that make fun of or question one’s sexuality are more likely to be experienced by cis-gendered participants. Other forms of discrimination within social or official norms involve wearing gender specific nametags, long-drawn administrative processes of getting one’s name changed, having to conform to gendered uniforms, and being excluded from social settings such as family picnics. Being fired for inexplicable reasons, or experiencing the hesitancy to hire due to one’s visible physical appearance are also forms of discrimination.
The factors that sustain discrimination in the workplace are often due to the widespread ignorance of non-heterosexual and non-binary individuals, as well as the lack of awareness of the concerns and stigma they face. Often experienced by sexual and gender minority youth in the absence of workplace support. Especially felt is the lack of managerial involvement or accountability, particularly with issues involved in transitioning, such as name changes, biological changes and administrative and structural hurdles. Insisting on not using pronouns is discriminatory, and likewise is only having the possibility to use either male or female toilet facilities.
Our findings have revealed that experiences such as blackmailing and cornering to discourage reporting of discrimination or threats of firing are some of the many reasons that discrimination is rarely reported. A high level of underreporting of discrimination has been observed, ranging from 73% in the UK to 98% in Croatia. Discrimination of sexual and gender minority individuals will continue to exist if there is a lack of clear reaction towards any form of discrimination or when one feels the need to tolerate discrimination. This could happen if there is a lack of penalization when cases of discrimination arise. Workplace discrimination could continue to happen unchecked if there is the absence of legal protection offered in employment or the lack of an effective link between anti-discriminatory laws and their implementation in contextual instances.
In light of the above reasons, much work needs to be done to recognise and increase the visibility of LGBT+Q+ discrimination in the workplace. As long as society poorly understands what constitutes discrimination of sexual and gender minority individuals, workplace discrimination will continue to be experienced by them.
Listen to a podcast about the experience of discrimination against young LGBT+Q+ workers in six European countries. Pay attention to what are the main factors of discrimination in the work environment, what are the obstacles to its elimination as well as what strategies can be implemented to create an inclusive workplace. This podcast is based on a survey we conducted as part of the WE PROJECT. If you want to know more, you can find the research here.
Escucha un podcast sobre las experiencias de discriminación vividas por los trabajadores jóvenes LGBT+Q+ en seis países europeos. Presta atención a cuáles son los principales factores de discriminación en el entorno laboral, cuáles son los obstáculos para su eliminación, así como qué estrategias se pueden implementar para crear un lugar de trabajo inclusivo. Este podcast se basa en una encuesta que realizamos como parte de WE PROJECT. Si quieres saber más, puedes acceder a la investigación completa.
Para saber más: Presta atención a los siguientes 3 videos, de 3 minutos cada uno, del proyecto ADIM. En él podrás aprender sobre la situación de las personas LGBT + en el trabajo en España y por qué sigue siendo necesario que las empresas tengan en cuenta la diversidad sexual, familiar y de identidad de género en el lugar de trabajo.
Hören Sie sich einen Podcast über die Erfahrungen mit der Diskriminierung von jungen LGBT+Q+ Arbeitnehmern in sechs europäischen Ländern an. Achten Sie darauf, was die Hauptfaktoren für Diskriminierung in der Arbeitsumgebung sind, welche Hindernisse für ihre Bekämpfung bestehen und welche Strategien umgesetzt werden können, um einen integrativen Arbeitsplatz zu schaffen. Dieser Podcast wurde im Rahmen des WE PROJECT durchgeführt und enthält eine Umfrage. Wenn Sie mehr wissen wollen, können Sie die Studie hier finden.
Wenn Sie mehr dazu wissen wollen, finden Sie hier eine Studie zu den Arbeitsbedingungen und Diskriminierungserfahrungen von LGBTIQ-Menschen in Österreich.
Poslušajte podkast o iskustvu diskrminacije mladih LGBT+Q+ radnika u šest evropskih zemalja. Obratite pažnju na to koji su glavni faktori diskriminacije u radnom okruženju, koje su prepreke njenom uklanjanju kao i koje strategije se mogu primeniti za stvaranje inkluzivnog radnog mesta. Ovaj podkast je zasnovan na anketi koju smo sproveli u okviru projekta “WE”. Ako želite da saznate više, možete pronaći istraživanje ovde.
Vypočuj si podcast o skúsenostiach s diskrimináciou mladých LGBT+Q+ zamestnancov v šiestich európskych krajinách. Venuj pozornosť tomu, čo sú hlavné faktory diskriminácie v pracovnom prostredí, aké sú prekážky pri jej odstraňovaní a aké stratégie je možné implementovať na vytvorenie inkluzívneho pracoviska. Tento podcast je založený na prieskume, ktorý sme uskutočnili v rámci ‘WE’ projektu.
Ak sa chceš dozvedieť viac, náš prieskum nájdeš tu.
Ak sa následne na to chceš dozvedieť viac aj o tom, akým problémom čelia LGBTIQ+ ľudia na Slovensku, určite klikni na tento link.
Poslušaj podcast o iskustvu diskriminacije mladih LGBT+Q+ radnika:ca u šest europskih zemalja. Obrati pozornost na to što su glavni čimbenici diskriminacije u radnom okruženju, koje su prepreke u njenom uklanjanju kao i koje se strategije mogu provoditi kako bismo stvorili uključivo radno mjesto. Ovaj podcast je nastao na temelju istraživanja kojeg smo proveli u sklopu WE PROJECT-a. Ako želiš saznati više, istraživanje možeš pronaći ovdje.
