‘Double-glazed’ glass ceiling for lesbians in the workplace

Gay and bisexual women think their gender creates a greater barrier to success at work than their sexual orientation, according to research by Stonewall.

The report, entitled The Double-Glazed Glass Ceiling, is based on interviews with working lesbian and bisexual women from both the private and public sectors.

All participants felt that being lesbian or bisexual was something they ‘had to think about’ in relation to their work. The majority of the women interviewed felt that their gender had a greater impact on how they were treated in the workplace, because they were able to hide their identity as a lesbian if they wanted to.

“A lot of women in the workplace don’t want to put their hands up twice: once for being a woman and then secondly ‘by the way, I’m a lesbian,’” said ‘Jaqui’, one of the interviewees who worked in the private sector. “They feel they’ve got hard work enough cut out as a woman without having to take on board any sort of mission or responsibility for calling out that they’re a lesbian as well.”

Interviewees pointed to a lack of openly gay women in the workplace, with many expressing the opinion that such role models made a crucial difference to the confidence and profile of lesbians and bisexual women in working environments.

Among the recommendations made by the report are that employers should promote career development opportunities to lesbian and bisexual women and encourage them to develop confidence and assertiveness. It also recommends that employers should support and enable lesbian and bisexual senior members of staff to be out and involved in awareness raising initiatives.

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall Head of Policy, said: “Women know that in 2008 the glass ceiling is very much still in place. What this report shows is that for lesbians, that glass ceiling is double-glazed.

“It’s no surprise therefore that Britain’s two million lesbians remain almost invisible at work. In publishing this report Stonewall wants to see that change.’”

There are no known lesbian directors of FTSE100 companies. Only one parliamentarian out of more than 1,300 is openly lesbian.

[cross-posted at Lesbilicious]

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