We’re All in This Together – The Battle for Equality
Which professional has the better chance of getting a job? An LGBTQ female graduate, a 30-year old African-American, or a 55 year-old caucasian male?
The answer may not be so easy. I asked a male African-American friend with decades of experience in the financial markets for his opinion. It caused him to pause and think. “If you’ve got mileage, you’re not getting a job,” he said eventually.
While discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is prohibited in the US under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the legal battle continues on whether or not the same law applies to an individual’s sexual orientation. While it is difficult to believe that it is an argument that still needs to be fought, what is right and what is reality can be, of course, very different, even in 2019. The LGBTQ community is one of many groups that face injustices across different aspects of their lives, including the workforce. But they are not alone. Workplace prejudice is rampant across marginalized groups – although it is often disguised better now than in years past.
For evidence, just look around. If you’re working in a large corporation, how many of your 40+-year-old colleagues have had a real promotion in the past year or two, much less the 50-60+ group? Or how many 50+-year-old people have even been hired? How many women hold leadership positions? How many minority executives are there? And if they are out, how many LGBTQ managers do you know? In the two decades I worked for a major corporation, I cannot recall one minority race on the executive committee and very few women. I know my experience is commonplace.
It is, of course, ironic that while large sectors of the financial markets are being laid-off, retrained, outsourced and replaced with technology, many of us are eager to work longer to fund retirement plans into our 80s and 90s. Life expectancy has increased while decent, available jobs for the ‘middle-aged’ has shrunk. I am making an appeal for the majority. Fortunately, I was in a position to forge my own path through entrepreneurship. Otherwise, I might very well have been subject to the same challenges many in my age group are beginning to face.
While derogatory racial terms and LGBTQ slurs are widely condemned and less frequently spoken than compared to 10 years ago, inequality is far from dead. Even gender equality, an issue that firms across the country are scrambling to do something about has improved, but is far from resolved.
So as we celebrate LGBTQ History Month and acknowledge the struggles of every person facing discrimination, let us not lose sight of the fact that the virus of inequality is as alive and invasive as ever. It’s our job to work together to find a long term cure – and that requires a lot more than words, an act or a dedicated month.