Half of LGBTQ people surveyed hide sexuality at work in Sudbury, Windsor

A researcher who looked at the workplace experiences of LGBTQ people in Sudbury and Windsor says more can be done to support that community and make companies more inclusive.

Up to now, most research has focused on large urban areas

A researcher who looked at the experience of LGBTQ people in the workplace says more can be done to support those employees and make companies more inclusive.

Suzanne Mills is an associate professor of labour studies and geography at McMaster University. She recently spoke with LGBTQ people in Sudbury and Windsor to hear about their experiences in the workplace.

"We know that things have become a lot better for LGBTQ people in the past 20 years," she said.

But much of the research to date has been focused on large urban areas. "So we don't know as much about small places or smaller cities."

Mills says she worked with employment centres in both communities as well as two labour unions: United Steel Workers and Unifor. More than 670 people took an online survey and 50 in-person interviews were conducted.

She says more than 50 per cent of respondents said they weren't out to their coworkers. In mining, manufacturing or construction sectors, 64 per cent said they hide their sexual orientation from managers and coworkers.

Suzanne Mills researched aLGBTQ workplace survey in Sudbury and Windsor. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

"We were surprised by the fact that so many people didn't feel comfortable at work," she said.

"Sexual orientation and gender identity really influenced what types of jobs people decided to apply for and many people had left work because they didn't find their workplace supportive."

Mills says her research includes recommendations to make workplaces more inclusive. She says workers want employers and unions to actively show they are supportive of the LGBTQ community.

"If they don't say anything, people take it as a sign that the employer is not supportive," she said.

Mills says employers should also intervene if they see discrimination or harassment, even from a customer.

"A lot of people experience discrimination or harassment from clients if they're in service oriented jobs," she said.

"Often, the employer just let it happen."

Mills adds the use of proper pronouns is also important, as are education initiatives within the workplace.

With files from Sarah MacMillan


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