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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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4 Sexual orientation

An image of a hand holding the pride flag in the air in a crowd.

Psychology Today (no date) explains that ‘sexual orientation describes patterns of sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction, and one’s sense of identity based on those attractions. Sexual orientation is distinct from gender identity, the internal sense of being male, female, or non-binary.’

Exploring discrimination

A report from Stonewall and YouGov (Bachmann & Gooch, 2018), surveying over 5000 people across England, Scotland and Wales,reported the following key findings:

  1. Almost one in five LGBT staff (18%) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they are LGBT.
  2. More than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination.
  3. One in eight lesbian, gay and bi people (12%), and one in five trans people (21%) wouldn’t feel confident reporting homophobic, biphobic or transphobic workplace bullying to their employer.

While the authors acknowledge that some employers are making progress towards inclusion, it is clear that many LGBT people still face discrimination, exclusion and barriers at work.

The report contains illustrative quotes from individuals and many other useful statistics to illustrate the issues raised. Find the link in References.

Enhancing your awareness

The CIPD’s Inclusion at Work report (2021), provides perspectives on LGBT+ working lives drawing on data from several surveys and ‘insights from senior people professional roundtables on LGBT+ and inclusion.’

Key findings are that LGBT+ employees:

  • experience heightened workplace conflict
  • experience job dissatisfaction and less psychological safety
  • are more likely to report that work has a negative impact on their health.

The report highlights three areas where organisations need to act:

  • workplace conflict
  • psychological safety and wellbeing
  • LGBT+ inclusive policies and practices.

You’ll learn more about psychological safety in Week 8.

The report goes on to make a wide range of recommendations to help employers to address these areas, focusing on creating clear policies and reviewing existing ones, building support mechanisms and allyship, encouraging conversations about inclusion, gaining buy-in and support from senior managers, and providing relevant training. You’ll find the link in References.

Activity 3 Reflecting on assumptions

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

Spend a few minutes reflecting on your own views and assumptions relating to sexuality and relationships. Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you’ve assumed that their partner would be a particular gender? Has anyone made incorrect assumptions about your own relationships?

If you have had that conversation – how did it make you feel? How did it end? In future, is there anything you would do differently now you’ve worked through the learning from this week?


We all make assumptions and have biases based on our own experiences of life. One of the key messages to take away from this course is to be aware of this tendency and try to keep an open mind about the individuals we encounter. Actively listening to what they have to say will give us a much better understanding of their perspective.

Throughout all the diversity issues you’ve explored so far, there is another element than can further enhance an individual’s experience of discrimination, and that is social capital. You’ll explore that in more detail in the next section.