LGBTQ+ Students

As a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary or questioning person entering into the workforce, you may have some questions and concerns about how to approach various aspects of your career development. Some frequent questions are: whether to come “out” on the job, if one put LGBTQ+ activities on a resume, how to know if a company is LGBTQ+ friendly, and what recourse do individuals have if they experience anti-LGBTQ+ bias?

Many of these questions do not have clear-cut answers. Each individual needs to assess their situation and their comfort level with how open to be about their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. One thing that is clear-cut is that the more you plan, think about, and practice your answers to these concerns and questions, the more confident, comfortable, and successful you will be in your career.

What is an LGBTQ-Friendly Organization?

An LGBTQ-friendly organization is one that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals from discrimination in their organization. Many of these companies also help organize LGBTQ+ support groups and social events for the LGBTQ+ individuals who work for them.

What should I consider before applying to any company?

There are many employers that are inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees, but there are still many who are not. When deciding which company is best for you, consider what it would mean to you to work for a company that supports their LGBTQ+ workers. Here are some questions to help you reflect:

  1. Will I only work for a company that I know is LGBTQ-friendly?Would I work for a company that does not have any formal considerations for their LGBTQ+ employees?
  2. Would I work for a company that does not have any formal considerations for their LGBTQ+ employees?
  3. Would I work for a company that does not have any formal considerations for their LGBTQ+ employees?
  4. What does working for an inclusive company mean to me?

Identifying LGBTQ+ Friendly Employers

Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index - national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees put out by the Human Rights Campaign.

The Report is based on a number of criteria including:

  • Equal employment opportunity policyEmployment benefits (including transgender-inclusive medical coverage)
  • Employment benefits (including transgender-inclusive medical coverage)
  • Employment benefits (including transgender-inclusive medical coverage)
  • Organizational LGBT competency (trainings, resources, or accountability measures)
  • Public commitment to LGBT support
  • Human Rights Campaign's list of Best Places to Work for LGBTQ InclusionSpeak to current and former employees to ask questions about the company culture (alumni are a great resources)
  • Speak to current and former employees to ask questions about the company culture (alumni are a great resources)

What Interview Questions are Illegal for an Employer to Ask?

  • Do you have HIV or AIDS?
  • Are you transgender?
  • Are you in good health?
  • What prescription drugs are you currently taking?
  • Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?
  • How many days were you sick last year?
  • Do you have a disability?

Additional Considerations for Transgender Students

Can I use my chosen name on a resume or cover letter?

  • Yes. Resumes and cover letters are not legal documents. You are not required to list your legal name on either document. Think of using alternative naming options.

Will I have to use my legal name at any point in the job search?

  • Yes. Unless you have made legal arrangements to change your name, unfortunately, you will need to provide your legal name for background checks, social security documents and insurance forms. Most organizations will allow you to use your preferred name for company contact information, email, and phone directory. Human resource professionals are bound by confidentiality and can be a good source of information.

Knowing Your Rights as an LGBTQ+ Worker

One of the unfortunate realities that LGBTQ+ people have to contend with is the potential for bias and discrimination in the workplace. While many more companies and organizations are becoming affirming and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ workers, some job seekers find comfort in knowing what rights and protections they have in case things go wrong.

The resources listed here will help you with assessing the protections available to you and with seeking assistance in case you do experience bias, harassment, or discrimination at work.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

The HRC has several resources on workplace and corporate climate surrounding sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. This page includes links to information about employee groups, organizations and companies offering domestic partnership benefits, and legal protections. The HRC is also the publisher of the Corporate Equality Index. This index “provides a simple way to evaluate whether America’s biggest employers are treating their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees and consumers equitably.” Corporate Equality Index lists available at the HRC website include top businesses and law firms for LGBT equality.

National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)

The NCTE is an advocacy organization for trans people. Their website includes resources on navigating policies, name changes, and employment discrimination, and can be a particularly useful resource for individuals who are job seeking during their transition or with questions about applying to jobs and internships during or after a name change.

Movement Advancement Project

In June 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that LGBTQ+ workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace under federal law. But there is still a patchwork of protections and rights across the United States, and the policy tallies compiled by the Movement Advancement Project show which states/local governments include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in their non-discrimination policies and other laws across a variety of issues. This is important to consult if you are looking at jobs or graduate schools in a variety of states.

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA)

The ILGA website contains information about LGBTQ+ laws and policies around the world. If you are seeking an internship while studying abroad or looking for jobs overseas after you graduate, make sure to consult this resource.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

Out & Equal’s website has various resources about equality for LGBTQ+ people in the workplace.

Lambda Legal

Lambda Legal is a national LGBTQ+ legal organization. LGBTQ+ people who have experienced discrimination can contact the Lambda Legal Helpdesk.

Transgender Law Center

The Transgender Law Center is a legal advocacy organization for trans people. Their website includes resources for those who have experienced discrimination as well as resources for workers seeking to advocate within their organization for benefits and policies. Trans people who have experienced discrimination can contact the Transgender Law Center Legal Helpdesk for information and resources.

Navigating Authenticity in What You Wear

Our identities can play a large role what we wear and how we’re perceived by others. Being a woman, a person of color, LGBTQ, or a member of a minority religious or ethnic culture can mean facing pressure to dress more formally due to others’ perceptions of your professionalism. This disparity is unjust; however, it is up to each individual to decide how to navigate choices about professional dress and appearance under that reality. Here are some tips that may be helpful in doing so:

• Be comfortable enough to interview or focus at work. The advice blog Corporette emphasizes that “if you’re more confident and feel more professional in” clothes that differ from a standard interview outfit (such as a skirt suit), then “this may be the time to deviate from the norm” by wearing pants or a jacket that help you feel comfortable and confident.

Find mentors and advocates in leadership roles who have your back and can speak to your competence and skills.

• Determine for yourself what your comfort level is for openly challenging the status quo (or not).

• Exercise your best judgment when it comes to choosing clothing or making other decisions about your appearance for an interview or the workplace. Ask A Manager’s Alison Green shares in her advice about personal appearance that what matters most is looking “polished and professional”—whether that means wearing makeup or not, conforming to gender standards or not, or other considerations.

• Familiarize yourself with different kinds of professional dress to help sharpen your eye for what is casual and professional. These Pinterest boards for “dressy” casual, business casual, and business professional are great places to start.   Another great resource for gender neutral attire and shopping guide can be found here.

LGBTQ+ Job/Internship Search Tools:

CLEAR Jobs Board

Campus Resources:

Gies College of Business Access and Multicultural Engagement

UIUC LGBTQ Resource Center

Additional Resources:

Illinois Diversity Council

You’re Welcome CU

LGBTQ+ Professional & Student Associations

Out for Undergrad

HRC Corporate Equality Index

Out Professionals