7 reasons to join professional LGBT associations
Looking for LGBT equality in the workplace? These organizations can help you find jobs and advance your career.
Writer and activist Audre Lorde once wrote, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Fortunately, if you’re looking to work for an employer that values diversity and inclusion—specifically, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in the workplace—you have more options today than ever before.
A record-high 82% of Fortune 500 companies have gender identity protections in their non-discrimination policies, according to this year’s Corporate Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign, which rates workplaces on LGBT Equality. In addition, half of global businesses have now tailored their diversity and inclusion policies to specifically accommodate LGBT employees, Mercer’s recent LGBT Benefits around the World Survey found.
There’s a number of industry-specific organizations that are focused on helping LGBT workers succeed. These organizations aren’t just a source of emotional encouragement (though that’s certainly reason enough to check them out), they’re also very committed to helping you on a practical level. Joining one in your field may enable you to reap these career benefits.
Let’s start with the most obvious perk: help finding jobs at employers that value diversity. Many professional associations have taken steps to assess which employers in their industry are LGBT friendly. Start by checking out this huge list of companies that scored high for LGBT equality on the Corporate Equality Index and click through to find job opportunities on Monster.
However, if you want to work at a company that hasn’t been vetted yet, you’ll need to do your own research to determine whether a prospective employer values diversity and LGBT inclusion.
In that case, “look for job postings that explicitly state they do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or identity,” says Todd Sloves, president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association.
When reviewing a company’s benefits and workplace policies, Sloves says job seekers should look for explicit protections for LGBT healthcare or leave needs.
It can be lonely out there in the working world, even downright scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Networking events held by LGBT professional groups provide opportunities for early career professionals to meet and build relationships with experienced workers. Members usually have access to the association’s directories and listservs that they can use to connect with potential mentors. Having someone to bounce ideas off of and just discuss your career with can take the pressure off you while also gifting you with a clearer path toward your goals.
Networking can provide you access to a community within your community—and that can mean job opportunities and career advancement within your industry. Many LGBT professional groups host networking events for members, and because attendees already share a common interest by belonging to the same association, it can lessen the awkwardness of talking to strangers.
The National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA), for example, has an annual expo where members can meet industry peers and prospective employers. “Recruiters from almost every major U.S. airline attend the event,” says NGPA executive director David Pettet. “Some airlines even offer jobs on the spot.”
No hiding the fact that a main attraction of associations is the perks that membership can provide. One of the main benefits of joining an organization like the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association is that members receive discounts to industry networking events, conferences, webinars, and online courses.
Similarly, the LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education gives post-secondary education professionals a discounted rate to its annual conference, where people can learn about current issues in higher education affecting the LGBT community.
Even in the age of social media, getting the word out about your awesome self can be difficult. Associations want to help connect you to people who are looking for your skill set, and vice versa. You may be able to pick up new clients or customers by joining a LGBT professional association. For instance, the Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists enables members to receive referrals through an online and phone-in referral service.
Every recruiter and hiring manager will tell you that companies want to hire people with their finger on the pulse. Many professional associations publish trade magazines, e-newsletters, or journals for members, which can be great sources of insider info from experts in your field. Aside from providing you with industry-specific news, these publications can help you stay current with industry news, trends, and issues related to LGBT equality in the workplace.
Of course, you are much more than a faceless worker bee. There are issues you care about and want to champion both at work and in your personal life. That’s why almost all LGBT professional groups perform advocacy work.
For instance, the NGPA fosters equal treatment of LGBT aviators through advocacy and outreach programs, while also offering scholarships to LGBT aviation students. “We believe actions speak louder than words,” says Pettet. Stay loud, stay proud.