A new study has shown that starting a business can allow LGBT people to be their authentic selves and more strongly express their identity as a minority – here are the lessons HR can learn.
When researchers from the University of Bath in the UK and Radboud University in the Netherlands found that negative experiences at work for LGBT people proved to be a motivating force to be their own boss, they wanted to explore why. Previous studies around LGBT identity in the workplace have focused more on bullying, diversity and inclusion, or selling to the queer community.
Realising there was a gap in the research, the team decided to explore how negative experiences in the workplace motivated LGBT workers to leave the path of work and follow the entrepreneurial trail.
What are those negative experiences that lead to LGBT people leaving their place of work?
At least half of all working age people have experienced sexuality-based discrimination at work, according to a years-long study by UCLA’s Williams School of Management.
According to the study:
- LGBT employees of colour were more likely to report being denied jobs and experiencing verbal harassment.
- Many LGBT employees reported engaging in “covering” behaviours to avoid harassment or discrimination at work.
- 50% of LGBT employees are not ‘out’ to their supervisor.
- 36% of LGBT employees of colour experienced verbal harassment at work.
Other than leaving to find a more inclusive workplace, what else can LGBT people do? They can start their own business.
Being their own boss can liberate LGBT people to be themselves
Speaking exclusively to HR Grapevine, study author Dr Luke Fletcher from the University of Bath’s School of Management said that there were a range of drivers for why the entrepreneurs interviewed in the study started their own business.
“For many of our participants, it was linked to the idea of escaping previous discrimination experienced at work,” Fletcher explains, “and to exert more control over who they interacted with and how they would live their life. Setting up a business gave them more independence and choice over their careers, and life in general.”
Coming out as gay and deciding to become an entrepreneur were closely linked to the concept of freedom.
For some, he shared, their inability to be their authentic selves in the workplace was a positive driver – it allowed them to spot opportunities in the market, “connected, in part, to their LGBT identity and associated networks.”
It’s important to note here that sexuality is more than just whom one is attracted to – in large part, because of society’s negative reaction in recent history to gayness, it’s also an identity and a community.
But why is how entrepreneurs identify and how they view themselves important?
The study intro answers that succinctly: