LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace – all year-round

How to take action to support LGBTQ+ employees—not just during Pride Month, but year-round – Inclusion Matters

During Pride Month, many large companies take the opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in myriad vital and visible ways. But creating a genuinely inclusive culture means taking year-round action—and the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the challenge.00:00AudioLGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace

In this episode of McKinsey Talks Talent, talent experts Bryan Hancock and Bill Schaninger speak with Diana Ellsworth, leader of McKinsey’s work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, about the latest research on the LGBTQ+ experience in the workplace—including practical steps all employees can take to both signal support and advance progress. An edited version of their conversation with McKinsey Global Publishing’s Lucia Rahilly follows.

To hear more from Bryan and Bill, subscribe to the McKinsey Talks Talent podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or the audio player of your choice.

What the research reveals

Lucia Rahilly: Diana, you’ve led much of our research on the LGBTQ+ experience at work. What have we learned about how LGBTQ+ employees are faring?

Diana Ellsworth: The LGBTQ+ community is underrepresented in the workplace, especially at more senior levels. As a result, many feel like an “only” at work and are more likely to experience microaggressions; they might feel unable to talk openly and comfortably about themselves, for example, or need constantly to correct assumptions about their personal lives. We see many incredible examples of members of the LGBTQ+ community thriving at work, but overall, barriers and challenges remain.


Lucia Rahilly: We have some forthcoming research on trans and gender-nonconforming employees. What has that work taught us?

Diana Ellsworth: The trans community faces some of the sharpest barriers in the workplace. They’re twice as likely to hear sexist jokes about people of their gender, for example, and three times likelier to feel they can’t talk about their life outside of work. That translates into being much more likely to think about leaving their company. In our research, we found that 21 percent of cisgender employees thought frequently about leaving their workplace; that figure rose as high as 32 percent for trans employees.

Lucia Rahilly: Bill, we’ve talked about inclusion on this podcast before, and you outlined a helpful model for understanding what inclusion means and how to think about it day-to-day. Would you briefly recap?

Bill Schaninger: Our research highlights the importance of colleagues and teammates, who have a huge influence on whether folks feel they’re in an inclusive environment. To help leaders get their head around whether their workplace feels inclusive, we look at individual behaviors—leaders, team members—and then at policies in the overall company (exhibit). We’re hopeful that by divvying it up like that, we can measure inclusion more discretely and then take action in a far more pointed manner.

Lucia Rahilly: Bryan, in your day-to-day with clients, do you see signs of meaningful progress on diversity imperatives, whether LGBTQ+ or generally?

Bryan Hancock: We see companies thinking a lot about representation and whether they’re getting the right people in the door—not just on diversity broadly but also with specific groups. The most advanced are looking at intersectionality.

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For example, our research on race in the workplace shows that Black employees are overrepresented on the front lines and are at about parity at corporate entry-level jobs. The LGBTQ+ community is underrepresented even at the entry level. And when we look at the Women in the Workplace data, across our participating companies, LGBTQ+ women are underrepresented by more than half, even at the entry level. Diana, do we have a sense of where that missing talent is?

Diana Ellsworth: Not a great sense. We recognize they’re not in corporate America, broadly defined, but trying to figure out where they are, and what’s attracting them to other places, is part of the work ahead.


Diana Ellsworth

Diana Ellsworth

Partner, Atlanta


Bryan Hancock

Bryan Hancock

Partner, Washington DC


Bill Schaninger

Bill Schaninger

Senior Partner, Philadelphia


Lucia Rahilly is global editorial director of McKinsey Global Publishing and is based in the New York office.

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