Knowledge Center

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Workplace Issues


It Is Difficult to Determine the Size of the LGBT Population

Stigma and methodological barriers make it difficult to get an accurate count of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) population.1 The following statistics are the best estimates from surveys around the world.

  • In Canada, 1.7% of Canadians between the ages of 18-59 are gay or lesbian, and an additional 1.3% are bisexual.2
  • In Japan, 5.9% of the population is LGBT.3
  • In the United Kingdom, 1.7% are LGB.4
  • In the United States, 4.1% are LGBT.5
Governments Often Measure Only Same-Sex Households

Because it can be very difficult to measure the LGBT population, some surveys measure same-sex households to identify the number of those in same-sex relationships.6 The following percentages are the best estimates from surveys around the world.

  • In Australia, 1% of all couples are same-sex couples.7
  • In Canada, 0.8% of all couples are same-sex couple households.8
  • In the United States, 1.3% of all couple households are same-sex couple households.9


Most Countries and States Do Not Provide Legal Protections for LGBT Employees

Section 377 of India’s penal code, a colonial-era law, criminalizes same-sex relations;10countries cannot protect LGBT people in the workplace when laws like this exist.

72 countries prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation.11

  • There is no federal law protecting the rights of LGBT employees in the United States.12
    • There is no state-level protection for sexual orientation in 28 of the 50 US states.13 This means employees can be fired for being LGB.
    • There is no state-level gender identity protection in 30 of the 50 US states.14 Employees can be fired for being transgender.
LGBT People Experience Discrimination in Job Interviews and the Workplace

In the European Union (EU), 13% of LGBT people felt they experienced discrimination while job hunting because of their sexual orientation.15

19% of employed LGBT people in the EU experienced discrimination while at work. Individual countries had similar findings:16

  • United Kingdom: 19%
  • France: 20%
  • Germany: 20%
Today, More Fortune 500 Companies Offer Benefits to Their LGBT Employees

As of 2016, 92% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. 82% have non-discrimination policies that include gender identity. Many companies also provide other benefits:17

  • 61% include domestic partner health benefits.
  • 50% include transgender-inclusive benefits.
Fear Keeps LGBT Employees Closeted at Work

Jokes communicate what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior in the workplace. When LGBT employees hear jokes about sexual orientation or gender identity, they perceive them as signals of exclusion.18

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of LGBT employees heard lesbian and gay jokes at work.19

  • 43% heard bisexual jokes.20
  • 40% heard transgender jokes.21

Of closeted employees, 31% fear losing connections with coworkers.22

  • 23% fear they might not be offered development or advancement opportunities.23
Talented Employees Leave Workplaces Where They Don't Feel Welcome

Nearly one in ten (9%) LGBT employees left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.24

  • 70% of non-LGBT employees believe it is "unprofessional" to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.25
  • More than half (53%) of LGBT workers hide their sexual orientation in their workplace.26
  • Over one-third (35%) of LGBT employees lie about their personal lives at work.27
Transgender People Face More Employment Challenges Than  LGB Colleagues

The US transgender population faces a rate of unemployment three times higher than the general population.28

  • Over a quarter (27%) of the transgender population said they were not hired, were fired, or were not promoted in 2015 due to their gender identity or expression.29
    • 80% of the transgender population who were employed in 2015 experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, or took steps to avoid it.30

There's good news for those who transition—78% of transgender people felt more comfortable after transition, and believe their workplace performance improved.31

Buying Power

The LGBT Community Has High Discretionary Income

In the United States, the LGBT population’s combined disposable personal income in 2015 was an estimated $917 billion.32

Marriage Equality Is Impacting the US Economy

The US Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized marriage between same-sex couples in June 2015. By June 2016, wedding spending by same-sex couples and their out-of-state guests added an estimated $1.58 billion to state and local economies.33

  • Such spending could support nearly 19,000 jobs for one year.34

Additional Resources

Ask Catalyst Express: LGBTQI Inclusion

Catalyst, First Step: Gender Identity in the Workplace.

Catalyst, LGBT Inclusion—Understanding the Terminology (2014).

ILGA, Map of Sexual Orientation Laws in the World (2017).

ILGA-Europe, Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People in Europe (2017).

Pew Research Center, A Survey of LGBT Americans: Attitudes, Experiences and Values in Changing Times (2013).

Christine Silva and Anika K. Warren, Building LGBT-Inclusive Workplaces: Engaging Organizations and Individuals in Change (Catalyst, 2009).

Christine Silva and Anika K. Warren, Supporting LGBT Inclusion: A How-To Guide for Organizations and Individuals (Catalyst, 2009).

Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon and Alixandra Pollack, Feeling Different: Being the “Other” in US Workplaces (Catalyst, 2014).


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Workplace Issues. New York: Catalyst, May 30, 2017.