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Vodacom Group

Vodacom committed to promoting workforce diversity

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

41% of LGBT+ people go ‘back in the closet’ in first job finds independent multi-industry study across 15 countries

More than half (58%) of young LGBT+ people are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work because they worry they will face discrimination from managers and colleagues, with 1 in 3 (31) LGBT+ people admitting they went ‘back into the closet’ when they started their first job. This figure rises to 41% among 18-25 year olds.

In South Africa  there is a 37% ‘return to the closet’ with direct managers and 29% with direct colleagues, in the average respondent’s first job.

New international research, commissioned by Vodafone from research firm Out Now surveyed more than 3,000 LGBT+ young people across 15 countries and multiple industries, has found that the reasons young LGBT+ people feel unable to be out or open at work include: worrying that colleagues will react negatively (60%); fearing their career prospects will be worse (42%); and feeling they will be less likely to get promoted (33%). Many of those surveyed said that not being open about their LGBT+ status had negative repercussions, with nearly one third (28%) saying they had been less productive at work as a result.

The Vodafone/Out Now research also found that over half (51%) of those surveyed said that they were ‘not out at all’ to their direct manager in their first job, and 37% were not out at all to their colleagues. These figures fall to 13% and 8% respectively in their current jobs, highlighting the need for more support when young people first start work. 

Vodacom Group Chief Human Resource Officer Matimba Mbungela said “At Vodacom we believe in diversity and the unique talents that reside in a diverse workforce. We are committed to creating an inclusive work environment that respects, values, celebrates and makes the most of the individual differences our people bring to Vodacom. No one should have to hide their status in the workplace. Training for employees at all levels and visible signs of support through our unconscious bias programme, can make a real difference, and help to attract and retain a talented, diverse and productive workforce”.

To help create a culture where employees can be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity, Vodacom will be introducing the following initiatives;

  • Graduate, induction and leadership training programmes to support, retain and help attract LGBT+ employees;
  • Tool kit for managers to embed LGBT+ inclusion in each stage of the employee lifecycle through its unconscious bias programme;
  • A global ’buddying’ programme for LGBT+ graduates;
  • A refreshed Code of Conduct which will focus on LGBT+ inclusivity;
  • LGBT+ inclusive messaging on Vodafone job adverts and career channels; and
  • Ground breaking interactive programme for ally accreditation

The Vodafone/Out Now research also found that over half (51%) of those surveyed said that they were ‘not out at all’ to their direct manager in their first job, and 37% were not out at all to their colleagues. These figures fall to 13% and 8% respectively in their current jobs, highlighting the need for more support when young people first start work. 

Other findings from the research include:

  • 1 in 5 (21%) said that being out or open at work is the ‘hardest thing they’ve done’
  • Three quarters (76%) of LGBT+ employees have hidden their sexual orientation or gender identity at work at least once.
  • Only 29% of LGBT+ women aged 18-35 are out at work today compared with 44% of men, for fear of discrimination.
  • 83% said that clear and visible signs from managers that they take LGBT+ inclusion seriously are important in helping them to feel comfortable to be out or open at work.
  • 83% would prefer to work for an employer that has visible LGBT+ leaders, and LGBT+ friends, allies and supporters.

“Vodacom has a zero tolerance stance on LGBT+ discrimination. We are committed to working closely with leading diversity and inclusion NGOs in the development of materials and programmes for the successful implementation of our various diversity initiatives”, concludes Matimba.

Out Now research conducted among 3,200 18-35 year olds in Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, UK.

LGBT+ research Final Report

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