Diversity and division: LGBTQ+ agency pros face taunts, physical abuse from coworkers

LGBTQ employees don't experience the inclusion agencies tout, with many experiencing homophobic jokes from coworkers / Xopher Wallace via Unsplash

15% of advertising and marketing professionals who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans or queer have experienced acts of physical and emotional abuse and harassment in the office, according to a survey conducted by Digitas UK and Gay Star News.

The survey was given to a panel of self-identified LGBTQ+ employees revealed a truth contrary to the vocal support agencies have given to those who identify as such. The panel, made up of staff from 40 marketing and communications agencies across the UK has expressed that they work in hostile environments laced with biases and behaviours that hinder productivity.

13% of employees surveyed said that their sexuality and how they express their gender have held back their career progression and chances of professional success. And almost two out of every five have experienced homophobic or transphobic jokes aimed at them by colleagues.

Tris Reid-Smith, Editor of Gay Star News, commented: “With 15% of LGBTQ employees experiencing some form of verbal or physical abuse in the workplace, this isn’t only a problem of the insidious banter that seems to be tolerated. We need to look at the biases and conversations that are currently the norm, and raise the bar so the marketing and communications industry is genuinely a safe and liberal industry everyone wants to work in.”

Michael Islip, chief executive of Digitas UK, added: “Everyone acknowledges there’s industry diversity and inclusivity issues. We also know that having diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes clear business sense. We hope that by carrying out this research and revealing the realities of life for LGBTQ people in agencies, leaders will take action toward to building more inclusive workplaces.”

The disconnect between those on the LGBTQ spectrum and those who identify as straight has been reflected in the marketing output. In a study done by Grindr’s publication, Into, about third of marketers don’t even include the audience — which alone makes up a $5tn market — in their media and marketing plan. Meanwhile, only 12.6% include the community as part of their overall media plans throughout the year, not just during Pride Week, where 14% of marketers put all of their LGBTQ media budget.

Digitas and Gay Star News have announced the reveal of the full findings of their study at this week’s Digital Pride festival, which will include a panel discussion tomorrow (25 April) about further steps agencies can take to become more inclusive environments.

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