Degrees of Equality: Self-Disclosing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Produced by the HRC Foundation

The following information is from our 2009 report, "Degrees of Equality: A National Study Examining Workplace Climate for LGBTQ+ Employees."

Anecdotal evidence supports that LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts improve recruitment, development and retention tools; however, little empirical data exists to support this. Evaluating the success of policies and practices that promote inclusion is difficult because most employers do not have a sense of how many LGBTQ+ employees they have or where in their businesses LGBTQ+ employees actually work. Having business metrics of LGBTQ+ employees to quantitatively evaluate these programs is critical to a viable, fully inclusive diversity program.

Some employers use LGBTQ+ employee group membership numbers to generate estimates, but this method is limited by the scope of such self-selected groups over a highly dispersed work force. More recently, employers have gathered statistics through anonymous employee engagement or satisfaction surveys and confidential and secure employee records. In both cases, whether employees disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation is optional and voluntary and any reporting or direct access to the data is designed to ensure confidentiality of employee information.

Seven in 10 (72 percent) LGBTQ+ employees say they would self-disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity along with other demographic information in an anonymous human resources survey, while 18 percent say they would not self-disclose and 10 percent say they are not sure whether they would or not.
Of the combined 28 percent that would either not self-disclose or are unsure, 59 percent indicate they "don't trust that the survey is confidential" and 40 percent indicate they are "not sure how the information would be used." LGBTQ+ employees not open to anyone at work are least likely to answer a human resources survey honestly (49 percent would do so).

Employers need to proactively communicate the purpose for the questions and the confidentiality of survey answers to address these concerns and maximize the response rate among LGBTQ+ employees over time — particularly since those who may experience the most negative outcomes at work (those who are completely closeted) are most likely not to self-disclose.

Additionally, seven in 10 (72 percent) LGBTQ+ employees say they would feel very or somewhat comfortable talking about their work environment in an exit interview (44 percent very, 28 percent somewhat). One in four (26 percent) LGBTQ+ employees say they would be uncomfortable.

The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ+ community.