Individuals from the LGBTQAI+ community are moving into various positions in Higher Education. Research has shown that younger, more integrated staff increases morale in student affairs. However, creating successful careers for LGBTQAI+ in Academia is not often a priority.
LGBTQAI+ Are Quickly Moving On
While candidates are ambitious, the current system does not allow for quick role innovation. Role innovation is the introduction of significant new behaviors and activities into a preexisting role. An example would be, if a new employer was to develop a non-traditional but more effective workflow. Little role innnovation is partly due to an inflexible workplace. Junior or midcareer candidates quickly move on, leaving senior positions filled by older, white, cisgender, heterosexual men. Such development is also a reflection of a low commitment to DEI.
Identify Discriminatory Practices Against LGBTQAI+ Professionals
Discriminatory practices can occur when race, gender, age, and sexual orientation intersect. Queer professionals persistently encounter oppressive actions at work and their community. The National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climate (NACCC) described most American colleges and universities as not LQBTQAI+ friendly.
For you to identify systemic discriminations at your organization try to identify the following:
- Review Dress Code Policy
- What is the prescribed or perceived dress code in your organization?
- Review Racial Demographics
- What roles do Queer Employees and people of color have at your workplace?
- Research Pay Scale Inequities
- What are the wage imbalances between queer people, women, and individuals of color compared to Caucasian men?
- What have you heard and learned about the LGBTQAI+ community at your organization?
- Do they hold senior and executive leadership roles?
Hard Work Deserves Reward
Queer professionals often work harder and are required to lead queer/minority groups on top of their official career role. Such high demands and consuming tasks do not allow for role innovation. Instead, their colleagues assert their vision onto them based on their intersecting identities.
The LGBTQAI+ community in higher education deserves to be rewarded. It is imperative that their positions are secure and growth opportunities arise without hurdles.
Career Advice for LGBTQAI+ in Higher Education
Your mere presence in a heteronormative, predominantly white leadership role is an act of queer activist leadership. You do not need to sacrifice your work and career advancement by managing diversity groups, unless you can afford the energy expense and additional work.
- Explore roles outside of social justice and DEI
- Know that you are valuable
- Be strategic with career moves
- Be authentic and radical if necessary
- Use your presence to challenge systemic oppression
DEI: More Than a Band Aid
Implementation of DEI is merely a band aid if the roots of systemic oppression of underrepresented groups such as the LGBTQAI+ community is not addressed. If the persons upholding the system cannot internalize and change their outlooks by DEI’s intention, then there cannot be workplace improvement. DEI’s work is not there to check boxes but to transform individual’s perspectives and attitudes, group dynamics, and organizational climates.
Creating successful careers for LGBTQAI+ in Academia should be more than a mission statement. Organizations must commit to define root causes of discrimination and transform their workforce to be openminded and accepting of change.