Why is the job market a tougher place for queer women?

It should come as no surprise to the people reading this, but most people from marginalized groups in the US do suffer employment discrimination of some kind or another. The chances of falling victim to this sort of discrimination only increases if you’re a member of two marginalized groups, like queer women. And if you’re a member of one or more marginalized groups, you’re expected to work twice as hard for half the credit.

If you’d have asked me when I was leaving college about sexism or homophobia in the workplace, I’d have told you that while they certainly exist, it wasn’t anything that I’d have to worry about. After all, it’s the 21st century, so surely discrimination against women or LGBTQ+ in employment is illegal, right? In my mind, even if I did encounter a bigot, all it would take is a quick trip to HR to get the whole situation sorted out.

I was pretty naïve, but I’d lived a sheltered life. Sure, some girls at my school called me a d*ke, but my family and friends accepted me. And doesn’t everyone grow up after high school?

As it turns out, no. I’ve bounced through several different employers since graduating and I’ve experienced some degree of sexism and homophobia in each:

– A  female boss made derogatory comments about lesbian and transgender clients.
– A male colleague “joked” that I should show a little more skin when asking the boss for a raise.

– A male boss (who was himself gay) told me that bisexuality isn’t real; it’s just something you say when you’re not ready to come out “properly”.

And these examples are incredibly mild compared with the horrific discrimination that other LGBTQ+ women have to face in the workplace from sexual assault to being fired for coming out.

What I’m trying to say is that no matter how far we’ve come, we have a long way to go.

What problems do LGBTQ+ women face in the workplace?

Most of the problems presented below the result of a lack of anti-discrimination laws to protect women and the LGBTQ+ community in the US. These laws are often opposed by the Religious Right and even, disappointingly, some people on the left.

In 28 US states, it is 100% legal for companies to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation, whilst 30 states allow employers to discriminate against transgender workers. In over half the country, it completely legal to fire someone for coming out, pay a trans person less than a cis person, and even to deny health insurance coverage to the same-sex partner of your employees.

While gender equality is still not guaranteed in the constitution because the Equal Rights Amendment, which was proposed in 1932, still hasn’t been ratified. As of May 2018, we still need one more state (out of a possible 13) to agree that women should have the same rights as men. Somehow, this is a controversial point-of-view?

Hiring – A study from 2016 found that women perceived as LGBTQ+ were about 30% less likely to get called back for an interview than straight women. While researchers from the University of California and University of Southern California report that women are given a tougher time in interviews than male applicants.

Wages – Most people know that women still earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by a straight man, but did you know lesbians only earn 54 centsand bisexual women earn just 43 cents? 

Benefits – As of 2017, Donald Trump has rolled back the Obama-era mandate that contraception gets covered by employee healthcare plans. While 2016, saw a 20% drop in employers providing health care benefits to same-sex partners of their workers.

Harassment – As we’ve seen through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, sexual harassment, and even assault, is common across all employment sectors from showbiz to communications to politics. While almost half of all LGBTQ+ employees choose to remain closeted at work to avoid harassment.

And it might be about to get a whole lot worse. Trump, whose own sucess has nominated his second Supreme Court Justice following the retirement of Anthony Kennedy and the (probable) confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh will likely swing the Supreme Court to the (alt-)right.

Kavanaugh is well-known for his anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ+ rights stance and it’s likely that he will vote to restrict our rights in employment in the years to come. According to the Human Rights Council, ‘he has clearly established a judicial philosophy that the personal beliefs of individuals should dictate the lives of others’.

Okay, I’m going to take a pause here to hear your thoughts about the problems that queer women face in employment. Tune in next time to hear how LGBTQ+ women can smash the glass ceiling and get a kickass career.