Turn on your TV and chances are you will find a show featuring a sassy, urban dwelling, white-collar 2SLGBTQ+ worker as the comic foil. How accurate is that picture, and does it capture the experience of working-class people, as well as those who live in smaller industrial cities? For the past two years a team of researchers from McMaster University and the University of Windsor, with the help of the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre, USW and Unifor have been collecting surveys and conducting interviews in Sudbury and Windsor to find out what work looks like if you are queer. The findings will be shared on July 15th at the Data+Queeries Event, part of Fierte Sudbury Pride’s QUEERantine digital Pride Festival celebrations.
Sudbury and Windsor have proud labour histories and a strong sense of community tied to mining and manufacturing employment. These stories, however, often leave out the experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ workers. To gain insight into the work experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ people in Sudbury and Windsor, the research team collected 673 survey responses and conducted 50 in-depth interviews over the past 3 years.
The research shows that despite the many advances that have been made in terms of sexual and gender minority rights, most 2SLGBTQ+ workers don’t feel comfortable at work. Just over half (50.6%) of the 2SLGBTQ+ people surveyed were not fully out at work and two out of three people experienced some type of harassment or discrimination in their current job. Those surveyed were also less likely to be working in well-paid jobs in mining and/or manufacturing, and more likely to be working in the low-wage service and/or the public sector. 2SLGBTQ+ people’s decisions about what job to take or where to work were also shaped by fears about whether workplaces or industries would be accepting. A substantial number of 2SLGBTQ+ workers also left workplaces that were not supportive. Reports of unsupportive workplaces were common in all sectors, with people working in male-dominated sectors or occupations least likely to feel supported at work. When workers did not feel comfortable and supported at work, they were also more likely to have poor mental health. Transgender and racialized workers in our sample faced even greater constraints and challenges in the labour market and workplace and transgender and bisexual participants had poorer mental health than lesbian and gay participants.
The hope is that this report will encourage employers and unions to engage in open, honest assessments of their workplace practices and cultures, undergo training and education about sexual and gender diversity, and put in place more diverse and inclusive workplace practices. This conversation is happening at the perfect time as we as a society are engaging in conversations about what a “Just Recovery” might look like as we rebuild our economy and social structures after the pandemic. Let’s hope that more 2SLGBTQ+ voices are included in the workplace, and not relegated to the role of sassy comic commentary.
You can read the final results of the study here!