You can’t be what you can’t see: Increasing visibility of LGBTQ+ leaders in the technology industry
Nick Hall, account manager at BT Wholesale, thinks a lack of research around LGBTQ+ leaders is a concern
The tech industry has made great strides in fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces. In fact, 25% of tech workers now belong to ethnic minority groups, compared to 20% in 2022. Organisations are working towards more inclusive policies that consider neurodiverse colleagues, mental health struggles and much more.
However, there is still much to be done, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. A recent study found that 75% of LGBTQ+ UK tech founders don’t feel safe sharing their identify and only 35% of businesses measure non-binary gender diversity.
It’s no surprise then that visible LGBTQ+ leaders are few and far between in the industry, and this means a lack of role models for the younger generation. By letting LGBTQ+ visibility fall by the wayside, companies are at risk of seeming ignorant to the needs of a whole pool of talent. And, ultimately, it’s true that you can’t be what you can’t see. This lack of visibility creates an undeniable roadblock in the career path of LGBTQ+ workers. That’s why every company must make it a key business strategy to support and champion LGBTQ+ people across all roles.
Listening to LGBTQ+ employees
The technology industry has historically been notorious for a lack of diversity. As a stereotypically male-dominated industry, business leaders have worked hard to open the doors to a more diverse, equal and inclusive workforce through implementing strategies focused on LGBTQ+ individuals. However, while 89% of employers do have DE&I programmes, 62% of employees feel that their company is not doing enough to create a supportive workplace.
A DE&I programme is the first step in paving the way towards a more diverse workforce, but it isn’t the magic solution. Programmes must be continuously reviewed in line with employee feedback to ensure they’re providing the best support for marginalised groups.
Initiatives are unlikely to hit every mark at the start. To begin with, they might outline steps to foster a more welcoming environment and educate employees. Additionally, initiatives focused on supporting the LGBTQ+ community can also identify allies who want to help bring about change.
Ultimately, the aim should be to uplift LGBTQ+ employees and ensure safe spaces have been created. This not only encourages a more thinks and inclusive workspace, but it enables LGBTQ+ individuals to strive for leadership role. As Generation Z enters the workforce, it’s important that they feel able to be their true selves at work, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. This is especially crucial for Generation Z, as they are twice as likely to identify as LGBTQ+ compared to other generations.
Smashing the glass ceiling
Businesses are taking steps in the right direction to foster more inclusive workplaces. But, unfortunately, there exists a worrying lack of research and statistics around LGBTQ+ leaders. This is worrying on two fronts. Firstly, a lack of information about a whole community of employees is concerning as it seems to effectively ‘eliminate’ them and their worries. A lack of information could also negatively impact on DE&I programmes if they are based on sparse details. Secondly, if research and monitoring of LGBTQ+ leaders in the tech industry isn’t prioritised it is hard to see the progress made, sparking fears that the momentum created may be diminished.
Companies must open their eyes to the lack of LGBTQ+ leaders within the industry. If they don’t, they risk creating a very real glass ceiling for LGBTQ+ employees. Initiatives that help to mentor individuals, allowing them to thrive in their careers, will not only create a more inclusive workplace, but also ensure the LGBTQ+ community feels recognised at work. The industry must remember: a diverse workforce is never truly diverse if not all individuals are advocated for.