Knowledge Center

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Workplace Issues


It is Difficult to Determine the Size of the LGBT Population

Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) people are closeted, making it difficult to get an accurate population count. The following statistics are the best estimates from surveys around the world.

  • In Canada, 1.3% of Canadians between the ages of 18-59 are gay or lesbian, and an additional 1.1% are be bisexual.1
  • In Japan, 5% of the population is LGBT.2
  • In the United Kingdom, 1.5% are LGB.3
  • The United States, 1.6% are gay or lesbian and 0.7% are bisexual.4


Governments Often Measure Only Same-Sex Households

Because it can be very difficult to measure LGBT population, governments find measuring same-sex households to be the best way to estimate the LGBT population.

  • In Australia, 1% of all couples are same-sex couples.5
  • In Canada, 0.8% of all couples are same-sex couple households.6
  • In the U.S., 1% of all couple households are same-sex couple households.7




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

Colonial-era laws prevent LGB people in India from having same-sex relations;8countries cannot protect LGBT people in the workplace when laws like this exist.

61 countries prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation.9

  • There is no federal law protecting the rights of LGBT employees in the United States.
    • There is no state-level protection for sexual orientation in 29 of the 50 US states.10 This means employees can be fired for being LGB.
    • There is no state-level gender identity protection in 33 of the 50 US states.11 Employees can be fired for being transgender.

LGBT People Experience Discrimination in Job Interviews and the Workplace


In the EU, 20% of LGB people felt they experienced discrimination at work or job hunting because of their sexual orientation.12

  • In France, 20% of LGB people experienced discrimination while job hunting or at work.13
  •  In Germany, 21% of LGB people experienced discrimination while job hunting or at work.14


Today, More Fortune 500 Companies Offer Benefits to Their LGBT Employees

As of April 2013, of Fortune 500 companies, 88% have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.15 Other Benefits include:

  • 91% include protection for sexual orientation,
  • 61% include gender identity protection,
  • 67% include domestic partner health benefits,
  • 28% include transgender health-inclusive benefits.16

Fear Keeps LGBT Employees Closeted at Work

Nearly 2/3 heard lesbian and gay jokes. 43% heard bisexual jokes, 40% heard transgender jokes.17 

  • Of closeted employees, 31% fear losing connections with coworkers.18
  • 23% fear they might not be offered development or advancement opportunities.19

Talented Employees Leave Workplaces Where They Don't Feel Welcome

Nearly one in 10 LGBT employees left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.20

  • 70% of non-LGBT employees believe it is "unprofessional" to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.21

    • Yet many of these workers forget water cooler chatter can often bring these same topics into discussion.22

  • More than half of LGBT workers hide their sexual orientation in their workplace.23
  • More than one-third of LGBT employees lie about their personal lives at work.24


Transgender People Face More Employment Challenges Than  LGB Colleagues 


The transgender population faces double the normal rate of unemployment.25

  • Nearly half of the transgender population said they were not hired, were fired, or were not promoted due to their gender identity.26
    • 90% of the transgender population experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, or took steps to avoid it.27

There's good news for those who transition — 78% of transgender people felt more comfortable after transition, and believe their workplace performance improved.28


Buying Power

Discretionary Income of the LGBT Community


Income of Same-Sex Couples vs Married Couples (over 100k)




Additional Resources

Catalyst, First Step: Gender Identity in the Workplace.

Catalyst, Building LGBT-Inclusive Workplaces: Engaging Organizations and Individuals in Change (2009).

Catalyst, Supporting LGBT Inclusion: A How-To Guide for Organizations and Individuals (2009).

ILGA-Europe, Annual Review of the Human Rights SItuation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People in Europe.

Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon and Alix andra Pollack, Feeling Different: Being the “Other” in US Workplaces (Catalyst (2014).Lucas Paoli Itaborahy & Jingshu Zhu, State-sponsored Homophobia:  World Survey of Laws: Criminalisation, Protection and Recognition of Same-sex Love.

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



How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Workplace Issues. New York: Catalyst, May 2015.