Coming Out Day 2020
This article is cross-posted from the ZS intranet (which we call ZSpace), where I write episodically about issues of interest to the LGBTQ+ community and our allies. It’s been lightly edited for an external audience.
This weekend (Sunday October 11th) was National Coming Out Day in the U.S..
For LGBTQ folks that are out of the closet, Coming Out Day can be a joyous occasion. What a relief to be out! This weekend, my social media feed was a riot of rainbow and memes and celebratory feelings. But for many of us, the path through to this point was through rejection, heartache, and disappointment. Those risks, of course, are what prevent many people from coming out at all.
Matters are even more complicated in the work setting, where people earlier in their career fear there may be repercussions or perception issues that affect their career progression. And, sadly, no matter what we do to make our company a welcoming place, these challenges are not unique to ZS.
You can read the full report here.
These decisions are difficult and deeply personal; part of the reason that I haven’t placed more emphasis on this day here at ZS is that I don’t want people to feel pressured to come out at work.
Nonetheless, I think it’s important to mark the occasion, and share some reading for our allies, to help them appreciate the significance of the day. I just finished attending a webinar with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), where McKinsey presented findings from three different studies. I may write more about that at a later date, but in the meantime I thought it was worth noting a few items related to Coming Out Day specifically.
First of all, ‘coming out’ is one of several challenges that face LGBTQ+ employees:
One of the really interesting insights is that 10% of people are in the position of having to come out on a daily basis. And nearly 50% have to come out at least once a week – even though they may be uncomfortable having those conversations. This just reinforces the importance of allyship – having allies use inclusive language like ‘partner’ instead of ‘wife’, for example – helps to ease some of these issues.
Perhaps one of the most positive findings in the research is that people who do come out are happier, more positive about their workplace, and appear to have more supportive managers:
Someone from the HRC webinar audience asked whether people that are out are happier, or whether being out comes first. The presenters said that people who have positive relationships – especially with their managers – are going to be more likely to come out. Once they are out, the ability to be their authentic selves contributes to relationship-building. So, being out is a contributor to those more positive experiences.
All that said, it brings home again the importance of a strong and informed ally network. Without our trusted colleagues, it’s not possible to make these first steps.