The Building Movement Project (BMP) today released a new report, Working at the Intersections: LGBTQ Nonprofit Staff and the Racial Leadership Gap, analyzing the experiences of people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ) working in the nonprofit sector. The report builds on data from BMP’s Nonprofits, Leadership, and Race Survey, conducted with more than 4,000 respondents across the nonprofit sector, 20% of whom identified as LGBTQ. This LGBTQ-focused report follows the recent release of Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, a report also based on this survey.
BMP’s research shows that LGBTQ people of color in the nonprofit sector face increased challenges to career advancement compared to their straight and white LGBTQ counterparts. It also provides insights into how institutionalized racial bias within nonprofits and the nation’s patchwork of anti-discrimination laws uniquely affect their professional trajectories. A solutions-driven endeavor, the report offers concrete recommendations for the nonprofit sector to address these barriers.
“Our report findings echo the public outcry happening within the LGBTQ movement—we need a more intentional focus on lived experiences of LGBT people of color in the workplace and we need more honest dialogue about how racism adversely impacts LGBTQ people of color,” said Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, co-director of the Building Movement Project. “In today’s political climate, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations are increasingly serving as agents of change on social issues affecting our country and the LGBTQ community. That’s why the sector as a whole needs to recognize and address its own racial biases in a way that acknowledges LGBTQ people of color’s multi-faceted identities.”
Some key findings include:
- Race is the primary barrier to the career advancement of LGBTQ people of color. Among survey respondents who identified as LGBTQ people of color, twice as many reported that their race had a negative impact on their careers (38%), compared to sexual orientation (18%). Compared to straight people of color, LGBT whites and straight whites, LGBTQ people of color were also most likely to report struggling with a lack of relationships with funding sources (44%), social capital and networks (35%), or role models (42%).
- The local political landscape, along with the stated LGBTQ inclusiveness of a nonprofit, affect LGBTQ people’s ability to thrive in their work environments. Many write-in responses reflect the difficulties LGBTQ people face when working in more conservative – whether politically or religiously – parts of the country. Given the lack of federal workplace protections for LGBTQ people it is incumbent on the nonprofit sector to take a stand against discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity.
- LGBTQ respondents had a heightened level of sensitivity to issues of race and racial equity, particularly compared to straight, white people. LGBTQ people —both people of color and whites – were very attuned to racial tensions and the impact of race on people’s career advancement. In fact, across a variety of questions, straight whites were outliers, indicating the least awareness of racial inequality in the nonprofit sector. For example, when asked whether the racial leadership gap was “a big problem”, LGBTQ people of color, straight people of color, and LGBTQ whites agreed with that statement to similar degrees (89%, 83% and 86%, respectively), but the rate of agreement among straight white respondents lagged by 10 percentage points, at 73%.
- Consistent with findings from the previous Race to Lead report, there are virtually no differences in background between LGBTQ staff of color and their white counterparts. LGBTQ people of color have similar backgrounds and qualifications in terms of their education, salaries, current roles, or years in the sector. LGBTQ people of color were also more likely to aspire to lead a nonprofit. 48% of them expressed interest in rising to an Executive Director / CEO position, compared to 36% of white LGBTQ respondents.
“Queer people are working in nearly every area of the nonprofit sector because their heart and their personal connections to other movements call them to do work across various issue areas beyond LGBTQ-specific activities,” said Jason McGill, Co-Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, and survey participant. “For example, we’ve had the opportunity to support projects that are focused on immigration, but that are completely LGBTQ inclusive and often LGBTQ led. The findings of this report are consistent with what we’ve learned: acknowledging the connections between movements is an important next step and model for LGBTQ and social justice advancement.”
Some solutions for nonprofits that BMP recommends include:
- Address racism through a multi-faceted and intersectional lens. A primary focus on race – through sector-wide campaigns or organizational change initiatives – can also lay needed groundwork for nonprofits to begin addressing issues of anti-LGBTQ bias that also exist in the sector.
- Take a stand against discrimination, even in the face of regional political barriers. Funders and nonprofit networks/associations should also push organizations to adopt nondiscrimination policies that include sexuality and gender identity, and establish systems for monitoring and addressing discrimination.
- Foundations must demonstrate that intersectional concerns are priorities. Funders supporting the LGBTQ movement should both increase funding to organizations led by LGBTQ people of color, and support more mainstream groups in the LGBTQ movement take steps to become better workplaces for diverse members of the LGBTQ community.