A new scientific report was published yesterday about social safety in the workplace for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Netherlands under the title ‘Gewoon aan de slag’, see also: http://www.scp.nl/Publicaties/Alle_publicaties/Publicaties_2011/Gewoon_aan_de_slag
The report written by professor Saskia Keuzenkamp and Ans Oudejans sketches a work environment where 14% of gay and 5% of lesbian colleagues are confronted with unfavourable reactions to their sexual identity. This might be a lot less than in many other countries, it is way too much for the Netherlands where homosexuality is equal on all legal levels to heterosexuality. Unfavourable reactions for social safety at work are things like nasty jokes, openly disapproval and bothersome curious questions.
Gays and lesbians who are not open at work about their sexual identity give roughly two major explanations for that: half of them consider it as private information, the other half are afraid of possible disagreeable, inconvenient reactions.
What is very good about this report is that we finally have scientific facts about social safety at work for this specific group. A lot can be assumed, it is better to know: that allows targeted measures and I really hope that companies will actively work on that! Social safety, a strong basis for talent management, will not just come by itself, it needs an effort.
What is food for thought is what I said before in a blog: that in our policies in the Netherlands we seem to pay attention to a different ‘group’ every four years. One period it’s women, then it is migrants, then it is age, now it is gays: apparently we are unable to find the right way to inclusiveness and diversity, calling it ‘too complicated’ to include all differences for social safety at work and sticking to group identities rather than individual identities.
The effect is that ‘groups’ interact negatively in the workplace to get the attention that they all want, and that the outcome of measures rarely is inclusiveness for all but attention, financial means and appreciation for one group versus jealousy and frustration with others. Nobody is only gay, only woman, only migrant, only young or old or whatever; the focus on group identity in workplace measures creates stereotypes rather than inclusiveness.