Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gay in the work force

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend a talk by Mark Brastoff, a visitor from Indiana University career services. His talk, entitled "Straight jobs, Gay lives" dealt with what gay people should look for as they seek employment.

The start of the talk was refreshingly upfront about the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding a job that will suit an individual. Some individuals are completely out and will chafe at the idea of hiding their identity to any degree, while others don't want anyone in the workplace to know they are gay. Those two categories of individuals will be comfortable in two distinctly different sets of jobs.

Some little tidbits that struck me:
1) Resumé - should you put "PRIDE member", "LLL member", "GLBT support group", or other gay identifiers on your resumé? As with most things, this is job dependent. If the employer is gay-affirming, there may be no issue with these identifiers; in fact, this may make you stand out as someone who fits in with the company's pursuit of diversity in its workforce. However, if the employer is not gay-affirming, you may wish to shy away from explicitly labelling the organization. This does not mean that you shouldn't put it on your resumé. Rather, you will have to do some relabelling. For instance, I have participated on PRIDE panels for the human sexuality course at the university, being a panelist who explains what it's like to be a married gay male. I could either put down "PRIDE panelist for human sexuality class", or I could instead put down "Panelist for a student diversity group".

2) Interview - should I mention my orientation in the interview? Unless your orientation is a relevant subject, it should not be brought up. If you're interviewing to work in an LGBT office on a campus, then yes, it's relevant. But in almost all situations it is not relevant. Moreover, if for some reason you are asked, you can evade the question, stating how it hardly seems relevant to your qualifications for the job. Also, practice practice practice! If you put "student diversity group" on your resumé, be ready to explain your experiences and work with that group in non-orientation terms; otherwise you will likely have problems with such an on-the-spot question.

3) Questions about company diversity - how can I ascertain how gay-friendly the company is? The web, of course, is a compelling source of information about whether your company is gay-friendly. Does it have support groups (of any kind, and especially gay-related)? But as my husband and I found out, companies can have corporate policies or groups that may simply cover over a more anti-gay company atmosphere. During the interview or later with HR people in the company, feel free to ask questions without necessarily showing your hand; for instance, you can ask "Does your company value diversity? If so, how?". If you wish to show your hand somewhat, you can also ask about partner benefits (health, pension, 401-K), moving benefits, and so forth.

4) Legal protection - what state protections are on offer? No matter what the company policy may be, if you are in a state without legal protections, you may be subject to workplace discrimination and be left with no legal recourse. While you may not be able to choose a job among the few states offering protections, if you do have the possibility of protection it should factor into your decision. However, take note: many employers, even if they lose in state court, will simply appeal to the next level up (the federal courts), where there are no legal protections for gays against workplace discrimination. As such, the case will then be dismissed in favor of the employer, leaving you with no recourse.

Finally, he left us with a list of gay-oriented websites. While the sites vary somewhat, most of them are job listings that are gay-friendly, or looking specifically for gay employees. A partial list is provided below:
Human Rights Campaign - hrc.org
Gay Financial Network - gfn.com
Federal Globe - fedglob.org
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force - thetaskforce.org
Gay Work - gaywork.com
Pride at Work - prideatwork.org
Queer Resources Directory - qrd.org

I have visited each of these links and found a wealth of useful information.

(Day 241)

1 comment:

Pomoprophet said...

As someone looking for a job this info is most excellent! Since I'm a teacher I have only put my involvement with gay stuff on a couple of my resumes at schools that said they were looking to diversify their workplaces.

I also check out Lambda Legal as they have state by state breakdowns of legal protections for Sodomites.