This story is part of QnotesCarolinas’ special project “OUTlook: Finding Solutions for LGBTQ Labor and Workplace Equality." It is supported by the Solutions Journalism Network.
To learn more about solutions journalism, visit solutionsjournalism.org.
During Charlotte Pride, Qnotes surveyed nearly 300 people to find out the biggest challenges they faced in the workplace as part of our work investigating solutions for LGBTQ labor and workplace equality.
What we found both closely resembles national surveys on mainstream workplace issues and reports on the existence of anti-LGBTQ bias in the workplace. Based on a Williams Institute 2021 report, one in ten LGBT workers experienced discrimination at work in the previous year and LGBT employees of color were more likely to experience verbal harassment or being denied jobs.
Here’s what we found locally:
- Nearly half (44%) of respondents said that pay equity was the biggest challenge they face in the workplace.
- 27.5% face gender bias and 24.9% face racism in the workplace.
- 26.8% said that they work in a homophobic or transphobic work environment.
- 22.3% lack protections or non-discrimination policies.
What challenges do you face in the workplace?
One solution to these issues is the prominence of LGBTQ-serving chambers of commerce. According to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), there are 53 affiliate chambers in communities across the country.
Locally, the Charlotte Business Guild formed in 1992 as a place for LGBTQ business owners and professionals to network safely. Founders faced being barred from certain places in the city but over time built a relationship with the Charlotte Chamber, now the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.
In May 2021, the organization changed its name from the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce to the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, highlighting its geographical and diversity growth. 28% percent of the organization’s members are allies, or non-LGBTQ identifying.
Like many chambers across the country, the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CLGBTCC) offers a combination of networking events, advocacy and professional development opportunities.
Training LGBTQ Workers
Over a quarter of survey respondents at Charlotte Pride said they either experienced a “lack of education or training opportunities” or a “lack of mentorship opportunities at work.”
- 12.6% of those surveyed said that “lack of education or training opportunities” was one of the biggest challenges they face in the workplace.
- 15.6% experienced a lack mentorship opportunities.
- 15.2% said access to training and education was a challenge.
The CLGBTCC launched its Lunch & Learn series years ago and continued virtual sessions during the pandemic. Topics this year have included everything from “The Great Resignation or the Great Awakening?” to “Taking the Leap: From Employee to Entrepreneur” as the group returned with in-person events.
Sessions are designed for businesses, entrepreneurs, and current or emerging professionals. The variety of topics help ensure that all members have access to skills and training necessary to develop a thriving and equitable business community.
The pandemic actually made way for “Lunch and Learns” and other programming by the Chamber to become a fixture within its offerings. Led by Jason Morton and Becky Knight, the Education & Programming Committee addressed the needs of professionals as they themselves were dealing with the impacts of stay-at-home orders and new workplace models with virtual workshops and panel discussions. According to the Chamber’s website, the committee is focused on sourcing subject matter experts and providing educational opportunities for its members in marketing, finance, I.T., human resources and more.
At their most recent “Lunch and Learn,” panelists from UNC Charlotte discussed organizational change and opportunities for a more equitable future in business. Moderator George Banks, professor in the Belk College of Business, was joined by a panel of professors from the university with emphasis on business management, marketing and sociology.
The event, titled “Creating Certainty in an Uncertain World: A Roadmap for all Organizational Stakeholders,” was sponsored by the university and held in-person on September 14 at Carolina Esports Hub in Charlotte.
Addressing the needs faced by Charlotte area LGBTQ workers, Sunil Erevelles, an associate professor of marketing, touched on the importance of thoroughly examining a company’s DNA and pointed out that our “future” is already here. “The future has already arrived. It is just unevenly distributed,” he stated.
Companies are often centered on the concept of efficiency, involving bureaucracy and an established hierarchy. “We need to change that,” Erevelles challenged during the conversation. “In a world where you’re confronted by all kinds of astonishing and amazing technologies on a daily basis – all kinds of astonishing change on a daily basis – if your company isn’t changing in a non-linear way, you are actually falling behind.”
Instead, he suggested a company DNA based on the human imagination with a focus on creativity, constant experimentation, self-organization and diversity of ideas. Ereveles says the most important aspect of this model is cause. “Does your company really have a cause?” he asked.
It echoes conversations that are happening across multiple industries, within employee circles and, of course, within LGBTQ professional organizations like the CLGBTCC.
Old systems, often peppered with harmful power dynamics, are being broken apart and people are searching for more purpose and self-fulfillment in workplaces. With an estimated two open jobs for every unemployed person, the worker of today is shaping the workplace of the future, and to Ereveles point, companies willing to shift their DNA are likely more suited for success.
This takes education, training and innovation, along with overall systems change. It also relies on more equality, or equity.
In closing the recent CLGBTCC “Lunch & Learn,” panelist Jill Yavorsky said an organization’s “policies and practices are core to really gaining equality.” Yavorsky is an assistant professor of sociology and a researcher in the Organizational Science program at the university. Her research focuses on labor market inequality and the patterns and mechanisms surrounding gender, race and class.
“Over the last twenty, thirty years where DEI has become a greater focus, a lot of that has been focused on unconscious biases or has been focused on changing the hearts and minds of individuals,” said Yavorsky. “It’s great well-intentioned, but it is very, very difficult to do and the fact is most people think they’re objective, even when you present other evidence. More importantly, is to focus on the actual organization’s policies and practices to reduce the opportunities for biases to ever present. This is about structuring jobs more equitably and fairly – about having upward pathway mobilities.”
In August, the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce received a $250k grant from the City of Charlotte. As reported in Qnotes, the funding is part of the Open for Business Initiative. Chamber CEO, Chad Turner, said at the time that the grant allows them to “directly impact small businesses under 50 employees with training, workforce development and programming as we enter the other side of this pandemic.”
The group recently moved to a new headquarters in the Hygge Coworking space on Louise Avenue. A visit to the space highlighted the collaboration that can come from a community working together. There are members of the Chamber with office space just steps from Turner’s desk. The coworking space is LGBTQ-affirming and meeting rooms provide space for more education and training, like these “Lunch and Learn” series.
Next month, the group will have speakers discussing the local real estate market, something important to local business owners who are either making their home in Charlotte or invested in supporting a welcoming community for their employees.
For more information about the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce or to register for upcoming programs, visit clgbtcc.org.
The Chamber is also an affiliate of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. For more information on LGBTQ workplace issues, visit nglcc.org.
Upcoming Lunch and Learns:
Date: October 12, 2022
Time: 11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Title: Strategic Planning & Tips for Home Buying and Investing in Today's Market
Have you been asking yourself if now is a good time to invest in real estate? Wanting advice on how to feel prepared to buy your first or next home? Hear from real estate industry professionals who will help you gain strategies and tips with lending, investing, and financial planning to make sure you are prepared!
Eric Norman, Realtor®/Broker, The McDevitt Agency
Marta R. Tataje, VP + Mortgage Loan Consultant, Truist
Lisa Raye Hund, ChFC® CExP™ MBA, Consolidated Planning, Inc.
Location: Resident Culture - 332 W Bland St Suite C, Charlotte, NC 28203
Date: November 9, 2022
Time:11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Title: Acing the Interview from Both Sides of the Table (sponsored by TIAA)
Speakers: Josh Greenwald, SVP, Chief Human Resources Officer, TIAA
Location: Carolina Esports Hub - 3401 St Vardell Ln Suite A, Charlotte, NC 28217