The Gay Experience and Your Employment/Recruiting Brand…

Jessica Lee Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Retention, Sourcing

The best question a candidate has ever asked me during an interview, hands down, was this:

“I’m openly gay. How are gay employees treated here? And is the culture receptive to GLBT staff?”

In the conservative corporate world of Washington, DC, a candidate asking this question showed someGay_2 chutzpah in my book. Not because this was a difficult question to answer, and not because I didn’t have something positive to say- but I’d just never been asked something like that before by a candidate, ever.

So let me ask you this – if posed the above question by a candidate, would you know how to answer it? And as a recruiting or HR pro, is the “gay experience” at your company something that’s on your radar?

Let’s get this out of the way first – this isn’t and can’t be a question of morals or ethics. This is simply reality for ya as California is now the second state to marry same-sex couples and now the first ready to grant licenses to couples from any state. This spills over into the benefits arena for HR pros, yeah? And sure, sexual orientation doesn’t fall under a Federal protected class for EEO, but there are a handful of states and cities in which it does. So what does this mean to you? And do you know what it means to be a GLBT friendly employer?

As the SHRM conference winds down, there, we’re even prompted by the outgoing Sue Meisinger who urged HR pros at her opening remarks to champion GLBT issues in the workplace. The New York Times also recently covered Lisa Sherman and her experiences as a gay executive, now being memorialized in a case study for the Harvard Business School. But reading Sherman’s experiences, albeit years ago, totally freaked me out- I was mortified thinking about someone having to do pronoun puppetry, “…substituting ‘him’ and ‘we’ for ‘her’ and ‘she,” as Sherman writes because she never felt safe enough to use the proper pronouns at work.

So, what’s it like at your 9 to 5? Are people playing pronoun puppetry or do they feel safe and comfortable enough just being who they are? Does your diversity plan go beyond just race and gender? What do your EEO and harassment policies say about sexual orientation? Are you using recruiting sites like or Just a little something for you to think about – the gay experience.

Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.

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See Jessica’s riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here