Coming Out, Connecting and Finding Allies

LGBT flag featuredBy Nicki Gilmour, Executive Coach and Organizational Psychologist

This week and this month on we are celebrating LGBT women at work and the Allies that champion and support them. We do this series every year in June since we aim to inspire professional women at work and if you are a gay woman and are out or thinking about coming out then we want to make sure you know you are not the only lesbian executive around. Much like the broader mission of, our career advice today in this column is to help you find sponsors, mentors and champions so that you can build your network and connect with people who can ultimately help you. To connect with anyone, both parties need to know a little about each other and build a little trust and that is the number one reason to come out at work. Studies show that if you are not able to bring your full self to work then it is going to be harder to perform, engage and generally stay motivated.

Theglasshammer and our consulting arm Evolved Employer did comprehensive research back in 2012 in both NY and London with LGBT women and one of the conclusions was sometimes it is gender bias that is still preventing us from advancing than our LGBT status. Read the US and the UK research here- some nuances to think about.

I also did a piece of work with my a colleague Dr. Frank Golom at a leading Fortune 100 firm on stereotype threat for LGBT people at work (read about that here) and a major career strategy that we recommend from the research is that you need to make sure people know who you are and what you can do at work instead of any preconceived notions they might have. They have these notions for many reasons ( such as the media portrayals, narrow experience of actual gay people or knowing one gay woman and then thinking every other gay person they meet is the same and gender role conformity expectations depending on how you show up on the expression spectrum). Sure, it can be super tedious to educate others all day, every day, but to some extent everyone has to do it albeit, the more non-dominant social identities you have the more it seems you have to educate.

Career advice? Seek out internal and external networking groups if you feel like it will help you formally and informally. It is not for everyone, just as not everyone wants to join a women’s network but if you like to share experiences and seek situational advice from people who have been there then it could be a good fit. Out Leadership have recently formed a women’s group headed up by Stephanie Sandberg. Out and Equal are a fabulous resource also and there are many other groups (GWN and Stonewall in London for example) that host events and get togethers. Many firms have LGBTQIA networks You might find a mentor or at the very least friendship there and remember the A stands for Allies and Allies can sponsor and champion you in your career. We help develop LGBTA networks as well as women’s networks from mission to structure to actual content so contact us if you are leading one or are trying to start one at your firm.

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