LGBT Diversity in the Workplace

Sociocultural Issues that Make it Difficult for Organization to Fully Embrace Homosexuality in the Workplace

Sexuality is increasingly becoming an important issue in the workplace. Nowadays, organizations face a cultural shift from the conservative to liberal view on sexuality. For instance, a research study conducted by PEW Research center reveals that the majority of Americans claim that employees should not be discriminated because of their sexual orientation (Woods, 2011). Nonetheless, another research conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equity Index indicated that 85% of top companies, commonly referred to as Fortune 500, have included policies that prevent discrimination in the workplace in regarding to gender and sexuality (Woods, 2011). While there are some improvements in regard to cultural acceptance of homosexuality in the workplace, LGBT employees still experience a wide range of discrimination worldwide. The slow acceptance of LGBT in the workplace has been attributed to the sociocultural complexity regarding homosexuality. This sociology paper explores the LGBT diversity in the workplace through the lens of sociology in order to establish sociocultural issues that make it difficult for organization to fully embrace homosexuality in the workplace.

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Undoubtedly, homosexuality in the workplace has become an area of interest to sociologists. Homosexuality has become a global issue that every organization must deal with. According to the research by Militello (2015), gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual employees are increasingly becoming one of the largest minority groups in the workplace. Unlike the other minority groups, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual employees are most discriminated. For example, a study conducted by Woods (2011) shows that 53% of LGBT employees have experienced workplace-related discrimination. However, there is still little research that has been conducted in regard to LGBT diversity in the workplace. Sociologists have since tried to fill this knowledge gap by studying how sexual orientation affects diversity in the workplace.

It is important to emphasize that diversity in the workplace denotes coexistence of employees from different socio-cultural background and beliefs. As such, diversity entails such sociocultural factors like religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, education, race, etc. Organizations are now increasingly embracing diversity in regard to LGBT, a move which has been attributed to the fact that many people are now changing their views on sexuality. For instance, Woods (2011) found that 58% of Americans consider that homosexuality is normal and should be accepted. However, while it is clear that many LGBT are increasingly gaining more rights in the workplace, sociologists have attempted to examine some of the major factors that have contributed to LGBT from being accepted in the workplace.

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First, the dramatic shift in understanding sex, gender, and sexuality has contributed to the acceptance of LGBT community in the modern society. Currently, many sociologists have argued that sexuality is not only a social construct but has biological roots (Ferber, Holcomb, & Wentling, 2017). For instance, sociologist Fausto-Sterling (2000) argues that it is incorrect to separate sex from gender, meaning that, while gender is a social construct, it is embodied in the biology of human. Still, sexuality belongs to the universal truth, meaning that it must permeate the social and cultural fabric of the society (Ferber, Holcomb, & Wentling, 2017). In other words, while many organizations might shy away from accepting LGBT due to the sociocultural environment they operate in, it increases the chances of these organizations shifting their stand on the same. This occurrence is normally witnessed when there is a scientific proof of sexual orientation of these people.

Similarly, sociologist Rupp explains that the global approach to sex and sexuality has led many cultures and societies to develop a different social construct regarding homosexuality. Rupp (2001) argues that the lack of a clear understanding on the difference between sexuality and same sex has prohibited cross-cultural acceptance of LGBT in the workplace. In other words, cultures that see age as a central factor in regard to sexuality might not readily accept, for example, adults who are homosexuals. More accurately, Rupp argues that the lack of cross-cultural understanding of gender and sexuality is the main reason for the lack of universality on sexuality (Rupp, 2001). As more people come to understand gender and sexuality, universality on sexuality is realized. Thus, organizations across different socio-cultural backgrounds are able to have common understanding on issues affecting LGBT thereby increasing acceptance of such group in the workplace.

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Second, the dynamics of privilege helps explain the increasing acceptance of LGBT in the workplace. Sociologists have found that, by making privilege visible, LGBT are likely to be accepted in the workplace. The theory of privilege state that, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it” (Coston & Kimmel, 2012). Privilege thus affects minority groups in two ways. One way is making the minority to conform or rather, as Coston and Kimmel put it, makes an individual to choose from the available choices (Coston & Kimmel, 2012). In other words, the theory states that, when an individual has privilege in one identity and lacks the same in another, he/ she is forced to choose an identity that makes him or her fit in. For instance, a bisexual person might be forced to either choose to identify himself/ herself as a male or female. The second way is when an individual has a privilege in one identity and lacks the same in another, he/ she might be forced to resist from making either of the available choices. In this case, an individual might apply any of the three strategies outlined by Goffman, namely, normification, minstrelization, and militant chauvinism to achieve acceptance (Coston & Kimmel, 2012). Sociologists have argued that LGBT community has applied such strategies to overcome discrimination in the society (Coston & Kimmel, 2012). Thus, the theory of privilege can well be used to explain how LGBT has managed to achieve acceptance in the workplace.

Third, the emergence of transgender theory has significantly increased the acceptance of LGBT in the workplace. Transgender theory aims to shift dichotomous understanding of gender identity to more expansive gender categories (Nagoshi & Brzuzy, 2010). Some sociologists like Green have argued that, with the emergence of transgender theory, the horizon of what is known as gender identity has been extended to include what is called self-discovery or awareness of self (Green, 2010). As such, the social categories of gender have now shifted from natural and fixed categories to rather dynamic and reflective of imposed identity. In line with this reasoning, transgender theory promotes acceptance of individuals who have transgressed the gender norms. For example, organizations are now applying transgender theory to understand the intricacy of sexuality, and thus LGBT have seen a fall in discriminatory practices towards them in the workplace.

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Lastly, the promotion of diversity in the workplace has immensely contributed to the acceptance of LGBT community in the workplace. Currently, organizations have realized that diversity in the workplace improves productivity. With the increased focus on diversity in the workplace, gender identity and sexual orientation have become areas of major focus. Still, with the constantly increasing number of people who identify as belonging to LGBT group, organizations have no other option but to take the initiative to include LGBT employees in diversity programs. Moreover, sociologists have observed that bias and prejudice are likely to reduce when people of diverse groups work together (Nagoshi & Brzuzy, 2010). In regard to this, many employees who were initially opposed to LGBT practices have changed their beliefs and have come to accept the inclusion of such people in the workplace. For example, a research studies by Nagoshi & Brzuzy (2010) shows that many Americans have changed their views on LGBT after they engaged with such people in the workplace. Thus, diversity in workplace has contributed to the understanding of sexuality of LGBT group.

In conclusion, examining LGBT diversity in the workplace reveals some factors that have contributed to the increased understanding of sexuality. It is true that the lack of understanding of sexuality, including theories explaining gender and sexuality, has made it difficult for the society to accept LGBT community. However, by examining the global approach of sexuality in the workplace, one can identify the major factors that have contributed to the increased acceptance of LGBT diversity in the workplace. They are: (1) the dramatic shift in understanding sex, gender and sexuality; (2) the dynamics of privilege; (3) the emergence of transgender theory; and (4) promotion of diversity in the workplace.

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