Mario: Hello, Radhika. Could you please tell us about you and also about your role in the WE project and our field study?
Radhika: Hi Mario! Yes, most definitely. My name is Radhika, and I am a researcher in Social and Preventive Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna, and my research has focused on sexuality education and marginalised populations. Well, I come from Singapore and grew up in a culturally diverse society where despite the differences in the proportion of ethnic backgrounds that represent Singapore, cultural inclusion in all aspects of life from school to recreation and work is the backbone of how we function in our community. So, coming from this background I understand and value diversity and workplace inclusivity, and was hence drawn to the WE Project.
Mario: Could you describe the aim of this study with young LGBT+Q+ workers and stakeholders? So, we did our field study with young LGBTIQ workers and stakeholders. What is the aim of our study?
Radhika: So, our aim is to promote and effectively implement the principle of non-discrimination for sexual and gender minority (or SGM) youth in the workplace. In order for us to achieve this, we wanted to investigate the experiences of discrimination felt by young SGM people in general and in their place of employment, and what they thought was important in having an inclusive workplace environment. We also wanted to explore the views from professional stakeholders working with SGM individuals, such as psychologists, lawyers, teachers, and policy makers, so that we could get a better overview of the concerns that they face in employment, as well as the measures that could be taken on a systemic level. Our goal is this very platform that you have accessed, where stakeholders and young SGM people as well as the general public can learn more about people of sexual and gender minority, about workplace discrimination, and about how to report discrimination, as well as good examples of companies that have inclusive principles and how they offer solutions on promoting diversity.
Mario: So, in our field study we conducted focus groups with young LGBTIQ workers. What do they say, what are the most common experiences of discrimination in the workplace they face every day?
Radhika: There were many instances of experiences of verbal harassment described, with such words like ‘you’re disgusting, ‘What are you?’, or ‘you faggot’, you know. There were also physical attacks reported that were sometimes violent and shocking. So, there exists sexual harassment like, for example being asked details on sexual habits or preferences; and they have also described times when they are not being included in social activities. Some reported that they were deliberately not hired or even fired because of their sexual or gender identity. A common experience for transgender and non-binary people is that work uniforms are gendered and they are put in a position where they have to choose one or the other. The administrative processes involved in name changes are long and drawn-out. Colleagues or employers are often not interested in using the preferred name or pronoun, and there are usually no gender-neutral toilets or locker rooms, or safe spaces. Having to endure homophobic comments or jokes on gays, lesbians, or transgender people and brushing them aside are also some of the countless experiences that have been encountered.
Mario: Following this, could you describe to us what participants of our study say about factors/causes of discrimination in the workplace?
Radhika: The experiences of discrimination reported are of two kinds: one that is dependent on the societal context, and one that is based on sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI. If the society is less accepting towards SGM people, and policies and legislations are not in their favor, the discrimination is systemic. This could lead to dire consequences, such as concealing one’s identity, discriminating oneself, and accepting discrimination as the norm. However, for people from contexts of greater SGM acceptance there generally is a broader context of support, so there is more confidence in reporting or confronting discrimination, or even discussing these issues with their managers or employers.
And then, the next kind of discrimination is based on SOGI, and this basically stems from one’s appearance. Whereas it is more likely that a cis-gendered employee, for example, slips under the radar of discrimination simply because they clearly look like a man or a woman, transgender people have a more challenging time confronting the various facets of discrimination they encounter on an ongoing basis purely, for example, based on their appearance.
Mario: And what do they say, how do they see barriers, what are the obstacles in overcoming this tough situation and what are sort of a…barriers in having a more inclusive workplace?
Radhika: First of all, most people interviewed felt that there was a lack of clear reaction in recognizing and resolving instances of discrimination. Also, the under-reporting of discrimination is a vicious cycle, that prevents people from reporting instances of discrimination. This is possible because the process of reporting is not clearly understood, hence giving a feeling of hopelessness about it. Then there is the lack of knowledge on policies and regulations against discrimination and distrust in the legal system offering protection. There is also the lack of knowledge on certain issues, especially issues faced by transgender people that are linked to their appearance and attire, or their process of transitioning like toilet visits or disrespecting pronouns.
Mario: Well, our field study had also some encouraging questions. Let us end on a positive note; what are the strategies that young LGBTIQ workers and stakeholders as well propose to overcome this situation?
Radhika: Well, they have emphasized that first and foremost, people of sexual and gender minority should be provided with the same rights and protections as everyone else, and be able to come out and be confident of their identity. Workplace support is also crucial in terms of clearly written policies that welcome employees, and that non-tolerance of discrimination should be included in writing within work contracts. The importance of having diverse staff was also mentioned by some, as this would reflect on how openly committed the company is towards diversity and acceptance. But this should not stop there. Training and educating staff on employee rights and anti-discrimination laws, and training them in the knowledge and social skills necessary for an inclusive and SGM conducive environment should be implemented and taking place on an ongoing basis. Finally, an inclusive infrastructure that offers safe spaces and gender-neutral facilities are important and wherever applicable: gender-neutral uniforms, are also some great suggestions to start off with.
Mario: Thank you very much, Radhika. This was very insightful. If our listeners and everyone interested in our field study wish to explore more and find out more, especially what is happening in our six respective countries you can find the report on our website https://we-project.eu/.
Radhika: Thank you so much Mario, it was indeed a pleasure to have this intervieew. Thank you.