20 Feb 2024

60% of LGBQT+ individuals conceal their identity when applying for a role within recruitment

by Harry Green, Consultant at Griffin Recruitment

My journey within the recruitment industry has been shaped by a blend of personal experiences and professional observations. As a gay man, hailing from a privileged background in a predominantly white, straight area, I became acutely aware of the underrepresentation that persisted into my adult life, especially within the LGBTQ+ community.

This realisation was further amplified when I transitioned into the recruitment sector, recruiting within the bustling Rec2Rec London market. Despite the city's reputation for diversity and acceptance, I was surprised to witness the continued underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ individuals, spanning various verticals within recruitment offices.

This realisation ignited a curiosity within me – was my experience reflective of others in the recruitment field? With this question in mind, I embarked on a research project aimed at shedding light on the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals within recruitment. Recognising the invisibility often faced by this community, I sought to amplify their voices through an anonymous survey distributed within my personal and professional networks. The response to the survey was overwhelming, with over 250 individuals sharing their experiences. Among the findings were:

  • The average recruitment experience of respondents stood at 3.5 years, indicating a significant duration within the industry.
  • Nearly half of the respondents (48%) felt compelled to conceal their LGBTQ+ identity from colleagues, underscoring the prevalence of secrecy within workplace dynamics.
  • A higher proportion (54%) felt the need to hide their identity when engaging with clients, highlighting the complexities of client-facing roles.
  • More than half (52%) admitted to hiding their LGBTQ+ identity when interacting with candidates, perhaps reflecting concerns about potential biases affecting professional relationships.
  • A staggering 60% reported concealing their LGBTQ+ identity during job applications or interviews, suggesting a pervasive fear of discrimination impacting career opportunities.
  • Despite advancements in workplace diversity initiatives, 40% of respondents felt that their current employers fell short in championing equality and inclusion.

These findings are not merely statistics but real narratives from real people, each with their own stories and experiences, that underscore the need for proactive measures to foster a more inclusive environment within the recruitment industry.

In the world of recruitment, there's often a clash of dynamics. On one hand, there's the prevalent sales culture characterised by a macho, trash-talking environment reminiscent of a locker room, where biases and discriminatory practices persist. Yet, at its core, recruitment also prides itself on being meritocratic—where success hinges solely on the numbers one bills, irrespective of identity markers such as race, gender, disability, sexuality, or religion. This begs the question: is this meritocratic ethos a natural resistance to discrimination?

The answer and reality are more nuanced. The lived experience for many individuals within the industry reveals a more complex landscape where biases and discriminatory practices still find a place within the office culture, meaning individuals navigate the workplace dynamics fraught with challenges and the need to conceal their authentic selves.

As I prepare to unveil the full results of my research project towards the end of this month, a recent encounter springs to mind. Amidst promoting the survey, a professional acquaintance questioned the appropriateness of such advocacy on LinkedIn, asserting it should remain strictly professional. However, the irony struck me when, on that very same day, they shared a personal post about their wife and children. This contradiction highlights a pervasive double standard within professional spheres—the acceptance of certain personal narratives over others, particularly those related to identity and inclusion for marginalised groups.

As we commemorate LGBTQ+ History Month, it's important that recruitment agencies and employers alike work together to create safe, affirming spaces where individuals can bring their whole selves to work without fear of judgment or discrimination. True diversity and inclusion are not merely buzzwords but essential pillars of progress and equity, essential for pathing a more inclusive future where 60% of LGBTQ+ individuals don’t feel the need to hide their identity when applying for new roles within recruitment.

Related topics