Out & Proud: New Research into the Experiences of LGBT+ Young People






To mark National Coming Out Day, Cibyl, part of Group GTI, launched brand new research looking into the experiences of young LGBT+ people at university and work. The study was commissioned by Clifford Chance, Deutsche Bank and University of York, supported by National Student Pride.

An exceptional panel was brought together to reflect on the findings, consisting of Tanya Compass, Rhammel Afflick, Paris Lees and Dominic Arnall.

Some of the interesting themes that came out of the research and were explored by the panel include:

Tailored careers advice needed

With LGBT+ students 18% less likely to use careers services, 38% more likely to report depression and 24% more likely to use mental health services, the evidences the fact that tailored support and guidance are needed, addressing the unique challenges LGBT+ students are likely to face and the different career choices they’re likely to make. At which point do they come out to their employer? What are the implications? How do they handle homophobic hate crime and sexual harassment, which they’re more likely to experience?

LGBT+ students are x1.6 times more likely to study creative subjects than non-LGBT+ students and x1.7 times less likely to study STEM subjects. It’s perhaps not surprising that they’re looking for different career guidance. Despite seeking mental health support more, LGBT+ students are 17% less likely to be satisfied with the provision they receive at university, signifying a need for tailoring these services further to the LGBT+ community.

Support for being out and staying out

Stonewall research suggests that around 60% of graduates go back into the closet when they enter employment. However, our study finds that a slightly higher proportion of graduates are out in the workplace than university (42% as compared to 38% at university). This could imply that the issue is reducing with more employers implementing D&I policies and running LGBT+ visibility campaigns. Alternatively, the results could be different due to the fact our study looks at graduates who are pursuing opportunities with large established employers, who are more likely to have policies in place to support LGBT+ employees. There’s a lot to be gained in providing this kind of support too, as LGBT+ graduates whose sexuality is public knowledge are x1.5 times more likely to report improved wellbeing.

Benefits to employers beyond diversity: grit & resilience

LGBT+ graduates are likely to have gone through a range of challenging experiences by the time they reach employment including: maintaining multiple identities, having difficult conversations, finding new ways of self-expression and building a community. One in seven LGBT+ people report experiencing temporary homelessness and one in three are subject to hate crime. Leaving university with an excellent degree and securing a graduate scheme takes something under these circumstances.

Meanwhile, employers are increasingly looking for soft skills, with a particular focus on resilience. So as well as a diverse workforce, employers recruiting LGBT+ candidates may well find adaptability and resilience in hiring. And yet, recruiting LGBT+ candidates is only fifth in the Employer Diversity Priorities 2019 according to the ISE annual survey, with gender and ethnicity taking first and second place. In fact, just over 20% of UK employers say recruiting LGBT+ graduates is high priority.

Juggling multiple identities: exploring intersectionality

The research demonstrates that a diverse and inclusive environment has the biggest impact on wellbeing of students who identify with a number of minority groups at the same time. For example, LGBT+ black disabled students were 67% more likely to report improved wellbeing upon graduating if they prioritised a diverse and inclusive environment when selecting a university, as compared to only 9% of white non-LGBT+ students. In other words, it’s even more challenging and important to be inclusive of LGBT+ people who also identify with an ethnic or a religious minority, due to the increased impact on their wellbeing.

Panellists, who were from a diverse set of backgrounds, related to this challenge, highlighting that many LGBT+ inclusion events tend to focus on white gay men. How can a black LGBT+ woman relate? The experience of being LGBT+ will be different for everyone and we need to be mindful of this when building our environments.

We hope that the findings of this research, along with the practical recommendations, will inspire you to review current practice and make the necessary changes in your respective organisations. Please do share the research with those directly involved in diversity and equality projects and everyone else this may be of interest to.

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