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Opportunities and Challenges of Lesbians at Work

Opportunities and Challenges of Lesbians at Work

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Published by Lin Mcdevitt-pugh
In this paper, lesbians in the workplace define lesbian-related workplace issues and suggest solutions. The Dutch law reinforces parity, yet we all experience the often subtle ways in which lesbian women are kept from being a full contribution at work. Four in every 10 lesbians and bisexual women reported experiencing negative reactions to their sexuality. The second most negative environment is the workplace.
In this paper, lesbians in the workplace define lesbian-related workplace issues and suggest solutions. The Dutch law reinforces parity, yet we all experience the often subtle ways in which lesbian women are kept from being a full contribution at work. Four in every 10 lesbians and bisexual women reported experiencing negative reactions to their sexuality. The second most negative environment is the workplace.

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Published by: Lin Mcdevitt-pugh on Apr 16, 2012
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WorkplacePride,Postbus59238,1040KEAmsterdam,www.workplacepride.org1
OpportunitiesandChallengesforLesbiansatWork
*
LinMcDevitt-PughMBA,4June2011

*Readingmaterialforthe“PromotingEquality:LesbianWomenintheWorkplace”workshopatthe2011CPPInternationalLGBTBusinessConference.
 
OpportunitiesandChallengesLesbiansatWork
FromIndividualExperiencetoSharedKnowledge
Lesbiansfacechallengesatworkthataffecttheirproductivityandtheircareeradvancement.Agroupof20lesbianemployeesofDutchcorporationsmetin2011tolookatwhywestillneedtoorganizeseparatelesbiandiscussionspacesforlesbianwomeninthecorporateworld.WewantedtodefinewhatmakesusspecialandwhatneedstochangesothatDutchemployerscanbenefitmorefromtheirlesbianemployeesandtheirlesbianemployeescanbefullythemselvesatwork.Wearejustbeginningtounderstanddiversityandlesbiansatwork.TheDutchlawreinforcesparity,yetweallexperiencetheoftensubtlewaysinwhichlesbianwomenarekeptfrombeingafullcontributionatwork.AccordingtotheWhitePaperfromtheMinisterofEducation,CultureandScienceonitsGayEmancipationPolicy(April2011),fourinevery10lesbiansandbisexualwomenreportedexperiencingnegativereactionstotheirsexuality.Mostnegativereactionsareexperiencedwithstrangers,bothonthestreetandinpublicspaces;thesecondmostnegativeenvironmentistheworkplace
1
.ThefundamentalideaofstrategicHumanResourceManagementisthatattractingandmanagingappropriatehumanresourcesisstrategictotheorganizations’success.Increasingly,privateandpublicorganizationsrecognizethatpublicvalues,likediversity,areintegraltostrategicHRM.Corporatesocialresponsibilityisbeingmeasuredasabusinessvalue.TheDowJonesindexandrankinginstitutionsbasetheirratingfiguresinpartonhowcommercialorganizationsincorporatesocialvalues.Inotherwords,theneedforcompaniestobeinclusiveisnowaffectingtheirshareholdervalue.OtherpublicvaluesthatcontributetostrategicHRMrelateto
recruitment 
and
 selection
,
 publicservicemotivation
,
worklifepolicies
,
leadership
.OtherstaplesofHRMrelatingtodiversityare
retention
,
development 
oftalent,
bonding,motivating,engaging,andutilizing
thepeoplewhoworkinyourcompanyorwhomthecompanyhascontractedtoworkforthem.Thelesbiansinthisdiscussiongroupexperienceresistancetochangingthewaythingsareatwork.Thefollowingdocumentisintendedtohelpalllevelsofmanagementunderstandthevalueofchangingpracticesatworkrelatingtolesbianwomen.
Furtherreading:
Stonewalllesbianresearch–Thedouble-glazedglassceiling,2008
www.
 stonewall 
.org.uk/documents/ 
double
 glazed_
 glass
 _
ceiling
.pdf 

1
StichtingOndersteBoven/UniversiteitvanAmsterdam2009
 
WorkplacePride,Postbus59238,1040KEAmsterdam,www.workplacepride.org3
ChallengesandOpportunities
1.
 
RecruitmentandSelection
 
Lesbianshavetheirownnetworksandthroughthesenetworkstheycanbringpotentialemployeestothecompany.Utilizingthesenetworkshelpsthecompanyavoidalwaysfindingthesamesortofemployee(clones).Havingadiverseworkforcehelpsthecompanybeattractivetoallsectionsofsociety;whentheinternalorganizationandtheexternalclientbasematch,businessiseasier.
2.
 
Developingtalent
 
Pinkcompetencies
3.
 
Motivating,Engaging,Bonding
 
Lesbiansavoidjoiningmale-dominatedemployeenetworks.Gaymen,lesbianwomenandtransgenderedmenandwomenexperiencesomethingsattheworkplaceinthesameway,andmanyinadifferentway.LGBTemployeegroupsareaveryusefulwayofshapingLGBT-friendlyworkplaces.However,lesbiansalsoneedseparatespacestoexploreanddiscusstogethersharedissuesontheworkfloor.Whilegaymenmayusetraditionalmalenetworkingmethods,womennetworkmosteffectivelyinprivateandsafeenvironments.
 
RecentDutchstudiesshowthatmostlesbiansarebetweentheagesof25and30whentheycomeoutofthecloset.
2
Lesbiansinmanyculturesexperiencefamilyrejectionwhentheycomeoutofthecloset.Theirworkoffersthemaspacetobethemselves.Foralllesbians,comingoutatworkrequiresbringingtheirprivatelifeintopublicspaceswithgreaterpotentialharmtothecareer(orperceivedpotentialharmtothecareer)thanwhenaheterosexualwomanforexampletalksaboutherweekendwithherboyfriend.However,ifthereareanti-lesbianoranti-gayjokesatwork,about‘beingoneoftheboys’or‘beinganoldmaid’–orthemanybadtastejokesthatarealltoowell-known,thisgroupofwomenisparticularlyvulnerable.Initiativestopromotebonding,motivatingandengaginglesbiansmustbesensitivetotheseissuesandrecognizethatwomenwhoarewillingtobeopenlylesbianatworkarebothcourageousandatthesametimeindicatingthattheyarewantingtobe100%themselvesatwork.Thesearetwoveryattractivequalitiesinanemployee.
4.
 
Utilizinglesbians
 
Lesbianshavelearnedtobeflexibleandcreative–wehaveto,tosurvive.Wehavelearnedtothinkdifferently,andcertainlyoutsidethebox.Thisisanassettoanorganization.
 
Lesbianwomenhavetheirownnetworksandthroughthesenetworkstheycanbringclientstotheorganization.Lesbiansconnectwithlesbianandtransclientsinawaythatstraightwomenorgayorstraightmendonot.Thebarrierto

2
KeuzekampS.(red).“Steedsgewoner,nooitgewoon”,SociaalenCultureelPlanbureau,theHague(TheNetherlands),June2010

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